Standing Up For Human Rights – In Canada!

Parliamentary Report

Over the past few years many constituents have contacted me to express their outrage and dissatisfaction with Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 13 tries to combat discrimination and hate speech. Subsection 13(1) states: “It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons… to communicate…any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

The first problem encountered with Section 13 is the word ‘likely’. The Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal have used this to decide (behind closed doors) to prosecute cases when these bureaucrats ‘feel’ that someone is ‘likely’ to have offended another person or group of people. This is not a narrowly defined legal definition, which would be far more appropriate.

Under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, truth is not a defence and intent is not a defence. Furthermore, under the rules of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing, anyone accused under Section 13 is denied the right to due process; the right to a speedy trial; and, the right to an attorney. As we learned only a couple of years ago when the problems of Section 13 received much media attention, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had a 100% conviction rate.

Too many Canadians accused under Section 13 could not afford the tens of thousands of dollars required to mount a defence. At the same time, the legal costs of the accuser are fully covered. “This is simply un-Canadian,” concluded my Alberta Caucus colleague Brian Storseth, MP (Westlock-St. Paul). He launched Private Members Bill C-304 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act by deleting Sections 13 and 54 to ensure there is no infringement on freedom of expression.

Alleged victims of hate speech have used Section 13 to pursue frivolous complaints. They do this because their costs are paid for and they don’t incur the costs of pursuing the matter under the Criminal Code of Canada, or in a civil law suit. Section 13 has operated as an inexpensive way to cause damage to someone – even if the accused committed no crime.

I voted in support of Bill C-304 at each stage as it progressed through the House of Commons. I am pleased to report that the Bill is currently before the Senate, and I predict it will be successful in repealing Section 13. Once again, I find that my constituents are ‘ahead of the political curve’, speaking out against the discriminatory effects of Section 13 before Bill C-304 was tabled. As your Member of Parliament, I have always had the benefit of hearing from my constituents and being able to represent us in the House of Commons knowing full well that I can stand up during debates and confidently state our case. I was proud to stand up for our human right to express ourselves – at home here in Canada!

About the author

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Kevin Sorenson

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail sorenk1@parl.gc.ca.

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