Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti says he will look “very carefully” at a recommendation to resurrect Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, a horribly primitive and controversial law repealed in 2013 over free speech concerns.
Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, updated to target hate speech through social media, made it a discriminatory offense to convey messages that contain “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt,” as long as those people were “identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
According to National Post, the Liberal-dominated house’s signs to bring it back raises eyebrows, even from members within the Liberal party.
In fact, the first attempt to remove the section came from Liberal MP Keith Martin in 2008, but the bill died on an election call. In 2013, the law was finally repealed by a private member’s bill from Conservative MP Brian Storseth.
Section 13 is massively contentious, as critics from all over the political spectrum accuse it of having weak barriers to protect free speech while simultaneously being overly broad.
Complaints made under Section 13 were dealt with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, not the courts. The tribunal could stamp fines of up to $10,000 and issue cease-and-desist orders. This was one of the main concerns with the law.
The argument for reinstating the outmoded Section 13 law is that it will be good for political correctness and curtailing hatred in society. Except, it won’t.
Canada already has Criminal Code provisions that prohibit the incitement of hatred against identifiable groups, the promotion of genocide and the distribution of hate propaganda.
A conviction for this brings heavy penalties, including prison time. However, the charges require the sign-off of an attorney general before being laid to ensure valid freedom of speech.
As was debunked by philosophers on the Left, such as Slavoj Žižek, and the Right, such as Jordan Peterson, political correctness is a hindrance to critical thinking and self-reflection. Its imposition of authoritarianism under the guise of rectitude is a rather unnecessary barrier to freedom of speech.
Lametti declined to comment on whether he would personally want to see the revival of Section 13, but pointed out that the courts found it constitutional and that he’s taken note of suggestions on how the former law could be updated and improved.
“The justice committee has suggested (reviving it), a number of stakeholders have suggested it,” Lametti said. “What I will say is that I’ll take a look very carefully at what the committee had to say.”
This presents a very dangerous precedent for Canadian society. In 2018, the Liberals had also threatened to bring the antiquated law back.
With existing provisions in the Criminal Code, reinstating the archaic and ill-defined Section 13 law could hamper the progress of a free Canadian society under a moral veil of authoritarianism.