Dr. Dawg

Hatecott loses

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Here’s the Supreme Court decision in the Bill Whatcott case. It’s a model of clarity and precision.

The key sentence, referring to Section 14(1)(b) of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code:

The remaining prohibition of any representation “that exposes or tends to expose to hatred” any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground is a reasonable limit on freedom of religion and is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Taylor(1990) is essentially upheld.

Expression that merely “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of” target groups is overbroad, and that wording is struck down. It’s OK to be rude and obnoxious. The important issue here is hate:

Hate speech…does little to promote, and can in fact impede, the values underlying freedom of expression. Hate speech can also distort or limit the robust and free exchange of ideas by its tendency to silence the voice of its target group. These are important considerations in balancing hate speech with competing Charter rights and in assessing the constitutionality of the prohibition in s. 14(1)(b) of the Code.

And you can’t just disguise your hatred in religious or policy garb:

Framing speech as arising in a moral context or within a public policy debate does not cleanse it of its harmful effect. Finding that certain expression falls within political speech does not close off the enquiry into whether the expression constitutes hate speech. Hate speech may often arise as a part of a larger public discourse but it is speech of a restrictive and exclusionary kind. Political expression contributes to our democracy by encouraging the exchange of opposing views. Hate speech is antithetical to this objective in that it shuts down dialogue by making it difficult or impossible for members of the vulnerable group to respond, thereby stifling discourse. Speech that has the effect of shutting down public debate cannot dodge prohibition on the basis that it promotes debate.

The Speech Warriors™—here I’m referring to the honest ones without hate agendas of their own—never take that last part into account. They ignore unequal power relations entirely, pretending that we have a societal level playing field.

We don’t. But thanks to the SCC, groups vulnerable to bullying and hatred continue to have legal protection. The bullies and haters will have to express their ideas in a civil non-hateful manner, or not at all.

Suck on that, Bill Whatcott—as it were.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 27, 2013 10:50 AM.

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