Dr. Dawg

Harper legalizes hate

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Life for Canada’s neo-Nazis just got a whole lot better after the Harper regime voted yesterday to repeal restrictions on hate speech in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Having earlier eliminated the pay equity provisions of the Act, they are on the road, one suspects, to abolishing it outright—something that sketchier members of the base have been advocating for some time.

Some will object to my hed as a little over the top. Not at all. Yes, laws against outrageous hate speech continue to exist in the Criminal Code—just like those against blasphemous and criminal libel. But these are rarely invoked (the latter is used mostly by police to harass their critics). Even more rarely are charges under these provisions successfully prosecuted.

The bar for a successful criminal prosecution is (rightly) set very high: guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The standard at human rights tribunals, however, is the “balance of probabilities.” That’s the standard that applies in civil court cases: individual defamation, for example.

Repeal of Section 13 of the CHRA will have the effect of disallowing complaints based upon group defamation. A defamed individual may sue in civil court and win. But a member of a defamed group is now left with virtually no recourse at all.

Which is, of course, precisely the point. Repeal of Section 13 will delight those on the Right who have been strategically whingeing about free speech (for Nazis and homophobes, but not for the likes of progressive activists, educators, authors and scientists). Their bedfellows in the white nationalist movement will have hoisted a few steins in the ol’ Bierkeller last night as well.

This gives a pretty free hand, after all, to anyone who wants to demonize gays, Muslims, Jews, “non-whites” and immigrants on the internet or in recorded telephone messages. A victory for free speech? More a victory for hate and its inseparable companions, fear and anger—a victory, in other words, for conservatism itself.

UPDATE: Neo-Nazis thank their Conservative benefactors. [H/t]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 7, 2012 8:51 AM.

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