The Federal Court of Canada yesterday issued its ruling in Warman v. Lemire, a case concerning the constitutionality of the hate speech provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA). The Court upheld the constitutional validity of the hate speech provisions in the CHRA while holding that the penalty provisions do not meet constitutional scrutiny. CCLA had argued that the severance of the penalty provisions alone in this case is not an appropriate remedy to correct the unconstitutionality of legislation which limits the right to free expression.
CCLA has long advocated that this law is a vague and an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression that should be struck down. This is not to say that hate speech is acceptable. Canadian society should be extremely concerned about prejudiced or discriminatory statements. Individuals and organizations should speak out loudly against hateful comments – among friends, in our communities, in print media and online. Individuals who express hateful opinions should be called out and criticized. CCLA believes that the answer to hateful or offensive speech is more speech, not censorship.
The issue is not completely resolved as a private member’s bill has been introduced in Parliament that would repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the very provision at issue in the Warman v. Lemire case and has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently debated at the Senate and if adopted, will come into force within a year. In the meantime, the issue of vague hate speech provisions in human rights statutes is before the Supreme Court of Canada in Whatcott v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, a case in which CCLA also intervened.
>> To read the decision of the Federal Court of Canada in Warman v. Lemire, please click here
>> To view CCLA’s Factum in Warman v. Lemire, please click here
>> To view CCLA’s Factum in Whatcott v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, please click here