April 24th, 2024

Online hate speech must not become political ‘yo-yo,’ anti-hate expert warns

By The Canadian Press on February 27, 2024.

Justice Minister Arif Virani holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The former chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network is warning parliamentarians against turning a newly reintroduced section of the Canadian Human Rights Act into a game of political “yo-yo.”

Bernie Farber, a founding member of the advocacy group, says he welcomes the reintroduction of online hate speech as a discriminatory practice in new Liberal legislation.

The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper repealed that provision out of concern it violated free speech.

Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre’s office has not said whether he would seek to remove it, but he voiced opposition last week to the government’s plan to regulate against online harms.

Justice Minister Arif Virani tabled a bill Monday that would regulate social-media companies to target certain types of harmful content.

It would also usher in stiffer punishments for hate offences under the Criminal Code.

When it comes to the Canadian Human Rights Act, the bill seeks to define hate speech as “content of a communication that expresses detestation or vilification” of a person or groups “on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

The bill says it wouldn’t consider content expressing “disdain or dislike” or that “discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends” as having met that bar.

The definition is considerably narrower than the original section of the act struck down by Harper’s government.

It defined such speech as anything “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” on the basis of their race, gender, religion or other prohibited grounds of discrimination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

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