“What is hate?” Justice Centre defends free expression on Parliament Hill today

The Justice Centre will testify today at 9:45 AM ET before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as it studies the issue of “online hate” in Canada. The hearing will take place at Room 315, Wellington Building, 197 Sparks Street in Ottawa, and is open to the public. The Standing Committee opened this study following the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand that killed 51 people.

Justice Centre Litigation Director Jay Cameron will challenge the Standing Committee to consider the importance of developing a clear and specific definition of what constitutes online “hate”. Mr. Cameron will make a number of recommendations for any proposed legislation.

Mr. Cameron will reference the Justice Centre’s extensive archive of recent freedom of expression casework to inform Members of Parliament about the ways in which hate has been defined improperly, or not at all, and used aggressively as an insult or accusation. This results in the silencing of legitimate, peaceful expression on issues of importance to Canadians.

The Justice Centre previously testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage studying Parliament’s motion M-103. During the Standing Committee’s deliberation of this motion, the Justice Centre challenged Members of Parliament to first define exactly what is meant by Islamophobia. “The refusal of the Standing Committee to bring certainty to the debate and define what it meant by “Islamophobia”, lends itself to increased suspicion from Canadians about the true intentions of this government,” explains the Justice Centre’s written testimony. Courts have repeatedly held that the mere expression of disagreement and criticism of religion or ideology does not constitute hate speech.

Much of what critics hate and decry as “hate” is simply disagreement. And it is not only legal to disagree with ideology and religion and people’s pet theories in Canada, it is constitutionally protected.

In that sense, Parliament must be wary not to create laws which echo the blasphemy laws enacted in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, which censure disagreement regarding religious dogma.