Mainstream Media Covers Lemire Hearing
1: National Post: Web expands hate speech law: expert
2: Globe and Mail: Rights laws outdated in Internet age, hearing told
3: Western Standard: Marc Lemire and freedom of expression
Note: Contrary to the article below, I am not a “far-right propagandist”, nor have ever claimed to be, and have repeatedly pointed that out to the author.
Web expands hate speech law: expert
John Major/Canwest News Service
In an exchange Monday with a government lawyer, Mr. Hadjis said Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act, which was written to target the operators of racist telephone hotlines, and extended to the Internet after the 9/11 terror attacks, now captures "anyone who puts the written word down in digital form," including countless bloggers and the entirety of the mainstream press.
"It has an effect on the citizens of
As an example, he questioned whether the CHRC is fair to hold the operators of online message boards accountable for hateful messages posted by other people. He said the Internet has expanded the "grey zone" of hate speech such that "maybe the scale is tipping the other way."
Mr. Hadjis' comments, while not legally binding, suggest he is sympathetic to the arguments of Mr. Lemire, who has brought a constitutional challenge of human rights hate speech law as part of his defence against a hate speech complaint brought in 2003 by activist lawyer Richard Warman.
They also come as Richard Moon, a
Several groups, from hard-right free speech activists to liberal Jewish organizations, have expressed concern over the CHRC's application of Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act, and its potential abuse by complainants as a political platform.
By far the most determined critics, however, have been Mr. Lemire and his legal team, who once represented Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel. Among Mr. Lemire's supporters Monday was Tomasz Winnicki, a prominent white supremacist and convicted hatemonger.
Section 13 applies to messages "likely to expose" an identifiable group to hatred or contempt.
The foremost legal precedent for deciding these cases is the 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision about the neo-Nazi activist John Ross Taylor, in which Section 13 was held to be a justifiable violation of the Charter right to free expression.
It defined hate messages as those expressing "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification."
Simon Fothergill, a lawyer for the Attorney-General of
Mr. Hadjis expressed skepticism of Mr. Fothergill's claim that the core of the legal analysis remains unchanged in the digital age, even though the scope of the law is drastically widened from the original "telephonic communications."
"It's a different context," Mr. Hadjis said, noting that every newspaper now has a Web site.
"Suddenly all these declarations that may have legitimately been made on paper, in the age of
Mr. Fothergill answered that if Section 13 puts a chill on public discourse, it is only to be around the fringes of hate speech, and that this is not "a terribly bad outcome."
"A little bit of chilling ... is tolerable," he said.
In final arguments on behalf of the CHRC, lawyer Margot Blight asked for a cease and desist order against Mr. Lemire, a penalty of about $6,000, and a declaration that the rights of complainant Mr. Warman have been violated. Mr. Warman was not in attendance.
Ms. Blight said the material for which Mr. Lemire is accused, including 50 to 100 separate messages on his freedomsite.org and another site with which he is associated, is "voluminous," "vile" and "more than offensive."
Ms. Blight said Mr. Hadjis should reject the exemptions proposed by Mr. Lemire, such as for exaggerated hyperbole, anonymous postings, historical material and jokes, which she said were, "in my submission, not funny."
Mr. Hadjis questioned whether it is fair, in general, to hold Web site owners accountable for what others may write in their comment sections, possibly without their knowledge, consent or endorsement.
He used the example of the CBC, which operates several chat forums for readers to discuss news stories, and asked what would happen if a hateful message somehow got past automatic filters and live editors.
Without commenting on the CBC directly, Ms. Blight said there is no "free pass" for anyone.
Mr. Lemire is to present his final submissions Tuesday.
Rights laws outdated in Internet age, hearing told
Globe and Mail Update
September 15, 2008 at 7:18 PM EDT
The Human Rights Act provision permits anyone who objects to even a borderline case of alleged hate speech to expose the author to a costly, cumbersome human rights adjudication process, said Athansios Hadjis - who is presiding over a
Citing a recent case in which Maclean's magazine columnist Mark Steyn defended himself against a complaint from a Muslim group, Mr. Hadjis said it may be all too easy for an individual to be “dragged through the process.”
Mr. Hadjis said that the controversial provision created to combat hate messages left on telephone machines operated by member of the far right - made sense in the past. However, he said that its usefulness may be in the past.
Hate messages on telephone message machines tended to be overt, he said, whereas the ocean of opinions on the Internet include many that are borderline cases of hate.
“Maybe the scale is tipping the other way,” Mr. Hadjis interjected during closing submissions at the Lemire hearing. “There is so much grey zone here that it may tip the scale back the other way.”
“Suddenly, the chilling effect catches not only individuals who set up telephone messages...but just about everyone who posts anything on the Internet,” Mr. Hadjis said. “What we have is the reality of the Internet - open to all; everyone participates...” he said.
The complaint against Mr. Lemire alleges that he exposed Jews, blacks, Italians, homosexuals and other groups to hatred or contempt by permitting hate-mongers to post virulent comments on his Internet message board.
Many of the messages on Mr. Lemire's message board involved jokes that ridiculed racial groups as inferior, imbecilic or deserving of death. Some propagated vicious stereotypes, while others blamed them for global economic chaos or the spread of AIDS.
In one of the longer messages, the author claimed that homosexuals had willingly spread AIDS because of their “sleazy” sexual habits. “Innocents must die so that the sick sex games of a perverted minority may continue,” the author message said.
Mr. Lemire has challenged the constitutionality of the provision - s. 13 of the Human Rights Act - arguing that it is an unjustifiable restriction on free speech.
However, lawyers for the
The messages posted on Mr. Lemire's message board were “voluminous and vile,” said CHRC lawyer Margot Blight. “They were more than offensive. They showed extreme ill will toward designated groups.”
Ms. Blight argued that the legal test under s. 13 is strict, and that the CHRC does not pursue a case unless it constitutes an unusually strong expression of “calumny or detestation” toward a minority.
Justice Department lawyer Simon Fothergill told Mr. Hadjis Monday that, despite being more than 20 years old, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding the human rights provision in the case of John Ross Taylor applies well to the Internet era.
A more recent Human Rights Tribunal ruling, involving far right publisher Ernst Zundel, also upheld the provision, he said. While the ruling was not appealed in the court system, Mr. Fothergill said, it should nonetheless have a “very persuasive” influence on Mr. Hadjis.
Mr. Fothergill also argued that besides lacking the jurisdiction to find s.13 unconstitutional, it would be over-reaching to strike down an entire section when it may be only one or two minor procedural elements of it that require re-tooling.
Mr. Hadjis also expressed concern Monday that a mainstream organization such as the CBC could be charged under the hate provision, were a listener to post a hate message on its audience feedback message boards.
While the CBC is at least capable of removing such a message instantly, he said, “many are run by small operators who cannot possibly be manning them 24/7.”
But Ms. Blight said that the Lemire website contained multiple messages which could not have failed to be noticed by Mr. Lemire, and they were far from being borderline cases.
“The hateful content found on this message board covers pretty well all of the territory one can refer to as the hallmarks of hate,” she said.
“This is not a case where one message slipped over the line in an otherwise well-moderated message board,” Mr. Fothergill added.
Referring to the AIDS posting, Ms. Bright said: “What is being said here is that homosexual perversion and their refusal to be tested (for AIDS) has caused thousands of people to die. In my submission, that is a cruel and hateful stereotype.”
Mr. Hadjis noted that the author had assembled a pastiche of statistics, AIDS research and inflamed hyperbole: “Is that the first time that has happened?” he asked.
Ms. Blight responded that it is one thing to have concerns about free expression, but postings of this sort are aimed at something far more insidious than mere debate - spreading hatred against identifiable minorities.
Ms. Blight argued against a recommendation by Mr. Lemire that jokes and emotional expressions which are a spontaneous reaction to material already posted should be exempted from prosecution as a human rights violation.
“The jokes for which the exemption is sought are not, in my submission, funny,” Ms. Blight said. “There is no free pass for jokes, either.”
Ms. Blight also rejected suggestions from Mr. Lemire that the case against him is unfair because employees of the Human Rights Commission sometimes use pseudonyms to post messages on boards in an attempt to provoke others or discover their identity.
Since these tactics were not used in the Lemire case, she said, they are irrelevant to it. In addition, Ms. Blight said, any respondent who objects in future is free to pursue the case in the Federal Court of Canada and argue against their use.
The Commission has asked Mr. Hadjis to make a declaration that Mr. Lemire infringed the Act, to order him to “cease and desist” in operating hate websites, and to levy a financial penalty on him.
Final submissions in the case continue Tuesday.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Marc Lemire and freedom of expression
Marc Lemire is blogging his Human Rights Commission hearing here, and here. I don't like Lemire, and neither does anyone on the Western Standard masthead. But his case will have repercussions for us, for any of you that blog (including those of you who support the mission of the CHRC, and section 13 in particular), and the CBC too. From today's National Post:
"Anyone who runs an online message board, from the lowliest vanity blogger to the
In final submissions this morning at the hate speech hearing of Marc Lemire, operator of the far-right freedomsite.org and a prominent figure in Canada's "white rights" movement, CHRC lawyer Margot Blight said there is no "free pass" for the website owners.
"If a message board owner can't manage to ensure the content of the message board is complying with
Athanasios Hadjis, who is hearing the case on behalf of the
Just consider the chilling effects if the anti-speech advocates win this thing. Will some bloggers choose to turn off their comment sections entirely for fear of having a comment that technically violates Section 13? It doesn't take much for some idiot to post a hateful comment just to get the site operator in trouble.
How is this not an election issue? Go ahead and ask the politicians out on the hustings what they think of the CHRC. Help make it an issue.
Freedom of expression is enshrined as a "fundamental freedom" in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but if that only covers interpretative dance and genteel criticism of Stephane Dion then what good is it? Just how does it count as "fundamental" if it doesn't cover the hard cases? The ones that make us squirm and uncomfortable: Commercial speech, pornography, even downright despicable speech--either we're free to express the things that stir up controversy, or we're not "fundamentally" free in our expression at all.
Posted by P.M. Jaworski on September 15, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink
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>>CHRC lawyer Margot Blight said there is no "free pass" for the website owners.
"If a message board owner can't manage to ensure the content of the message board is complying with
Then how does she explain Richard Warmen(sp?), ex-CHRC employeee who was exposed as one of the most vile, contemptible poster manipulating right and far-right sites? It seems to me that the CHRC broke the law to enforce their twisted version of law.
She is one sick puppy.
Posted by: Shawn | 15-Sep-08 11:54:45 AM
It should be a requirement that anyone who complains like this vile Rick Warman character with his Leftarted agenda to shut down free speech should do so on their own dime and on their own time.
Why should tax payers like me pay to see our collective freedoms undone? What an unjust system where someone like Warman is permitted to complain and then not even show up at the hearings and justice is then (dis)served to whoever the Kangaroo Court accuses. Not everyone has either the legal power or the articulation of
Lemire's views are his own and not widely shared or even liked. However, to break the law in order to shut him up only shows to what depths the CHRC delves. CHRC: doing its best to stifle free speech, lawfully or not!
Call your MP today and make this an election issue. This election is crying for one!
Posted by: Daniel | 15-Sep-08 1:17:41 PM
Good question: "How is this not an election issue?" Maybe it's because the "conservative" government is siding with the
Here is more info:
Freedom of Expression and the “Conservative” Government
By Stephen J. Gray
“The Attorney General of Canada, the
Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; yet, the Attorney General of Canada along with others is an intervenor in the Lemire case. Free speech is either FREE or it isn’t. Are politically correct words like, “reasonable
restriction on freedom of speech” weapons used to suppress what people can say? (We already have laws of libel and defamation so is there any need for “reasonable restrictions?”)
We may not like what people say but in the words of Voltaire, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In
“What a strange place
Mr. Levant, who is Jewish, went on to say in the Globe and Mail article that the people taking him to the HRCs were “…using the very precedents set by the
But, not only Jewish people are being dragged before the HRCs. Before they came for the Jews, the HRCs came for Chris Kempling, Scott Brockie, Knights of Columbus, Stephen Boissoin, Bishop Henry and others. Now Catholic Insight magazine, the Christian Heritage Party and MacLean’s magazine are under the guns of the HRCs. Nobody is safe from these appointed interrogators of totalitarian bent. So what can be done to return freedom of speech and freedom of expression to
Governments appointed these HRCs therefore government could disband them. But will they? Witness, the Attorney General of Canada as an intervenor in the Lemire case. The
believe, without fear of violating a law such as Section 13, of the
A Lifesite news article of February 12, 2008, by John-Henry Westen had this to say about the Conservative government’s stand on Human Rights Commissions: “Internal Memo Tells Canada’s Conservative MPs to be Noncommittal on Human Rights Commissions: Specifies that Conservative MPs are not to stand up publicly for freedom of speech for Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant.”
The article stated: “An internal memo to Conservative MPs sent last week will be sure to disappoint freedom-loving
These HRCs have become a weapon to suppress and oppress the people of
“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … It is, in fact, totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff” (Stephen Harper).
Stephen J. Gray
May 2, 2008.
 Stephen Harper quote from article by Gerry Nicholls at: The Interim Newspaper
Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 15-Sep-08 3:38:05 PM
View the Live Blog of the Hearing at: http://blog.freedomsite.org
It’s time to end the censorship of the extremist
Stop Section 13 of the