LEAF Supports Bill C-389 and Calls on Government to also Protect Women from Hate Speech

On February 9, 2011, Bill C-389 passed third reading in the House of Commons. The bill proposes to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and as “identifiable groups” which are protected against hate crimes under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The purpose of the private member’s Bill, as articulated by Bill Siskay NDP MP who introduced it, is to provide explicit protection for transsexual and transgender Canadians.

LEAF supports Bill C-389 which seeks to redress and eliminate discrimination against transsexual and transgendered persons; a group in Canadian society which has been subjected to hatred and discrimination for not conforming to socially constructed gendered norms.

It is noted, however, that women are not protected from hate speech under ss.318 and 319 of the Code. LEAF urges the Government of Canada to protect women from hate crimes under ss.318 and 319 of the Criminal Code.

Section 318 of the Criminal Code prohibits the promotion of genocide. Section 319 of the Code prohibits hate speech. Specifically, it prohibits the willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group other than in private conversation, and the public incitement of hatred against identifiable groups. The “identifiable groups” protected by the Code are “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation”.

LEAF confirms the importance of the prohibition of hate speech against marginalized groups under the Canadian Criminal Code. Women, however, should not be excluded from the law’s protection from misogynistic hate speech, particularly given the prevalence of violence against women in our society.

The passage of Bill C-389 at third reading is a good reminder of the importance of the criminal law’s protection of marginalized groups from hate speech and an opportunity to extend that protection to women.

For further information please contact:

Joanna Birenbaum
Legal Director
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
Email: j.birenbaum@leaf.ca
Phone: (416) 595-7170 ext. 223
Fax: (416) 595-7191
Toll Free: 1-888-824-LEAF(5323)

Mary Wells
Executive Director, LEAF
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
Email: m.wells@leaf.ca
Phone: (416) 595-7170 ext. 223
Fax: (416) 595-7191
Toll Free: 1-888-824-LEAF(5323)