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Tsawwassen man defends hate speech law
When free online classifieds website Craigslist blocked access to its Canadian pages last week, Tsawwassen resident Cran Campbell was hopeful the site would stay down.
He was disappointed to learn the brief outage was attributed to "technical issues," and not due to users posting anonymous hate speech.
Campbell is spearheading a crusade to quash a federal private member's bill that seeks to abolish a section of the Human Rights Act that deals with Internet hate speech. He was inspired to take action after clicking the "rants and raves" tab on Craigslist and stumbling upon a slew of racist and hateful comments.
"I ignored it the first time, thinking it was a bunch of idiots," Campbell said. But upon revisiting the site, he discovered more and more of the same.
"I have found it very hard to read some of that stuff that I saw," Campbell said. "I could not ignore it, because it goes against everything I am."
In late September, Conservative MP for Westlock-St. Paul, Brian Storseth, introduced bill C-304 in Parliament. The bill seeks to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which makes it a discriminatory practice to communicate by telecommunication, including the Internet "any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination."
Storseth has called Section 13 "subjective" and "vague" and says it infringes on freedom of expression.
"Section 13 truly fails to make a distinction between real hate speech and what I often term as 'hurt speech', or speech that is simply offensive," he said.
At its second reading on Nov. 22, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson endorsed bill C-304.
"Our government believes that Section 13 is not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda. We believe the Criminal Code is the best vehicle to prosecute these crimes," he said.
But Campbell is fighting to keep Section 13 in the Human Rights Act.
"It needs amendments, that's all it needs, and not abolishment," he said.
Campbell said scrapping Section 13 would mean Canadians could no longer file a free complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission if they feel victimized by online hate speech.
"Thirty-five million Canadians are going to lose that right, and all that bill needs is an amendment," Campbell said.
Campbell has filed his own complaint with the Human Rights Commission in relation to bill C-304, and has been calling on politicians to stop the bill from moving forward.
Liberal MP for Mount Royal, Irwin Cotler, agrees that Section 13 should be changed, but not abolished.
"The solution is not through repeal of the legislation whose constitutional validity has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but to address the concerns and to offer proposals to modify the regime that is now in place," he said. "I would urge the government to consider the possible reforms to address any valid concerns...as preferable to outright appeal."
Campbell has previously championed a campaign against violence in video games. His intolerance of hatred and racism began many years ago when, as a Canadian citizen, he enlisted in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.
"I was there (the U.S.) for 15 months and I came back to Canada because I could not adjust to the hate down there. There was towns being burned, I was in fights because of my colour," he said.
Campbell said he doesn't believe Canadians are racist, so he is troubled when he reads messages of hate on Canadian websites.
"When you see stuff like that, what are you supposed to do?" he said. "Hatred and racism is something that can spread."
Bill C-304 is expected to proceed to third reading and a vote in the new year.