The government is out. The Jewish groups are in, so are the civil liberties groups. Still seeking a place in the coming battle over the hate-speech section of Canada's Human Rights Act in federal court are the African Canadians and the free speech advocates with awkward links to racist hate groups.
Nominally between three parties -- the Canadian Human Rights Commission, anti-hate crusader Richard Warman and far-right webmaster Marc Lemire, whose hate speech tribunal decided last year that Section 13 of the Act is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech -- this appeal hearing is shaping up to be a multidimensional clash of interests, with hatred balanced against censorship.How do you solve a problem like hate on the Internet? To answer a question with a question--and to quote the great Oscar Hammerstein--"How you pin a wave upon the sand/hold a moonbeam in your hand?" The answer to these queries, of course: you can't. What these clueless Jews refuse to understand is that in the process of attempting the impossible--lassoing the Internet to sanitize it of the bad stuff--free speech, both the linchpin and the spark plug of a free society, the one thing that makes and keeps us free, becomes collateral damage. So, really, what have you gained (that is, what's been lost) in the fight?
A hearing this week in federal court offered a glimpse of this battlefield dynamic, and assuming all proposed intervenors are accepted, there will be four additional parties supporting the hate law, and four more against.
One major change is the withdrawal of the federal government, which intervened at the Tribunal in support of Section 13, but has decided to sit out this judicial review. A spokeswoman said the Department of Justice would "continue to monitor the proceedings."
The Canadian Jewish Congress, the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, all of which were intervenors at the tribunal, have already been granted permission to argue in support of Section 13, possibly with minor changes such as the removal of its punitive fines.
Section 13 of the Human Rights Act -- famously used unsuccessfully against Maclean's magazine by the Canadian Islamic Congress -- prohibits repeated messages that are "likely to expose" identifiable groups to "hatred or contempt." Initially written to target telephone "hate-lines," it was expanded in 2001 to include the entire Internet, partly because of the rising threat of online terrorist recruiting...