Did you know? Hate propaganda legislation in Canada has a religious exception

Modified 2017-02-17

In the Canadian Criminal Code, sections 318, 319 and 320 deal with hate propaganda. Section 319(3) includes a list of four so-called “Defences,” i.e. exceptions where speech is justified and cannot be prosecuted as hate propaganda. First in the list is truth, i.e. no person shall be convicted if it is established that “that the statements communicated were true,” a disposition which is hardly controversial. However the second defence grants impunity “if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text.”

Thus, hate propaganda appears to be unprosecutable if it is religiously motivated. This is especially disturbing given that, arguably, much hate propaganda — indeed, perhaps most — is based on religious dogma. For example, the primary purveyors of homophobia are the various religions, especially the three monotheisms Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Indeed, it may be precisely because of this that the religious exception was inserted into this section in the first place, i.e. to grant impunity to religious hatemongers.

It is also noteworthy that, in section 318 which includes a list of identifiable groups which may be targets of hate propaganda, women were added only recently, in 2014.