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The month of June was another busy month for civil liberties in Canada. As I write this, we are reviewing the Privacy Principles issued last night by the federal government that are meant to support the development of the Security Perimeter between Canada and the United States.
A further report on the policing of the G20 meetings in Toronto was released today as well. It appears to validate CCLA’s observations during the Summit, that is, that numerous violations of civil liberties occurred, and that policing, in some instances, was not of the high standard we expect from our police forces. CCLA is also preparing to intervene in the challenge against Bill 78 in Québec, a legislation that seriously undermines freedom of speech and freedom of association. We have written to Minister Jason Kenney to express our concerns over the denial of appropriate health case to refugees in Canada.
We are also pleased to share with you some pictures of our annual fundraising gala which was a wonderful success. CCLA will also be participating again this year in a Pride event in Toronto – join us if you can!
CCLA Celebrate Canada T-shirts are available, you can purchase one here. A healthy democracy requires debate and dialogue, and as we celebrate Canada Day, I invite you to engage your friends and family on some of the civil liberties issues that face Canada.
Happy Canada day!
In this issue:
- Repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act an Important Gain for Expressive Freedom
- CCLA Calls on Government to Rescind Refugee Healthcare Cuts
- New Privacy Principles Released between Canada-U.S. for Security Perimeter
- In brief
CCLA welcomes the news that Bill C-304, a private member’s bill to repeal the overbroad hate speech provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, has passed third reading in the House of Commons and is currently in the Senate.
Bill C-304 was introduced by Conservative MP Brian Storseth. Section 13 allows for the monetary penalization of an individual for telecommunicating “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” The method of communication had been amended by Parliament in 2001 to include not just telephones, but the internet as well.
CCLA has argued for many years that section 13 is a vague and unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression amd that it should be struck down. In fact, we appeared before Federal Court earlier this year in the case of Warman v. Lemire to suggest that section 13 was unconstitutional.
Overbroad hate speech laws have a self-censoring effect on individuals who might refrain from speech, even speech that would not ultimately contravene the Act, in the face of a long complaint investigation procedure and the possibility of a penalty for statements made. The imprecision of the section’s language creates an unclear line around the limits of acceptable speech. Where does strong disapproval end and hatred begin? Provisions that chill speech, debate, and dialogue should be of concern to those committed to a democratic society.
CCLA General Counsel Emeritus Alan Borovoy has often explained how the net of section 13 is cast too wide by pointing to Daniel Goldhagen’s 1996 book Hitler’s Willing Executioners. The book’s thesis is that a high percentage of Germans during World War II were complicit in the Holocaust. It is clear that Goldhagen’s scholarship is “likely to expose” Germans to “hatred or contempt” and, thus, would get caught up and penalized under provisions like those in the Act. Unlike the Criminal Code, section 13 does not require a guilty intent, and truth—or reasonable belief in the truth—of the statements is not a defence. In the case of Goldhagen’s book, section 13 might have rendered it unlawful for him to make this contribution to historical studies.
The repeal of section 13 is a victory for freedom of expression that requires a constant vigilance against discriminatory acts. A society committed to free speech and to equality wants more speech and not less. Equality is a cornerstone of our democracy, and it can co-exist with freedom of expression.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to express deep concerns regarding cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which reduces and denies basic healthcare to refugees and asylum seekers.
In April 25, 2012, Minister Kenney announced refugee claimants and accepted refugees will only be eligible for healthcare coverage of an urgent or essential nature, but will no longer receive coverage for most medications – even for children – unless there was a public health or safety risk, preventative healthcare or check-ups, and post-natal care for babies from their 29th day of life is also denied. Furthermore, there are several categories of individuals living in Canada who will be deprived completely of healthcare, even of an essential or critical nature. Refugee claimants who happen to be from a Designated Country of Origin ( The minister designates such countries at his or her discretion) will be denied healthcare entirely, except in the case where their illness poses a risk to public health and safety.
Withholding life-saving, basic and preventative healthcare from men, women and children is a violation of their fundamental right to life and to health. It also violates numerous of Canada’s obligations under international law, including the obligations Canada undertook in the International Covenant of the on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and in the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
CCLA is deeply concerned about an Order that seeks to deprive individuals of this fundamental right, and that does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. On June 18, we joined Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care in a National Day of Action to protest the cuts to refugee health care services, who argue that depriving people of healthcare is more costly in the long run as more serious and critical conditions develop.
We call on Minister Kenney re-evaluate his course of action and heed to the advice of public health professionals, rescind the Order Respecting the Interim Federal Health Program, 2012, and ensure that basic healthcare, medications and medical services are provided to refugees, asylum seekers and others residing in Canada.
Canada and the U.S. have released the long-awaited privacy principles to govern information sharing between the two countries, pursuant to the Canada-US Security Perimeter arrangement.
Entitled the “Statement of Privacy Principles by the United States and Canada”, the principles do incorporate some but not all of the safeguards CCLA has raised. We are pleased to see that the government did include principles outlined in CCLA’s submissions, but remain concerned about omissions in the Statement.
Six months ago, CCLA released its own “12 Core Legal Principles” to apply to privacy, which we drafted with the ACLU and Privacy International (UK), available here . We note that points CCLA recommended such as purpose specification, necessity, proportionality, redress, equality and non-discrimination, individual access and rectification, transparence and redress, and compliance with international legal standards, are included in the Statement.
However CCLA remains concerned that Canadian citizens may not have the same redress opportunities as US citizens, under US laws. Further, CCLA is concerned that our recommendations of full due process protections such as access and full opportunity to challenge evidence against them, is not included in the Statement.
CCLA is also concerned that the Statement appears to allow information-sharing that does not comply with our recommended safeguards, and may permit information sharing with third countries that torture.
CCLA also argued that steps must be taken to ensure that domestic law enforcement can never use foreign law enforcement to circumvent legal safeguards that apply to the domestic agency. This point has not been addressed in the Statement, but will require clarification.
CCLA will continue to analyze the Statement and implementation, and we will keep you posted.
Our board member, Eddie Greenspan, received an honourary doctor of laws degree from Brock University on June 7. Congratulations!