Talking about hate speech on the Internet

In October 2008, Professor Richard Moon released a “Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission Concerning Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Regulation of Hate Speech on the Internet.” There is no direct effect on Ontario, which does not have an equivalent to the federal s.13 in Ontario’s Code. However, the OHRC saw the report as an important contribution to the discussion on any legal limits to freedom of speech, and offered its views in a submission in January 2009.

Key points in this submission included the OHRC’s belief that it is in the public interest that hate expression remains under the purview of both human rights and criminal law systems, and that legal enforcement alone is not sufficient. The OHRC supported the need for human rights agencies to use enforcement powers to address publication with the intent to deny housing, services or employment because of an individual's race, religion or other prohibited ground of discrimination. It stated that freedom of expression must not otherwise be interfered with except for expression that incites violence against identifiable groups, as defined by the Criminal Code.

The OHRC also outlined how the right to freedom of expression comes with the responsibility to confront hate expression, and how a human rights approach offers broad tools for doing this while respecting freedom of speech.