HAT FORUM SAT FEB 8: Hate speech – should we have legal sanctions against it?

H.A.T.  DISCUSSION TOPIC FOR  February 8th, 2014 – Topic Proposer:  Norine Earl


DATE: Saturday 8 February
TIME:  11am 
LOCATION: please contact the Coordinator, via the HAT website blog, to determine location


Canadians have had four general levels of legal sanctions effecting what we ordinarily call hate speech.
The Charter of Rights, the Criminal Code, The Canadian Human Rights Act (federal) and the provincial and territorial human rights acts.

  1. Should 'truth' be allowed as a defense of hate speech?
  2. What about the defense of religious opinion – what would you wish to live with?
  3. What was the most likely reason(s) for repealing the federal hate speech provision? What, if any, problems do you have their having done that?
  4. Boding well for the survival of the provincial human rights act provisions, the Supreme Court of Canada last year upheld Saskatchewan’s provisions against hate speech where the speech was extreme enough that it was “likely to expose a certain group to unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation and vilification”, but struck provisions against speech tending to “ridicule, belittle or affront the dignity” of a group.  What do you think of their decision to uphold the provision on that basis they did?  What do you think of their decision to strike the provision on the basis they did?
  5. In ordinary civil law (libel) there exists, in addition to the truth of a statement, the defense of a good faith belief in the statement in a matter of public interest. But this does not apply as a defense to hate speech. Should a good faith belief in the statement in a matter of public interest be a defense?
  6. What do you think are the pros and cons, in general, of having hate speech legislation or of abolishing  it?