This is a continuation of Part I: Hate Speech Legislation in Canada
Part II: Hate Speech Legislation in Canada
Considering the danger inherent in hate propaganda legislation, it is obviously important to make such legislation as fair and reasonable as possible. Canada’s law has the merit of distinguishing appeals to genocide from less serious forms of hate speech, and it provides for greater penalties for the former. However the same law has at least one major flaw: its religious exception. Indeed, §319 lists several “Defences” which provide impunity; in particular, §319(3)(b) states that no conviction will be made “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.” In other words, religiously motivated hate speech is apparently not prosecutable. Thus, even in Canada, the statements discussed above would probably not be prosecutable because they are based on religious belief, with the possible exception of the pastor’s call for killing gays, which could be interpreted as advocating genocide.
The religious exception in Canada’s hate propaganda legislation is especially disturbing given that hate speech is very often based on religion. Indeed, of all causes, religion may be the primary motivator of hate speech. Consider the misogyny and homophobia actively promoted by at least the fundamentalist tendencies within the three monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as other religions. Consider fundamentalist Islamists who malign and persecute women who refuse to wear the veil. Consider the use of scriptures such as the bible or the quran to legitimize slavery. Consider the religiously motivated demonization of atheists, apostates, dissidents and adherents of competing religions.
Now enter the Quebec Liberal Party and its recently proposed legislation: draft Bill 59 which would “prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence.” First the good news: after a quick reading I could find no religious exception in draft Bill 59. If it is adopted, could we envisage the possibility of a complaint to ban distribution of any bible containing the book of Leviticus because it constitutes hate speech against homosexuals? And while we are at it, would it be possible to lodge a complaint with the federal human rights commission, seeking a similar ban, based on the idea that Leviticus advocates genocide (given that only §319 contains the religious exception, while §318 which bans advocating genocide does not)?
However there is some seriously bad news as well: draft Bill 59 contains provisions which would allow the Quebec Commission (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse or CDPDJ) to launch an investigation into allegedly hateful speech, directed against any of the groups identified as prohibited grounds for discrimination, without having received a complaint, i.e. on its own initiative. Furthermore, the CDPDJ would have the power to ban such speech by court order during an investigation, before it is completed! These powers appear draconian, an invitation to abuse of power.
Consulting the action plan against “radicalization” (La radicalisation au Québec : agir, prévenir, détecter et vivre ensemble) which the Couillard government released alongside Bill 59, we find no reassurance. The plan fails to address the problem of Islamist rhetoric which nourishes jihadism. There is no mention of fundamentalism, yet “Islamophobia” is mentioned repeatedly in association with racism and as if it were the primary example of hate speech. Clearly the authors of the document are obsessed with “Islamophobia” and tend to confuse it with racism, which is irrational because Islam is a religion, not a race. One can quite legitimately be concerned about the dangerous nature of a religion without being prejudiced against some particular ethnic group. Indeed, the document evidently blames radicalization on “prejudice” in general and “Islamophobia” in particular, while not even mentioning the obvious cause which is the extremist politico-religious ideology of Islamism. This is completely backwards: if prejudice against Muslims exists, it is caused by Islamist radicalism more than the other way around.
Does the Couillard government really care about the problem of hate speech, if indeed it is a problem, or are they more concerned about garnering votes by currying favour with Islamists — who would like us to believe that they represent Muslims in general — and with the numerous multiculturalists who are the dupes of those Islamists? Take a look at this graph of police-reported hate crime in Canada in 2012 and 2013, as compiled by Statistics Canada. According to that data, blacks, Jews and gays are targets of hate crime far more often than Muslims. It must also be pointed out that, during the controversy over the PQ’s Charter of Secularism, Islamists and multiculturalists themselves indulged in what can only be called hate propaganda against secularists by repeatedly making ridiculous accusations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance when what we were proposing was a public service free of religious interference. Clearly the PLQ does not care about that; on the contrary they got themselves elected by pandering to it!
Draft Bill 59 is a threat to freedom, because it is roughly equivalent to an anti-blasphemy law at the provincial level (whereas what is required is to repeal the federal anti-blasphemy law). It is legislation which can be used to censor criticism of religion in general and whose intent, judging from the accompanying action plan, is to stifle criticism of Islam in particular.
In conclusion, both the Christian homophobes who lament the recent US Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, and the Islamists who complain about “Islamophobia” at every occasion, are like spoilt children determined either to maintain an existing religious privilege, i.e. a restricted definition of marriage, or to gain a religious privilege, that of inundating public spaces, including state institutions, with ostentatious symbols of their ideology. They both seek to “own” their target. And they both attempt to mislead the public by using the concept of “religious liberty” as a misnomer for that coveted privilege.