Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech in Canada: A Delicate Balance

Jan 6, 2012 | Community Partners

Where do we draw the line between speech that is offensive and speech that is discriminatory?

Questions such as these will form the subject of an upcoming Town Hall debate between Nathalie Des Rosiers and Richard Warman regarding Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the controversial hate speech provision.

The Town Hall, hosted by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy arm of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and other Canadian Federations,will take place on January 10, 2012 from 7:00-8:30pm at the George Ignatieff Theatre in Toronto.

Section 13 states that it is a discriminatory practice to communicate messages using telephone or Internet that may expose others “to hatred or contempt” because of their race, religion, ethnic group or other similar category. In 2008, constitutional expert Richard Moon reviewed Section 13 at the request of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and recommended its repeal. Now, Section 13 has once again come into the spotlight. A private member’s bill calling for the repeal of Section 13 has been introduced in the House of Commons, with a vote expected in the spring of 2012. The Federal Court, as well, is currently assessing the constitutionality of Section 13.

At January’s Town Hall, Nathalie Des Rosiers will argue in favour of the repeal of Section 13. Ms. Des Rosiers is the General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and was named one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers in 2011 by the Canadian Lawyers Magazine. Previously, she served as Dean of the Faculty of Law – Civil Law Section of the University of Ottawa, and as President of the Law Commission of Canada.

Arguing against the repeal of Section 13 will be Richard Warman, one of Canada’s foremost human rights lawyers. Mr. Warman has worked at numerous federal government departments, including the Federal Court of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the Department of Justice. Since 2001, he has been the successful complainant in fifteen consecutive Internet hate cases involving Section 13.

Debate will be lively at this timely Town Hall dealing with the timeless issue of the right to and limits of free speech. Community members are encouraged to attend, question the experts, and help to shape policy on this important issue.

Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech in Canada



Follow the conversation about the event on Twitter: #Sec13

To view the live webcast, click here


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