Policy

Canada Repeals Restriction on Online "Hate Speech"

A free-speech victory up north.

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The Washington and Jefferson of an alternate America.

Have you heard about this place called Canada? It's like some weird parallel America where they never had a revolution. There's some other differences too: It's colder, for instance, and they call their Seattle "Vancouver." Also, they keep their Louisiana in the north instead of the south, and every now and then it threatens to leave. Apparently, if you change just a few little variables like that, history comes out differently: You get socialized medicine, and a lot of signs and stuff are in French, and instead of Saturday Night Live there was a show called SCTV which was funnier but didn't last as long.

Legend has it that if you journey to the far, far north, you can pass through a portal to this alternate America. Unless you live in Alaska, in which case I gather you have to drive west. (*)

Oh, and there's another big difference: Free speech protections are much weaker in that world, so it's easier for the state to censor speech it doesn't like. There are people there who care about free expression, though, and sometimes they win one:

A contentious section of Canadian human rights law, long criticized by free-speech advocates as overly restrictive and tantamount to censorship, is gone for good.

A private member's bill repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the so-called "hate speech provision," passed in the Senate this week. Its passage means the part of Canadian human rights law that permitted rights complaints to the federal Human Rights Commission for "the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet" will soon be history.

The bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth passed in the House of Commons last summer, but needed Senate approval. It has received royal assent and will take effect after a one-year phase-in period.

An "ecstatic" Storseth said the bill, which he says had wide support across ideological lines and diverse religious groups, repeals a "flawed piece of legislation" and he called Canada's human rights tribunal "a quasi-judicial, secretive body that takes away your natural rights as a Canadian."

Further reading: "The Internet Saved My Tongue."

(* Or maybe east. The legends are cloudy.)