February 26, 2013
Canada: Supreme Court set to update legal definition of hate-speech in first ruling of Internet age
Pitting freedom of religion and speech against a legal regime that bans the repeated public expression of hate, the Whatcott case could see the legal foundation of several anti-hate laws crumble, including Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Crafted by former Chief Justice Brian Dickson in a 1991 Supreme Court decision about hate-hotline operator John Ross Taylor, the operating definition of hate in Canada is “unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification.”
But that decision, which upheld the constitutionality of Section 13 and set the benchmark for all hate speech tribunals, was a narrowly split 4-3 vote, in which current Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the dissenting minority, favouring a more robust defence of free speech.
It also helpfully reprints Whatcott’s offending statements, which include someone else’s nespaper ad, and a quote from Jesus:
“Our children will pay the price in disease, death, abuse and ultimately eternal judgment if we do not say no to the sodomite desire to socialize your children into accepting something that is clearly wrong,” said one flyer.
In another, he photocopied a classified ad: “I’m 28, 160#, searching for boys/men for penpals, friendship, exchanging video, pics, magazines & anything more. Your age, look & nationality is not so relevant.”
Above it, he wrote, quoting the Bible, “If you cause one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a millstone was tied around your neck and you were cast into the sea.”