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Hate speech in Canada

 More reactions to Bill C-250 as it
passed the Senate and became law.

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Reactions to the passing of the bill in the Senate, and signing into law:

As passed, the bill has an escape clause which allows religiously motivated hatred. The bill's text specifies that an individual is immune from prosecution under the act "if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text." However, many conservative Christian leaders are troubled that the act is not sufficiently specific. They feel that the act is vague. A religiously-motivated persons who wants to attack a group -- or advocate genocide against a group -- on the basis of their "color, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation" will not know what the limits of allowable hate speech are. Some comments on the day after the bills passage are listed below:

bulletJanet Epp Buckingham, spokesperson for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, (EFC) a conservative religious group, said: "This legislation comes at a time when issues of sexual morality and marriage are at the forefront of public debate. Without a clear definition of what is criminal hatred, it is ambiguous what public statements will be considered criminal."
 
bulletBruce Clemenger, president of the EFC, said: "While opposing the promotion of hatred against anyone, we are deeply concerned about the chilling effect this legislation may have on the legitimate expression of religious belief. We as a religious community want to ensure that the purpose of prohibiting hate speech does not criminalize the legitimate expression of religious belief, the resulting views of morality nor religious texts."
 
bulletJustice Critic Vic Toews from the Conservative Party said:  "Unfortunately, most Liberals in both the Senate and the House of Commons chose to support an NDP-sponsored law that could put fundamental Canadian freedoms in jeopardy. I am very disappointed in the Liberals' obstruction of Conservative efforts to amend the bill - amendments that that would have protected freedom of religion as well as secular free speech in Canada." (The Conservative party was recently formed as a merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the much larger, extreme right wing Canadian Alliance party.)
 
bulletDerek Rogusky, spokesperson for Focus on the Family Canada said: "This bill was pushed through Parliament with little public consultation. It's unfortunate that both Senators and MPs rejected the concerns of thousands of Canadians, and ignored the huge flood of correspondence they received about this bill. Canadians are now stuck with this poorly-worded legislation, and it's left to the courts to define what is and what isn't hate propaganda."

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bulletThe Christian Coalition International (Canada) posted an essay on their web site titled "Fascist anti free speech hate crimes Bill C-250 receives royal assent and becomes law." They are concerned that anti-gay material published by conservative Christian groups in the U.S. may be classified as hate literature and refused entry into Canada. They wrote:
"The hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code are used by the federal postal agency to prohibit importation of materials deemed under the legislation to constitute hate propaganda. With groups like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and other pro-family groups shipping pro-family materials into Canada the new law also creates concern that the materials may be subject to interception, seizure and forfeiture as 'hate' materials by Canada Post." 8
bulletDr. Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College issued a press release. It said, in part:
"Paul Martin and his Liberal team adopted Private Member's Bill C-250 and pushed it through the Senate to become law just in time to pave the way for a new election. Now criticism of the redefinition of marriage may be a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison." 8
bulletLiberal Senator Anne Cools said that C-250 exposes "millions of Canadians to criminal prosecution who hold moral opinions about sexuality." 8

Thanks to the special sections of the bill that permit unimpeded religiously motivated hate speech, over the next five years Senator Cools' millions of Canadians were reduced to one person who claimed that his hate speech was religiously motivated and thus not criminal. He called for a government genocide to exterminate all gays and lesbians. The judge did not believe that his beliefs were religiously based.

Subsequent reactions:

During 2004-AUG, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY discussed a recent conviction of a Swedish pastor for violating that country's hate speech legislation. He said: "The recent expansion of hate crimes laws in Canada, intended to outlaw all criticism of homosexuality, is convincing proof that these trends are not limited to Europe."

He appears to be confusing hate crimes with hate speech. He also overlooked the fact that Canadian hate crime law has an exemption for religious speech, whereas the Swedish law does not.

References used:

  1. "Criminal Code: Hate Propaganda," Department of Justice, Canada, 2003-APR-30, at: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/ Section 318 (4).
  2. "Make gay-bashing a hate crime, Robinson says," CTV.ca, 2003-MAY-16, at: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/
  3. Randall Palmer, "Canadian hate-crimes bill sparks Bible, Koran row," MSNBC News, 2003-MAY-16, at: http://famulus.msnbc.com/
  4. Peter O'Neil, "Homosexuals to be covered by anti-hate legislation. 'Fascist' bill passes Commons, 141-110," The Vancouver Sun, 2003-SEP-18, at: http://canada.com/
  5. "Canadians Make Free Speech a Crime," Family Research Council, Washington Update, 2004-APR-29.
  6. "Anti-hate law will have 'chilling effect'," Today's Family News, Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-SEP-23.
  7. "Svend's folly," Christian Current, 2004-MAY, Page 2.
  8. "Fascist anti free speech hate crimes Bill C-250 receives royal assent and becomes law." Christian Coalition International (Canada) at: http://www.ccicinc.org/

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Copyright © 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-AUG-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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