In December 2009, LEAF provided a submission on extreme hate speech and the Canadian Human Rights Act to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The Committee was conducting a review of s. 13 of the Act, which prohibited extreme hate speech.

LEAF’s submission supported the important equality protection contained in s. 13. The targets of hate speech are often the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. Section 13 protected the equality rights of those impacted by hate speech, and helped to ensure their freedom of expression and full participation in Canadian society.

LEAF argued that the prohibition of extreme hate speech under the Act was an important component of human rights protections in Canada. The prohibition was consistent with ss. 2(b), 7, 15, 25, 27 and 28 of the Charter, 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 free speech under the Act was minimal.

LEAF urged the Committee to recognize the important role played by human rights protections in limiting and redressing hate speech, in protecting and promoting the equality rights of targeted groups, and in promoting a tolerant and diverse society which respects human rights. The human rights framework offered access to justice for vulnerable groups subject to extreme hate speech and could respond to such claims constructively and creatively, particularly through education and non-punitive remedial measures.

Download the submission below.