A Langley man who campaigns against hate speech on the internet was pleased to hear the federal government is reviewing a decision to kill a controversial section of the Human Rights Act that was once used to fight offensive comments online.
Cran Campbell was informed of the possibility in an e-mail from federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson‑Raybould on Friday (Jan. 5).
“I think it’s encouraging that they’re looking at it,” Campbell told The Times.
“But I don’t know if it’s going to go through. (If it does) I’ll support them 10,000 per cent.”
Campbell, who has been campaigning against hate speech posted to chat forums on the Craigslist online classified sites for years, had written the federal justice minister to report how he had been targeted by internet trolls for filing complaints about offensive statements.
Messages were posted on various internet sites that made unsupported accusations of criminal behaviour against Campbell, who spent weeks getting them taken down.
As well, someone used pilfered text from a newspaper article about him to link to porn sites.
In his letter, Campbell said it would help if the federal government would restore section 13(1) of the Canada Human Rights Act, which allowed the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to go after online hate propagandists, fining them as much as $10,000.
The law was repealed by the then-Conservative government in 2013 following a ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the section violated freedom of speech.
The decision was supported by several groups critical of the law, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association which complained the law was used or threatened to be used against anti-American protesters, French-Canadian nationalists and Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.
As well, the then-president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, Mary Agnes Welch, said the law “allows complainants to chill the speech of those they disagree with by entangling targets in a human rights bureaucracy that doesn’t have to operate under the same strict rules of defence as a court.”
The Federal Court of Appeal later declared the section was constitutionally valid and did not violate freedom of expression, but by then, it had been repealed.
In her emailed letter of response to Campbell,, Wilson‑Raybould expressed sympathy for his difficulties and informed him the government was considering resurrecting Section 13(1).
“I note your suggestion that the Government should bring back the legislation that was in the Canadian Human Rights Act to deal with hate messages on the internet,” the minister wrote.
“It may interest you to know that this option is currently under review.”
Campbell said he hopes the government does more than just consider restoring the law.
“If they don’t do something about it (online hate speech), it’s going to get worse,” Campbell said.
“Things have to change.”
The Wilson‑Raybould letter to Campbell noted there are other steps that can be taken against online hate speech under laws still on the books, that the Criminal Code contains three hate propaganda offences.
They include advocating or promoting genocide against an identifiable group; inciting hatred against an identifiable group by communicating in a public place statements that are likely to lead to a breach of the peace; and communicating statements, other than in private conversation, to willfully promote hatred against an identifiable group.
The Code allows a judge “to order the seizure and forfeiture of tangible hate propaganda kept on premises for distribution and sale, as well as the deletion of hate propaganda made available to the public through a computer system, where they are within the jurisdiction of the court.”
The minister also suggested Campbell could pursue criminal charges over the false accusations of criminal activities.
“It may interest you to know that it is an offence under the Criminal Code to publish a defamatory libel knowing it to be false,” Wilson‑Raybould said.
“Generally, a defamatory libel is an attack on a person’s reputation published to someone other than the person libeled and that is in a permanent or semi‑permanent form.”