Submission of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights  Respecting the Committee’s Review of Bill C-13

LEAF supports s. 12 of Bill C-13 and would support further improvements to  the hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) has made a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (the “Committee”) in support of s. 12 of Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act (“Bill C-13”). Section 12 expands the list of groups protected by the Criminal Code‘s prohibitions on hate crimes.

The purpose and effect of the hate propaganda provisions in the Criminal Code are to protect against the harm caused to vulnerable individuals and to the fabric of our society. Prohibition of hate propaganda against vulnerable groups is essential for the protection of equality rights as guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the protection afforded by the hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code is limited, since the list of protected groups does not include “sex” or some of the other groups protected in s. 15 (“national origin,” “age,” and “mental or physical disability”).

As it stands now, the Criminal Code does not permit recognition of gendered hate speech qua women or on intersecting grounds. It prevents the courts from considering the full context of the harms that have been perpetrated. As a result, women as a group are currently not protected from the harms of hate propaganda, even though women have been and are the targets of hate propaganda. The addition of “sex” to the list of protected groups by s. 12 of Bill C-13 is therefore an important and overdue measure.

LEAF submits that the inclusion of all the groups protected under human rights legislation in the Criminal Code list of identifiable groups protected against hate propaganda would be consistent and logical. In addition, Bill C-13 should be consistent with the recent Bill C-279 and include “gender identity” in this list. These groups have been recognized as vulnerable to discrimination and therefore warrant protection from hate propaganda as well.

LEAF also submits that the prerequisite consent of the Attorney General for proceedings to be instituted in the hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code (as set out in s. 318(3), s. 319(6), s. 320(7), s. 320.1(8)) constitutes a barrier to access to justice for women, and such prerequisite should be removed. This extra and discretionary step constitutes a potential hurdle and denial to groups vulnerable to hate.

While the Criminal Code expresses society’s repudiation of hate propaganda through the law, it does so only in relation to certain vulnerable groups, omitting other vulnerable groups. LEAF’s submission cites and concurs with academic commentary that: the current omission of “sex” in the list of identifiable groups conveys a message of trivialization of the harm directed to and suffered by women through hate propaganda, conveys a devaluation of women as compared to other targeted groups, and that the labeling of gender-based hate attacks as “harassment” or “bullying” rather than a “crime” has contributed to the failure to date to address this serious harm targeted at women. Section 12 of Bill C-13 (in concert with Bill C-279) is an important step in expanding the groups protected by the hate propaganda provisions.

LEAF makes no submission on and takes no position on the rest of Bill C-13.

We welcome you to review a full version of LEAF’s submission:

English Version

French Version

UPDATE March 10, 2015: LEAF supports the inclusion of sex, age, national origin and mental and physical disability in Criminal Code hate speech provisions and encourages inclusion of gender identity