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Local MP votes to repeal controversial Section 13 of human rights act

By: Nick Kuhl

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011 03:13 pm

Wild Rose MP Blake Richards supported his Conservative colleague Brian Storseth's private member's bill regarding changes to the human rights act, last week.
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards supported his Conservative colleague Brian Storseth's private member's bill regarding changes to the human rights act, last week.
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Wild Rose MP Blake Richards is in support of a bill before Parliament looking to repeal a probalmatic section of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Brian Storseth, MP for Westlock-St. Paul, brought forth the private member’s bill for second reading Nov. 16, saying that Section 13 of the Human Rights Act purports to defend human rights but actually undermines freedom of expression.

“It targets the dissemination of hate messages without ever clearly defining what constitutes hatred or contempt,” Richards said.

“It considers acts of hate or contempt as ‘any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.’ It’s a very subjective type of statement.”

Section 13 was conceived in response to a number of hate messages that circulated in Toronto during Pierre Trudeau’s time as prime minister.

It has since drawn significant criticism, including from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) itself, because of its wording.

“Obviously, everyone supports human rights, but certainly the argument is, with this particular section, is that it’s going far beyond protection of human rights and in fact infringing on people’s freedoms of expression,” Richards said. “Section 13 is as flawed as it is subjective on the very issue of hate that it claims to combat, and it needs to go. All of the other sections of the Human Rights Act would remain in place, it’s just this particular section that is of concern.”

In 2008, the CHRC called for Section 13’s repeal, while it also found its hate speech provision unconstitutional during a September 2009 ruling.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said Section 13 does not target expression that some may find offensive, but Richards said that hasn’t stopped human rights tribunals from accepting aggrieved persons’ sense of being offended as a basis for convictions.

“Section 13 subjects citizens’ Charter freedoms of thought belief, opinion and expression to the whims of those who want to suppress ideas they disagree with or find personally distasteful of offensive, but which do not necessarily constitute hate,” he said.

“It is widely acknowledged that Section 13 conflicts with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantees to freedoms of expression and beliefs.”

If the bill passes second reading, it will go to committee and a potential final decision will be voted on by Parliament in mid-2012.


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