The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/legislation/bc/press/times-colonist.070793

Lines: 90

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/human-rights/bc/press times-colonist.070793
Last-Modified: 1994/11/28

Victoria Times-Colonist
Page A4
July 7, 1993

Bill wards off hate mongers, upholds free speech

Anita Hagen, Minister of Education

Can freedom of speech co-exist with laws that protect British Columbians
from hate propaganda and activities?

That has been the fundamental question debated by the media, lawyers,
political scientists and others since our government introduced Bill 33, the
Human Rights Amendment Act, earlier this month.

While some are saying this legislation will  infringe on people's right to
free speech, I would argue that, far from removing that right, it upholds it
while giving new protection to those who are hurt by hate activities.

And as we've seen over the past few years, those activities are on the rise
in British Columbia. Recently, we've witnessed cross burnings, organized
hate festivals, the proliferation of hate hotlines, and the targeting of
high school students as recruits by white supremacist organizations.

British Columbians value their freedom, but with that freedom comes a
responsibility to society. Is it reasonable to protect absolutely the right
to free speech where it's being used solely for the purpose of inciting
hatred and discrimination against someone else?

The answer to that question can be found in a 1990 landmark case in the
Supreme Court of Canada. It found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, and our common law, provide clear direction to provincial Human
Rights Councils that they must strike the appropriate balance between
freedom of expression and the rights of individuals and communities to live
free from manifestations of hatred and discrimination.

In other words, the issue of free speech is not cut and dried. Human Rights
Councils must, on a case-by-case basis, balance the individual's right to
free speech with the rights of society as a whole. It's a tough challenge,
no question. But it's one that B.C.'s nationally recognized Human Rights
Council can meet. In addition to its own procedural safeguards against
frivolous complaints or arbitrary actions, the council's decisions are
subject to judicial review by the courts.

I think it's safe to say most British Columbians would accept the need to
balance those two rights, and support the protection of people from hatred
and racial violence. But why, political commentators have argued, has B.C.
actually removed the free speech clause from its existing human rights laws?

Again, it's important to go back to the 1990 Supremem Court decision. The
court found that such clauses are simply unnecessary given the
Constitution's clear direction on the appropriate balance of rights.

In fact, not only are they unnecessary, but they're "incongruous" or
contrary to the intent of hate propaganda laws in other Canadian provinces.
The court said that telling a human rights council twice that it cannot
unnecessarily restrict free speech - once, in the Charter, which rules all
laws, and again in a human rights law - is not only redundant, but skews the
effects of our laws.

So the changes we've introduced do not, as some have said, shut down the
marketplace of free opinion. Rather, they reaffirm the rights guaranteed
under the Charter, while putting hate mongers on notice that, although B.C.
is a free and democractic province, we will not allow our citizens to be
attacked by organized hate activities because of race, gender, religion,
sexual orientation, or other charateristics.

Of course, legislation cannot, by itelf, guarantee tolerance. It's improtant
that we educate ourselves and our children to value and enjoy Canada's and
British Columbia's rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and that we respect
the inherent dignity of all people.

My minstry is enhancing the school curriculum to ensure it contains
effective, topical material on racism, and that students are given the
opportunity to discuss racism and related issues. In cooperation with
schools and communities throughout the province, we are creating an
educational program that discourages student involvement with groups that
promote hatred or racism.

Our message to our children is clear: we want you to grow up in a province
where people of all beliefs, cultures and lifestyles are welcome, and their
rights and well-being are protected.


Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.