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From today’s Globe and Mail:

OTTAWA — The controversial section of the Canadian Human Rights Act governing hate speech comes under scrutiny today when federal politicians decide whether to debate the limits it places on freedom of expression.

Brian Storseth, a Conservative MP, has asked the Commons justice committee to review Section 13 of the act, which contains provisions that deal with hate messages. Mr. Storseth also wants the committee to review the mandate of the commission itself.

He told the committee last week that “concerns have been raised regarding the investigative techniques of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the interpretation and application of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.”


The issue of whether the commission should be permitted to investigate alleged incidents of hate speech has prompted passionate responses from those on both sides of the debate.

The federal Conservatives voted at a party convention in November to support an end to Section 13, which deals specifically with hate messages spread by telephone or the Internet. It was a decision that was roundly applauded by conservative bloggers.

In a high-profile report on the matter released in November, University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon urged the commission to get out of the business of trying to censor hate speech.

Prof. Moon argued that freedom of expression trumps overbroad minority-rights laws and that any policing of hate messages should be handled under the Criminal Code, which prohibits willfully inciting hatred.


Proponents of Section 13 argue that hate speech should remain under the umbrella of human-rights legislation. The Canadian Jewish Congress, for instance, expressed disappointment in Prof. Moon’s position, saying the Jewish community knows how devastating hate propaganda can be.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, unfettered freedom of speech allows people to spew anti-semitic hatred and holocaust denying libels. But on the other hand, it allows people to speak out against the crimes committed in the name of Islam without getting into trouble. Where should you draw the line? I’m on the fence here.

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