Q. Why is it important to stop the spread of hate propaganda?

A. – Because, as Chief Justice Dickson said it so eloquently in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Keegstra:

The suppression of hate propaganda undeniably muzzles the participation of a few individuals in the democratic process, and hence detracts somewhat from free expression values, but the degree of this limitation is not substantial. I am aware that the use of strong language in political and social debate — indeed, perhaps even language intended to promote hatred — is an unavoidable part of the democratic process. Moreover, I recognize that hate propaganda is expression of a type which would generally be categorized as “political”, thus putatively placing it at the very heart of the principle extolling freedom of expression as vital to the democratic process. Nonetheless, expression can work to undermine our commitment to democracy where employed to propagate ideas anathemic to democratic values. Hate propaganda works in just such a way, arguing as it does for a society in which the democratic process is subverted and individuals are denied respect and dignity simply because of racial or religious characteristics. This brand of expressive activity is thus wholly inimical to the democratic aspirations of the free expression guarantee.

Indeed, one may quite plausibly contend that it is through rejecting hate propaganda that the state can best encourage the protection of values central to freedom of expression, while simultaneously demonstrating dislike for the vision forwarded by hate-mongers. In this regard, the reaction to various types of expression by a democratic government may be perceived as meaningful expression on behalf of the vast majority of citizens.

(R. v. Keegstra [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697)

– Because the goal of hate propaganda is to lay the foundation for exclusion and violence against the target groups.

– Because Nazism and Fascism caused the deaths of tens of millions of people in World War II including over 45,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors, and air men and women. It would be a betrayal of their legacy to permit attempts to resurrect the politics of genocide.

– Because Parliament in 1965 asked eminent jurists, media, and clergy representatives to look at the problem and they recognized Canadian society needed to act:

(The Cohen Committee – 1965)
-Danger of hate groups exceeds small size – their activities “constitute a clear and present danger to democratic societies.”
– “Canadians who are members of an identifiable group are entitled to carry on their lives as Canadians without being victimized by the deliberate, vicious promotion of hatred against them. In a democratic society, freedom of speech does not mean the right to vilify.”
– Canadian community has duty, not merely the right, to protect itself from the socially corrosive effects of hate propaganda.
-Committee Members – Maxwell Cohen, S.A. Corry, L’abbé Gérard Dion, Saul Hayes, Mark MacGuigan, Shane MacKay, Pierre Trudeau

– Because then Chief Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court in the landmark Taylor decision describes the profound harm visited on targets of messages of hatred. Referencing numerous studies on the effects of hate messages, Justice Dickson explains that hate propaganda can “undermine the dignity and self-worth of target group members, and more generally contribute to disharmonious relations among various racial, cultural and religious groups, as a result eroding the tolerance and open-mindedness that must flourish in a multicultural society which is committed to the idea of equality.” (Taylor, supra, at para. 41)

– Because the Supreme Court has narrowly defined the kind of speech that will be prohibited. In the Taylor decision, the terms “hatred” and “contempt” for the purpose of s. 13(1) refer to “unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification” and subsequent cases have further defined these terms.

– Because the dissemination of hate propaganda in Canada is illegal under domestic and international law.

Domestic Law

Criminal Code – section 318 prohibits advocating genocide and section 319 prohibits the willful promotion of hatred

Canadian Human Rights Act – roughly speaking, section 13 prohibits spreading hate propaganda through the Internet

International Law

-The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

-International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
Article 20 1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

-International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1970)
Article 4: (summary) Parties condemn organizations and propaganda promoting racial supremacy and shall take measures to eradicate incitement to racial hatred or discrimination. Parties shall make it an offence to disseminate racist hate propaganda, incitement to racial discrimination, and racist violence or incitement to such violence. Parties shall declare such organizations to be illegal and participation in or financing of such activity to be illegal.

… For a more detailed look at the issue, please see the presentation Internet Hate: Criminal vs. Civil Remedies (PDF).

Q. Didn’t the brilliant constitutional scholar Richard Moon write a review of the anti-hate provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act at the request of the Canadian Human Rights Commission? Didn’t he recommend that hate propaganda be left up to the police and that each province establish a hate crime team like Ontario’s, composed of experienced police officers and Crown prosecutors?

A. Even brilliant constitutional scholars can get it wrong on occasion. As was noted in Canadian Lawyer magazine:

“I always wanted a pony growing up and I never got one,” says Warman. “I would love for every province to have a dedicated hate unit that co-ordinated with Crowns, that had reasonable access to the attorney general in their province or territory, that doesn’t rotate its staff every couple of years, and that has an appreciation that words can be used for evil purposes to create the preconditions that are necessary for attacks and violence against the target community and that understands the history of that. But it ain’t gonna happen.

“Dick Moon talked to me when he was doing his report,” Warman continues. “He said, ‘Some people have suggested this should all be left up to the police,’ and I said, ‘I’m sure they have and the only people who could ever possibly suggest such a thing would be people who’ve never actually tried to have criminal charges laid in connection with hate group activity.’ I have, in a number of cases, and I don’t want to say it’s virtually impossible but it is so close as to be nearly indistinguishable.”

Q. Didn’t Richard Moon also write a really insightful riposte to some of the nonsense attacks against human rights generally and the Canadian Human Rights Commission specifically?

A. Yes, he did.