The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Words That Wound: Human Rights Proceedings as a Response to Hatred in Canada

William F. Pentney
General Counsel
Canadian Human Rights Commission

Paper presented at the Conference
"Hatred in Canada: Perspectives, Action and Prevention",
Victoria British Columbia, September 18, 1998


INTRODUCTION

The challenges posed by expressions of hatred directed towards groups defined by race, colour, religion or sexual orientation are complex and highly emotive. When viewed in light of modem history, and in particular as we pause to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was inspired in part by the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, it is clear that the social challenge is to prevent the harms done by hatred while at the same time seeking actively to deal with its root causes and to prevent its recurrence or growth in the community. Any legal mechanism, including human rights laws and procedures, can obviously only address part of this challenge. Having said that, it is also important not to underestimate the significant benefits associated with setting out legal standards, and of enforcing them.

In this paper I will examine the Canadian human rights structures which have been developed to address hatred, and the case-law which has interpreted these provisions. This review must take account of the international human rights context, and the Canadian constitutional framework, which both inspire and guide these laws. Finally any assessment of the legal mechanisms used to address incidents of hatred based on grounds such as race, religion, colour, or sexual orientation must include a review of the effectiveness of these approaches to the problem of expressions of hatred on the Internet.

At the outset, however, I would like to step back from the immediate technical legal questions, in order to examine some core components of Canadian human rights law and practice, and to reflect upon the relevance of this for an assessment of human rights laws as a response to hatred.

I. HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS AND "THE PROMISE OF COMMUNITY"

A key message from the very beginning of the adoption of modem human rights laws has been that a violation of an individual's equality rights is more than a mere private wrong. Discrimination wounds the community, and through the passage of human rights laws the community has said to victims of discrimination: we will stand with you, we will get involved in your problem, because we think that your problem is really our problem too. That is because discrimination undermines the very essence of our idea of community: the acceptance of others as people equally deserving of concern and respect, just by virtue of their humanity.<1>

I believe that human rights laws are a tangible sign of this society's commitment to maintain and cement our basic bonds of community, through the promotion and protection of the idea of "belonging". Equality claims begin and end with a desire for belonging, for community, and in Canada, a core element of our idea of community is the idea of equality.

These laws are often associated with prohibitions of particular types of activity, and with individual remedies, usually dollars and cents - - and in truth that takes up most of the time and energy of human rights Commissions across Canada. But it would be a mistake to think that this is all that these laws are about, first because it ignores the important public education and advocacy mandates given to human rights Commissions, and more importantly because it ignores the very important reality that the existence of a law administered by a Commission is a tangible sign of the community's willingness to side with victims of discrimination and to seek to ensure that they are truly accepted as full members of the community.<2> This obviously does not mean that every complaint must or should be upheld; but it does imply that simply having access to the complaints mechanism, and to the promotion, education and advocacy components of a Commission, are meaningful benefits which must not be overlooked, regardless of the outcome of a particular case. I believe that this applies with its fullest force in the area of expressions of hatred, and I will now turn to a review of the applicable provisions, and to their interpretation in actual cases.

II. HUMAN RIGHTS PROVISIONS DEALING WITH HATRED

There are provisions dealing with expressions if hatred in both federal and provincial human rights laws, and other related laws which provide the legal framework for addressing this problem in Canada. These will be summarized, and then the key decision setting out definitions and interpreting these statutes will be analyzed?<3> All of these laws have been described by the Supreme Court as "quasi- constitutional", and all are accepted as expressing fundamental values of over-riding importance in our society. They are remedial, not punitive, and they all share the same basic administrative model: complaints are received or initiated by the Commission, investigations are then undertaken, and if the matter is not dismissed on its merits and cannot be resolved by a settlement , the case may be referred to an independent human rights adjudicator, who holds a full public inquiry, where all sides have the right to call witnesses, cross- examine witnesses called by others and to present legal arguments. These procedures are meant to be flexible and accessible, and the overall purpose and context is conciliatory rather than punitive.

(1) Canadian Human Rights Act

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. H-6, is the key section in the federal law:

13.(1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunications undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Sub-section 13(2) states that this provision does not apply in respect of any matter which is communicated by means of the facilities of a broadcast undertaking, while ss. 13(3) clarifies that no owner or operator of a telecommunications undertaking is liable solely by reason of the fact that a person transmitted the messages over this facility (a common carrier exception). Under the federal law a cease and desist order can be issued by a Tribunal if it finds a contravention of the law, and amendments proclaimed on June 30, 1998 (S.C. 1998, c. 9) also permit a Tribunal to make two other types of awards: if a person is "specifically identified in the communication that constituted the discriminatory practice" an order of compensation can be made to a maximum of $20,000 (ss. 54(1)(b)); in addition a Tribunal can order the respondent to "pay a penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars." (ss. 54(1)(c)) In deciding whether to make a penalty order, s. 54(1. 1) of the Act requires a Tribunal to take account of:

(a) the nature, circumstances, extent and gravity of the discriminatory practice; and

(b) the wilfulness or intent of the person who engaged in the discriminatory practice, any prior discriminatory practices that the person has engaged in and the person's ability to pay the penalty.

(2) British Columbia Human Rights Code

Perhaps the broadest statutory provision in respect of expressions of hatred in Canadian human rights law is contained in s. 7 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code:

7(1) A person must not publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that

(a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or group or class of persons, or

(b) is likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of [a prohibited ground of discrimination].

7(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to private communication or to a communication intended to be private.

The Human Rights Tribunal has wide remedial authority to issue cease and desist orders, and to compensate for actual losses or "injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect' (s. 37(2)),but there are no special remedial provisions that apply to s. 7 alone.

(3) Saskatchewan Human Rights Code

The Saskatchewan Code contains a provision which is slightly narrower than the B.C. model, but it is also wider than comparable provisions dealing with "notices, signs and symbols" in other statutes:<4>

14(1) No person shall publish or display, or cause or permit to be published or displayed, on any lands or premises or in a newspaper, through a television or radio broadcasting station or any other broadcasting device or in any printed matter or publication or by means of any other medium that he owns, controls, distributes or sells, any representation, including without restricting the generality of the foregoing, any notice, sign, symbol, emblem, article, statement or other representation:

(a) tending or likely to deprive, abridge or otherwise restrict the enjoyment by any person or class of persons of any right to which he is or they are entitled under law; or

(b) which exposes, or tends to expose, to hatred, ridicules, belittles, or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person, any class of persons or a group of persons:

because of [a prohibited ground of discrimination] .

As in British Columbia, a Board of Inquiry may make a wide range of remedial orders upon a finding of a contravention of this provision, but no special remedies are set out for this type of activity alone. In addition to the usual human rights remedies, the Saskatchewan Code provides that if no other penalty is imposed, a person who contravenes the statute can be convicted of a summary conviction offence.

III. INTERPRETING THESE PROVISIONS

Two key questions have arisen in respect of these provisions: first, do the contravene the right to freedom of expression set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and if so, are they a reasonable limit under s. 1 ?; and second, what do the key terms mean? These are obviously related questions, and so I will address them by reviewing the two leading authorities in the area.

(1) John Ross Taylor and the Canadian Human Rights Act

In 1979 a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal upheld the complaint filed against John Ross Taylor alleging that his telephone answering service communicated messages which contravened section I of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The complaint related to a series of messages on Taylor's answering machine, which alleged a Jewish conspiracy to influence the media, the entertainment industry, businesses and government, and in particular to obtain money and influence by inflating the harm done to Jews during the Holocaust. His messages also dealt with non-white immigration and various social problems this allegedly creates, and a variety of other subjects.

When Taylor repeatedly ignored the Tribunal's cease and desist order, the Canadian Human Rights Commission sought and obtained a finding that he was in contempt of court, and ultimately a jail sentence was imposed on Taylor. He challenged both the Tribunal decision and the contempt finding, and the case wound its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The focus of the hearing before that Court was whether the law violated his right to freedom of expression. The Court was unanimous that section 13(l) prima facie infringed on the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, since it seeks to regulate the content of messages communicated repeatedly through the means of telecommunications undertakings. However, by a 4:3 majority, the Court ruled that this was a reasonable limit on freedom of expression, based on the narrow interpretation of the provision, the civil and remedial nature of human rights proceedings, and the constitutional and historical context.

There are two key interpretive challenges posed by the text of s. 13(l): how should the terms "hatred" or "contempt" be read, and what is the proper approach to the concept of "likely to expose"? Chief Justice Dickson, for the majority of the Court, adopts an approach to the terms "hatred" and "contempt" which was developed by the Human Rights Tribunal in John Ross Taylor, and confirmed by it in Nealy v. Johnston:<5>

The reference to "hatred" speaks of "extreme' ill-will and an emotion which allows for "no redeeming qualities" in the person at whom it is directed. "Contempt" appears to be viewed as similarly extreme, though it is felt by the Tribunal to describe more appropriately circumstances where the object of one's feelings is looked down upon. According to the reading of the Tribunal, s. 13(l) thus refers to unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification, and I do not find this interpretation to be particularly expansive... Moreover, as long as the Human Rights Tribunal continues to be well aware of the purpose of s. 13(1) and pays heed to the ardent and extreme nature of feeling described n the phrase "hatred or contempt, there is little danger that subjective opinion as to offensiveness will supplant the proper meaning of the section.<6>

The other key concept to be interpreted in s . 13 (1) is "likely to expose"; this may be contrasted with other provincial laws, or the Criminal Code, which require proof of intentional "incitement" of hatred, or the expression of "an intention to discriminate". In John Ross Taylor the majority do not address directly this element of the section. McLachlin J., writing in dissent, refers to the breadth of this concept as one key factor in her determination that s. 13(l) was not a reasonable limit on free expression under s. I of the Charter.<7>

These words have been elaborated upon by the Tribunal, in both the Taylor and Nealy v. Johnston cases. The key elements of the interpretation of this clause are set out in the following passage from Nealy v. Johnston:

"incite' means to stir up; "promote' means to support actively. "Expose is a more passive word, which seems to indicate that an active effort or intent on the part of the communicator or a violent reaction on the part of the recipient are not required ... We note... that there is no need for the complainants to prove an active effort or intent on part of the respondents to produce the adverse consequences contemplated by the section. Moreover, the use of the wording "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt means that it is not necessary that evidence be adduced that any particular individual or group took the messages seriously and in fact directed hatred or contempt against another or others, still less that anyone has in fact been victimized in this way. is enough to prove that the matter in the messages is more likely than not to spark a positive reaction amongst some of the listeners to it which will likely in turn manifest itself in "hatred" or "contempt" towards the target of the messages. Furthermore, in making the case on the potential impact of matter on recipients of it, the test is not the "reasonable listener" but whether there is anybody, even the most malevolent or unthinking person, who might be inspired to treat the targets with hatred or contempt.<8>

From these cases it is clear that while the interpretation of "hatred or contempt" is a stringent one, requiring extreme expressions of ill-will and detestation of a target group, the test of whether such messages are "likely to expose" individuals to these feelings is a more lax one.

On the basis of this interpretation, the Supreme Court moved to an analysis of whether s. 13(l) was a reasonable limit on freedom of expression, it having been conceded that the provision prima facie violated the right to freedom of expression. The Court accepted and affirmed the point conceded, but divided as to whether the infringement was justifiable.

For the majority, Dickson U.C. upheld the provision. He examined s. 13(l) in the context of the facts of the case, international human rights standards which accept the need to "protect minority groups from the intolerance and psychological pain caused by such expression" and the recognition in the Charter itself that equality (s. 15) and multiculturalism (s. 27) are fundamental constitutional values in Canada.

Two key elements of this analysis merit particular attention. First, Dickson C.J.C. pays particular attention to the purpose of human rights laws, as contrasted with that of the Criminal Code:

The aim of human rights legislation, and of s. 13(1), is not to bring the full force of the state's power against a blameworthy individual for the purpose of imposing punishment. Instead, provisions found in human rights statutes generally operate in a less confrontational manner, allowing for a conciliatory settlement if possible and, where discrimination exists, gearing remedial responses more towards compensating the victim.<9>

The second important element in this analysis is the recognition that the freedom of expression analysis could not occur in a vacuum: it was essential to examine the extent to which the expression targeted by s. 13(1) conforms to the values which underlie the protection of free expression itself. Dickson C.J.C. rules that hate propaganda contributes little to the quest for truth, the promotion of individual self-development or the fostering of a vibrant democracy. He continues: "The unusually extreme extent to which the expression at stake in this appeal attacks the s. 2(b) rationale, however, requires that the proportionality analysis be carried out with the recognition that the suppression of hate propaganda does not severely abridge free expression values.<10>

Finally, it is worth noting that Dickson C.J.C. expressly rejected the argument that these types of laws would be ineffectual in stopping expressions of hatred, and therefore are not rationally connected to the lofty aims of Parliament:

The process of hearing a complaint made under s. 13(1) and, if the complaint is substantiated, issuing a cease and desist order reminds Canadians of our fundamental commitment to equality of opportunity and the eradication of racial and religious intolerance. In addition, although criminal law is not devoid of impact upon the rehabilitation of offenders, the conciliatory nature of the human rights procedure and the absence of criminal sanctions make s. 13(1) especially well-suited to encourage reform of the communicator of hate propaganda.<11>

(b) Doug Collins and the R C Human Rights Code

In March 1994 a newspaper columnist named Doug Collins published an article in the North Shore News entitled "Swindler's List: Hollywood Propaganda". In this article Collins discussed the movie Schindler's List, and linked it with an ongoing effort by the Jewish community to exaggerate the harms done during the Holocaust. He also discussed the alleged influence of the Jewish community in the entertainment industry, which he described as a core component of its efforts to spread the "myths" about the Holocaust.. Complaints were filed alleging that this article contravened s. 7 of the B.C. Human Rights Code, and the case was referred to the Human Rights Tribunal for hearing. Before the Tribunal a constitutional challenge was raised to the provision of the Code, on both division of powers and Charter of Rights grounds.

The Tribunal ruled that the legislation fell within the constitutional competence of the province, since it was enacted pursuant to provincial jurisdiction in relation to "civil rights", and did not trench upon the federal criminal law power. In addressing the claim under the Charter, the Tribunal reviewed the broader context, including the history and current impact of anti-Semitism, the fact that this expression occurred through the medium of a local newspaper, and the community within which it was distributed. A key element in the Tribunal's review of the constitutional issues was the fact that while the Charter serves to limit government action, it is equally true that sometimes governments may act in a way to reinforce or protect rights and freedoms. Human rights laws are a prime example of such action by the government, and significant weight must be accorded to this objective of this legislation, as one means of protecting constitutional equality values.

The Tribunal adopted the definitions of "hatred" and "contempt 'which were developed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but it rejected the approach to the concept of "likely to expose'. The Tribunal found that the provision in B.C. should be interpreted somewhat more narrowly, given the breadth of expression covered, and the constitutional value of freedom of expression. The Tribunal summarized the tests for a violation of s. 7 of the B.C. Code in the following passage:

First, does the communication itself express hatred or contempt of a person or group on the basis of one or more of the listed grounds? Would a reasonable person understand this message as expressing hatred or contempt?

Second, assessed in its context, is the likely effect of the communication to make it more acceptable for others to manifest hatred or contempt against the person or group concerned? Would a reasonable person consider it likely to increase the risk of exposure of target group members to hatred or contempt?"<<12>

Based on this interpretation, the Tribunal then examined the constitutional validity of the provision under the Charter, and it concluded that the section constituted a reasonable limit on freedom of expression and was thus justifiable. Without reviewing in detail all of the elements of the comprehensive analysis undertaken by the Tribunal, it is worth noting several aspects which focus on the human rights context (as opposed to civil or criminal schemes).

The Tribunal noted that the objective of seeking to prevent the harm done by hateful expression has been a matter of serious concern for the international community, as is reflected in key international human rights instruments, and has been recognized as a valid and pressing goal by the Supreme Court of Canada in prior decisions.<13> Despite the fact that it may not be scientifically possible to establish a causal link between hate propaganda and the harms the law seeks to prevent, the Tribunal nevertheless finds that "it is not open to me to dispute the well-established jurisprudence that expression can harm. In particular, it is clear that hateful expressions produce both individual and societal harms that are inconsistent with the goals of human rights laws."<14> The Tribunal relied on its narrow interpretation of s. 7 as a basis for finding that the law was valid, in that it was a rational response to the problem of harmful expression, and was not an over-broad invasion of free speech.

In rejecting the argument that the lack of procedural guidelines tainted this provision, the Tribunal noted that earlier decisions have found that the administrative flexibility and remedial nature of human rights proceedings are particularly appropriate and indeed may be an advantage over criminal sanctions or formal civil court procedures.

Having set out its interpretation of the provision, and upheld its constitutional validity, the Tribunal then moved to the merits of the complaint. Although it accepted that Jews have been subjected to historical discrimination and that ant-Semitism continues today, the Tribunal concluded that the particular messages at issue in this case were not so extreme as to constitute "hatred" or "contempt". The Tribunal accepted that these messages "all invite the expression of anti-Semitic prejudices", and thus the second element of the test for a violation of s. 7 was made out; the case failed because the messages were not so extreme as to fall within the first element of the test:

Turning to the tone of the column, I do not find in it the quality of emotion signified by the phrase "hatred or contempt." I find the tone of the article to be nasty: it is deliberately provocative and insulting. It is mean-spirited and expresses a smug self-satisfaction in the author's apparent success in freeing himself from the grip of the "propaganda" by which the rest of society is still duped. The style of presentation is informal. In my view, considering the column as a whole, the way the content is presented (its tone) does not capture the degree of calumny, detestation or vilification signified by "hatred or contempt' as the phrase is used in s. 7(l)(b) of the Code.<15>

It should be noted that other complaints have been filed against Mr. Collins, alleging that a number of his columns violate the B.C. Code, and these are currently before a Tribunal.

IV. HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INTERNET

A great deal of attention has been paid lately to the challenge of regulating the Internet, and in particular to the issue of hate propaganda and the Internet. I will describe a case which is currently before a federal Human Rights Tribunal on this issue, and then raise some questions which need to be examined if any new legal mechanisms are to be created to deal specifically with hate on the Internet. But first I will mention two matters which help to set the context for this discussion.

While I do not in any way wish to downplay the importance of examining the issue of hatred on the Internet, it is easy to lose sight of some basic points given the pressure to create some form of "control" over this new means of sharing information. The Internet poses new challenges, but it does not exist in a legal vacuum: it is not some new "wild west" where the law does not run. There can be no doubt that if one plans a murder, or to import drugs into Canada, and communicates these plans via the Internet, the criminal law will attach to this conduct. There may be issues of effective enforcement and nice legal questions about jurisdiction which arise, but these are neither particularly new nor novel in Canadian law.

The second preliminary point is that while attention should be paid to the question of legal regulation in the form of prohibitions of certain forms of conduct, some thought should also be given to regulations which could provide greater access to the medium - for women, for people whose disabilities make it impossible for them to "surf" websites heavily based on graphics, and for those who do not have ready access to computers. As we examine this issue, we should remember that over half of the world's population has never made a phone call, and there are sectors within the Canadian community for whom access to the Internet is simply not possible. Perhaps any effort to "regulate' the Internet should address the question of access, whatever else it does.

Finally, the Internet offers immense possibilities to communicate positive information about human rights, including hate propaganda. Examples of this abound: visit the site run by Ken McVay and the Nizkor project, or that of the Canadian Human Rights Commission which provides access to the "Stop the Hatred" game, or see the B'Nai Brith Canada site.<16> As we discuss efforts to create or apply new forms of regulation to this medium, it is important to remember its immense potential for positive contributions to the cause of human rights, and to ensure that any discussion of legal regulation seeks to craft a carefully calibrated instrument.

(1) Ernst Zundel and the Canadian Human Rights Act

The first attempt to apply s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to communication through the Internet is now underway before the Human Rights Tribunal. The case involves complaints filed by Sabina Citron and the Toronto Mayor's Committee on Community and Race Relations, alleging that a website using the name of Ernst Zundel, and communicating messages apparently written by him, contravene the section. The website is allegedly run by a woman in California, and is located on a computer there, so this case raises issues of jurisdiction in general, and in respect of the international aspect of the website. As well, the Tribunal will have to determine whether the messages complained of, which fall within the category of "Holocaust denial" are sufficiently extreme so as to be likely to expose Jews or others to hatred or contempt.

The Commission and complainants have lead their evidence, and the respondent has begun his case. To date there is evidence before the Tribunal about the Internet as a means of communication (how it operates and its basic components), an analysis of the messages and their likely effect, and information about the actual operation of the Zundelsite itself It is expected that more evidence on some of these issues will be introduced by Zundel as he completes his case, and then final argument will occur, perhaps in January 1999.

Since the case is still before the Human Rights Tribunal, there is little that I can add to this description of the matters in dispute. There are also parallel proceedings in the Federal Court, where Mr. Zundel is challenging the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to refer the matter to a Human Rights Tribunal, and is questioning a number of rulings made by the Tribunal itself The decision in this case is widely expected to create a precedent in this area, and it is being watched within Canada and in other countries where similar cases are either contemplated or underway.

(2) New Regulation of the Internet: Some Questions

As we examine the question of whether new forms of legal regulation of the Internet are required, I believe that it may be worthwhile to reflect upon a series of questions. I do not purport to provide answers to these questions, but I do believe that the discussion will be improved by a consideration of them. For ease of reference, I will simply list the questions, with a few points made in relation to each:

(1) what purpose is the regulation designed to serve?

Do we wish to punish the hard-core racist? Convert him or her? Prevent the recruitment of impressionable youth, or force servers or sites to provide opportunity for counter-argument?

(2) what is to be regulated?

There really is no single entity called the "Internet"; it is akin to a living organism, with many ever-changing components; do we wish to have our hand in all types of communication between computers? Or only the most public forms of communication such as chat rooms or websites? Will e-mail messages be protected as a form of "private speech," and if so, how do we deal with racist "spamming" -- sending offensive e-mail messages to anyone with a "Jewish-sounding name' for example?

(3) what process is to be used to decide whether to take any enforcement steps under any new law?

Who is to be given authority, and what checks and balances will be built into the system?

Is it possible to create a sufficiently balanced system, yet still have some steps taken to enforce the law? What role should ordinary members of the public, or interest groups have in the enforcement activity? What "penalties" should exist to discourage misuse of the law?

CONCLUSION

The human rights system for dealing with hate propaganda which I have described in this paper is one element in the efforts of Commissions to combat hatred and to provide assurance to targeted groups and individuals of their right to live secure in the knowledge that they are equal members of the community. I have not dealt with the many other activities undertaken by Human Rights Commissions, and by other government and non-governmental actors, such as educational activities in classrooms and community events, days of action and remembrance, or lobbying or media campaigns. All of these are important, and one of the challenges is to ensure that efforts continue to be made to coordinate these activities.

One feature of human rights enforcement is the very concrete opportunity if offers for sustained public education and advocacy around a specific cases -- instead of abstract theorizing about possible effects and problems, a human rights case offers an opportunity to educate the community about the actual messages that are being spread, and their effect on the community.

There is no doubt that those who wish to communicate these messages have an important argument about their freedom of expression, but it is also important that those who are victimized by these words have an opportunity to be heard too - to give voice to their rights to live in a society as equal members, free from attacks upon their racial or religious heritage, or sexual orientation.

Many years ago, Daniel Hill (the first full-time Human Rights Commissioner in Canada) spoke about human rights laws as offering a unique mix of education and enforcement; more recently, the late Mr. Justice Walter Tamopolsky put it more colourfully when he said that human rights laws, and the agencies that administered them, were meant to act as "the iron hand in the velvet glove", seeking to conciliate and resolve disputes if possible, but with the ultimate aim of taking whatever steps are needed to eradicate discrimination and to provide relief to its victims.

These goals still apply today, and the challenge is to implement these laws in a manner which is sensitive to the values of freedom of speech and liberty, while at the same time giving full effect to the equality and diversity interests which are so fundamental to Canadian society. In all of this the simple fact remains: a delicate balance needs to be achieved, but we must acknowledge that words can wound, and the prevention of such harm, and providing relief to those who are harmed, has been and remains a core responsibility of human rights law and agencies in Canada today.


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