Jo-Ann R. Kolmes, Co-Counsel, Whatcott, will appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights (the “Committee”) on behalf of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) on June 25, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario.

To watch the live hearing please visit this link.

Kathleen Mahoney and Jo-Ann R. Kolmes, who were co-counsel for LEAF on the Whatcott case, attended along with Professor Jane Bailey of the University of Ottawa to give evidence at the hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights to urge rejection of Bill C-304. This Bill would repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits hate speech against protected groups.

Jo-Ann R. Kolmes, notes: “The essential message conveyed was that hate speech causes profound harm, that it is proliferating through the Internet, and that legislative limits are important to protect equality rights.”

LEAF provided a written submission to the Committee in support of the important equality protection contained in s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA”).

LEAF’s submission is that the prohibition of extreme hate speech under the CHRA is an important component of human rights protections in Canada and is consistent with various sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”), including ss. 2(b), 7, 15, 25, 27 and 28, as well as Canada’s obligations under international law. The harms of hate speech to marginalized and excluded groups, and to Canadian society overall, are significant. The limitation on speech under the CHRA is minimal.

LEAF emphasized that the targets of hate speech are often the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. Hate speech provisions in human rights legislation are essential for women’s access to justice. Women targeted in hate speech as women, or in relation to a number of intersecting grounds, have no remedial recourse except through human rights statutes that contain a limitation on hate speech. The hate propaganda provisions in the Criminal Code do not include women as an identifiable group.

The purpose and effect of s. 13 of the CHRA is to protect the equality rights of those affected by hate speech and ensure their freedom of expression and full participation in Canadian society.

LEAF noted that right now the protections and remedies available to groups vulnerable to discriminatory hate speech are not found anywhere else in the Canadian legal system. That is why the important and fundamental promotion of equality through s. 13 of the CHRA should be maintained.