Great news in the battle for free speech from Canada – section 13 of their Human Rights Act, used most famously against Mark Steyn, has been repealed:
A contentious section of Canadian human rights law, long criticized by free-speech advocates as overly restrictive and tantamount to censorship, is gone for good.
A private member’s bill repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the so-called “hate speech provision,” passed in the Senate this week. Its passage means the part of Canadian human rights law that permitted rights complaints to the federal Human Rights Commission for “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet” will soon be history.
As I wrote in the May edition of the IPA Review, this has been a very long battle:
But despite the election of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2006, it was not until 2012 that a bill to fix the law was introduced. Even then, it was not part of the government’s official legislative agenda, but rather the pet-project of a Conservative backbencher. Eventually, with the support of the government, the repeal of section 13 passed Canada’s House of Commons in June 2012.
Whilst this repeal is very welcome, it should not have taken a conservative government seven years to finally repeal a shocking anti-free speech law. Apathy within the government and some opposition in the Senate was enough to seriously delay this very important reform.
This experience has many lessons for Australia. Canada’s section 13 is just as bad as our very own section 18c:
Section 18c, the law used against Andrew Bolt, was an amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act moved by the Keating government in 1995. At the time it was opposed by the Liberal and National parties. Yet upon their election to government in 1996 they did nothing to rectify the law. The 2011 case against Bolt has served as a catalyst for public concern in much the same way the cases against Steyn and Levant did in Canada. Encouragingly, opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised that if elected, his government will repeal section 18c to ensure that no one is hauled before the courts again for simply expressing an opinion.
It remains to be seen, however, how much of a priority this will be for an incoming Abbott government, or what it will do if the repeal is blocked by the Senate.
Tony Abbott must move more quickly to end our Andrew Bolt law than Canada did to remove their Mark Steyn law.