(Ottawa, June 11, 2009) – Today, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended to Parliament that the Canadian Human Rights Act continue to be used to protect Canadians from the harm caused by extreme hate messages on the Internet, and proposed changes to make the system more effective.
‘The Canadian Human Rights Act is remedial in nature and focuses on the removal of extreme hate messages. On the other hand, the Criminal Code is the most severe mechanism and aims at punishing criminal intent,’ CHRC Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch, Q.C. said upon releasing the Report. ‘Both serve useful purposes in protecting Canadians from discrimination in today’s society.’
The Commission’s Report also proposes improvements to the Canadian Human Rights Act to address shortcomings that were identified through its consultations. These include providing a statutory definition of hatred and contempt, repealing the penalty provision, and including a provision to allow the Commission to summarily dismiss complaints where the messages do not constitute hatred.
As the Report points out, discrimination still exists in Canada despite the important progress made. Human rights commissions and tribunals have a key role to play in safeguarding equality and in protecting and promoting the human rights that are fundamental to Canadian society.
‘The dissemination of hate messages undermines equality and the right of individuals to be free from discrimination,’ said Ms. Lynch. ‘Canada does not recognize a hierarchy of rights; no single right is more important than any other. As a progressive, modern nation, Canada must navigate the conflict and find an appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom from hate.’
The Commission’s Special Report, which is based on consultation and expert opinion, is intended to inform the public and Parliamentary debate on this important issue. The Report is now available on the Commission’s website.