Deborah Gyapong: The bill to axe Section 13 passes first major hurdle

The bill to axe Section 13 passes first major hurdle

OTTAWA (CCN)—A private member’s bill that would axe the controversial censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) has now gone to committee for further study.

Conservative MP Brian Storseth’s Bill C-304, which would repeal the so-called hate speech provision Section 13 in the CHRA, passed l second reading by a 158-131 vote Feb. 15.

A lone Liberal, MP Scott Simms who represents the Bonavista-Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor riding in Newfoundland, voted with the Conservatives, who overwhelmingly supported the bill. Otherwise, the NDP and Liberals opposed the bill.

“I was excited that there was one courageous enough to stand up for his constituents and his own personal views,” said Storseth, who said he hopes for more support from Opposition MPs. Bill C-304 now moves to the justice committee where Storseth hopes it can be fast-tracked for study. If he is successful in getting a priority placed on the bill, it could come up for a final vote in the House this spring, and then go on to the Senate.

The Catholic Civil Rights League applauded the second reading vote. In a Feb. 16 news release, the League said Section 13 “has been used to penalize the peaceable expression of opinion based on religious belief.” It cited the complaints brought against Catholic Insight Magazine that were later dropped, but not until the magazine had spent more than $30,000 defending itself.

“The hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code provide limits on expression that are sufficient in a democracy,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry. “A situation where accusers are free to file complaints that may even lack a serious basis, and then leave the accused to pay his or her own potentially high costs in response, is unacceptable.”

“Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are both Charter rights, and any limitation on them belongs in Parliament and the courts, not administrative tribunals,” she said.

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