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Old February 4th, 2013 #63
Alex Linder
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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Alex Linder
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Canadian Association for Free Expression
Box 332,
Rexdale, Ontario, M9W 5L3
Ph: 905-56-4455; FAX: 905-566-4820

Paul Fromm, B.Ed, M.A. Director

Memo to the Senate of Canada: Please Protect Internet Free Speech -- Pass Bill 304

Last June, the House of Commons passed a private Member's Bill, Bill C-304 which repealed Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Sec. 13 had been a vague and much abused form of Internet censorship, making an offence out of views expressed over the Internet that were not criminal. Truth was not a defence. Intent was not a defence. The wording was vague -- communicating views "likely to expose" designated or privileged groups to "hatred or contempt." No harm had to be proven. In fact, it was not necessary to prove that anyone other than the complainant had ever even seen the post in question. "Contempt" would capture any negative criticism. For instance, if smokers wer a protected group, Internet comments stating smokers had bad breath and were damaging their skin and had higher incidents of lung cancer would be "likely" to expose them to "contempt" is not hatred. Truth would not matter.

Until the Marc Lemire decision in 2009, Sec. 13 had a 100% conviction rate. That alone should have set off alarm bells. People are frequently charged with murder or robbery or fraud and acquitted. However, there were virtually no defences under Sec. 13. Worse, most of the prosecutions were driven by a chronic complainer with an admitted political agenda. This man worked for the Canadian Human Rights Commission during some of the time he was filing complaints. He has now moved over to the Department of National Defence. He admitted in a talk to Anti-Racist Action, a Toronto group with a history of violence, that he was seeking to "shut down" through "maximum disruption" those with an ideology he opposed.

Most of the victims of Sec. 13 complaints were poor and obscure people, unable to afford a lawyer. On behalf of the Canadian Association for Free Expression, I acted as a "representative" for half a dozen of these people. I saw lives and reputations ruined. The long drawn-out proceedings were an abuse BY process.

The investigators and prosecutors for the Canadian Human Rights Commission acted more like a political police than officials steeped in our tradition of fairness. When the lead "hate" investigator was questioned during the Warman v. Marc Lemire Tribunal, he was asked what weight he gave to freedom of expression when he was examining a website: "None," he responded, "freedom of expression is an American idea." Oh, really?

In our submission, the House of Commons was wise to repeal Sec. 13. We understand that it is now in the process of second reading in the Red Chamber. We urge that it receive speedy consent. It has now been eight months since it was passed in the House of Commons.

There is an urgency here. Canadians continue to suffer. Terry Tremaine, a former lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan, was charged under Sec. 13 and found guilty. He was then charged for much of the same material under Sec. 319 ("hate law") of the Criminal Code. Last fall, a Regina judge dismissed the case. However, Mr. Tremaine had been hit with a lifetime "cease and desist" order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal forbidding him from posting the same or similar comments to the ones at issue at the Tribunal. But what is "similar"? Although he tried to tome down his language, he was eventually found guilty of "contempt of court" for not removing the original posts, although the Tribunal's order, as worded, had not required this. Subject to an appeal, he may soon head off to jail for up to six months!

Jail for expressing non-violent opinions on a website in another country? Such repression and micro-managing of opinion are unacceptable in a free society.

The Canadian press and many MPs rightly criticize restrictions on free speech in other countries. The case of Chinese architect, artist and dissident Wei Wei comes to mind. The was jailed briefly and then stripped of his political rights -- not allowed to talk to the foreign media -- for a year. Many Canadians rightly voiced their concern. Yet, Sec. 13 puts its victims under a lifetime gag!

In passing Bill C-304, the House of Commons went a long way to securing Internet freedom in Canada. We urge you to do likewise and pass this piece of legislation as expeditiously as possible.

Respectfully submitted.

Paul Fromm
Director

E-mail addresses of Canadian Senators

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