Last week the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision in the Whatcott case. The Court, in the 98 page ruling, attempted to tighten the reins on the Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals but kept the hate speech laws as constitutional.
Mr. Whatcott is a man who describes himself as a born-again Christian. He hands out flyers explaining his views, using strong and even offensive language to make his point. The Supreme Court determined that two of his flyers constituted hate speech and two did not, proving that their test is hardly objective and clear (the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal said none of the four flyers constituted hate speech, and the Court of Queen’s Bench said all four flyers did constitute hate speech!)
The commentary in the press has been good; across the spectrum journalists have, for the most part, come out against the ruling. Some commentary includes pieces by National Post editors Rex Murphy, Jonathan Kay, and Andrew Coyne, Ottawa Citizen published an excellent piece by the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s Karen Selick, and even the Toronto Star came out with an editorial lamenting the case. South of the border, Bruce Bawer (who indicates he is a member of one of the group’s the Court professes to be protecting) lamented the decision‘s impact on free speech (with a perceptive note about the effect on criticism of religions like Islam), and for those of you who like his style, Ezra Levant had a few choice things to say about the decision as well.
Most noteworthy, for the purposes of this campaign, is that the Court left it wide open for you and me to continue to press our governments to abolish hate speech laws. In fact, when weighing the different alternatives available (strict hate speech laws, free market place of ideas, and criminal hate speech laws), the Court stated, “I do not say that the marketplace of ideas may not be a reasonable alternative, and where a legislature is so minded, it will not enact hate speech legislation.”
That’s our cue! Let’s get to work lobbying the Senate (where Bill C-304 is still languishing) and the legislatures of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. to abolish the censorship powers of their human rights codes and to adopt the healthier, more reasonable approach to hate speech: the free and open market place of ideas.