Fight C-36. Let's Stop Terrorists, Not Free Speech
"The federal government has handed the terrorists a cheap victory," said Canadian Association for Free Expression Director Paul Fromm in Toronto today.

"A number of provisions sneaked into C-36, the government's omnibus anti-terrorism bill now before Parliament, are aimed at gagging political dissent and subjecting the Internet to the vice of political correctness," Fromm charged.

The government proposes to let a judge, on the basis of a sworn information, order the deletion of material from any Internet site in Canada that, "on the balance of probabilities", constitutes "hate propaganda" -- that is, willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group (colour, race, religion or ethnic origin). A hearing would be held within a "reasonable" period of time where the person who posted the material could advance arguments as to why the material was not "hate propaganda". If the judge ruled against the writer, the order would be permanent. If he ruled the material was not hate propaganda, it could not be restored "until the time for final appeal has expired."

"This is carte blanche for censorship of websites that criticize the government's failed immigration policy," said Fromm. "Material can be ordered removed from websites. There is no definition of a 'reasonable' time within which a hearing must be held. The judge can order the permanent removal of offensive opinion on mere probability that it constitutes 'hate' against privileged groups, not that it does so 'beyond a reasonable doubt,'" Fromm said.

Timely material can be ordered gagged and might not be restored to a website until many months or years later, after all appeals have been exhausted. "Ironically, this is not a war on terrorism, but a war on free speech," Fromm charged.

If anything, the government's attack on the Internet becomes even more insidious as it has amended Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 13.1 makes it a discriminatory practice to publish anything that is "likely to expose to hatred or contempt" members of a long list of privileged groups (race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted). "Under Section 13.1, truth is no defence, nor does intention matter," says Fromm.

The Canadian Association for Free Expression has been an intervenor in the two attempts thus far to extend Section 13.1, which originally was aimed at telephone messages, to the Internet.

"The Canadian press will be under the gun," Fromm warned. Almost all newspapers and magazines are now "on-line." Presently, newspapers and magazines only have to worry about Section 319 ("hate propaganda") of the Criminal Code when writing on controversial matters about ethnic groups or religions -- say, the role of Islam in the recent terror bombings. Under Section 319, truth and intention are defences. "However," warns Fromm, "a large number of media may soon find themselves hauled before human rights tribunals for statements they made that offended an ethnic or religious group. Truth will be no defence. A sincere intention to discuss a problem will be no defence."

The government's justification for its assault on dissent and a free press is mendacious," says Fromm. The Justice Department asserts: "Following the attack on September 11, Canadians have called for a renewed commitment to Canadian values of respect, equality, diversity and fairness and a strong condemnation of hate-motivated violence that has occurred in Canada and elsewhere against innocent people." "There has been virtually no 'hate motivated violence' in Canada against innocent people since September 11," said Fromm. This is a complete red herring. People are calling for protection from terrorists not from diversity of opinion."

"On September 11 nobody died because of the Internet. Over 5,000 people, including several dozen Canadians died because of the lax immigration/refugee policies of both the American and Canadian governments," Fromm charged. "These anti-free speech measures don't even mention terrorism, defence of terrorism, or promotion of terrorism. They are aimed simply at the critics of the Canadian government's disastrous immigration policy," Fromm concluded.