Canadian Hate Speech

Victory for free expression.


Talk about mission creep. Established in the 1970s to stop discrimination, Canada's human rights commissions soon took to policing offensive speech.

In one notorious case, covered in reason's June 2009 issue, the Western Standard had to go through an expensive two-year process to defend its right to reprint the notorious Jyllands-Posten cartoons mocking Muhammad. The Standard eventually won that case, but not every defendant has been so lucky.

At least now there will be fewer defendants. In June the country repealed Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which allowed the commissions to regulate "the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet." It's a victory for free speech, but not a complete one: "Hate speech" is still a criminal offense in Canada, though it will not be as easy to bring charges now.