In the News: Government Rejects Petition e-763 Against Religious Exception in Hate Propaganda

The federal government has rejected parliamentary petition e-763, lauched by AFT to request the repeal of the religious exception, i.e. paragraph 319(3)(b), in the Canadian law against hate propaganda (in the Criminal Code). Here is the essential part of the response to petition e-753 which we received from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould:

The Government does not agree with the proposal to repeal paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Criminal Code.

Paragraph 319(3)(b) provides a defence to the crime of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group for any person who, in good faith, 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. There are also three other defences to this crime, which are found in paragraphs 319(3)(a)(c) and (d) of the Criminal Code.

In R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697, the Supreme Court of Canada examined these defences. The Court said that the three defences which include elements of good faith or honest belief–namely, paragraphs 319(3)(b), (c) and (d) –seemed to negate the mens rea or mental fault requirement for the offence, for only rarely would a person who intends to promote hatred be acting in good faith or upon honest belief. The Court also said that the defences found in subsection 319(3) reflect a commitment to the idea that an individual’s freedom of expression will not be curtailed in borderline cases.

We of Atheist Freethinkers are currently preparing our reply.

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