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Canada in landmark move to strike out "hate speech" law

Free speech advocates "ecstatic" as Canada abolishes legislation used against critics of Islamism and terrorism

by The Commentator on 29 June 2013 12:00

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Free speech advocates are hailing a move by the Canadian Senate this week to abolish a highly controversial section of Canada's Human Rights Act which, critics say, has been used to stifle the opinions of right-leaning journalists such as Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant.

The Sun Media Corporation, Canada's leading newspaper publisher, said:

"Section 13 ostensibly banned hate speech on the Internet and left it up to the quasi-judicial human rights commission to determine what qualified as "hate speech." But, unlike a court, there was no presumption of innocence of those accused of hate speech by the commission. Instead, those accused had to prove their innocence."

Commenting on the move, Steyn, who had been a victim of Section 13 due to his writings against Islamism and terrorism, said:

"So victories against the state’s encroachments on free speech are protracted and difficult, but still just about possible. I am honored to have played a small role in a modest victory for liberty in Canada, and I hope my friends in London, ashamed by what their government has done, will take heart."

Steyn's reference to "friends in London" pegs off a recent decision to ban Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, outspoken critics of Islamism and terrorism, from the UK by the British visa authorities, acting on behalf of the Home Office. 

The Montreal Gazette reported that:

"The bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth passed in the House of Commons last summer, but needed Senate approval. It has received royal assent and will take effect after a one-year phase-in period.

"An 'ecstatic' Storseth said the bill, which he says had wide support across ideological lines and diverse religious groups, repeals a “flawed piece of legislation” and he called Canada’s human rights tribunal “a quasi-judicial, secretive body that takes away your natural rights as a Canadian.

“(Section 13) had actually stopped being used as a shield, as I think it was intended, to protect civil liberties, and started being used as a sword against Canadians, and it’s because it was a poorly-written piece of legislation in the first place,” he said.

Left-leaning supporters of Section 13 are furious at the move.

Read more on: ezra levant, section 13, canada, free speech, hate speech, and Mark Steyn
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