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Tsawwassen resident continues crusade against online hate
Cran Campbell still checks the message boards on Craigslist at least twice a day and finds comments he deems inappropriate, but he says the number of racist and hateful remarks that appear in the online classifieds have dropped substantially since he launched a campaign to rid the website of hate speech.
The Tsawwassen resident attributes that positive change to a heightened awareness of the issue, and more people like himself who flag inappropriate comments under the "Rants and Raves" section of Craigslist's Vancouver site.
"That section is really condensed now," Campbell said, explaining there are far fewer postings for him to scan through each day. "I'm just hoping it stays like that."
For several months, Campbell has been 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 stumbling upon a slew of racist and hateful comments on Craigslist.
In September 2011, Conservative MP Brian Storseth, introduced bill C-304 in Parliament. The bill seeks to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which makes it discriminatory 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 argues the section infringes on freedom of expression, but Campbell says it would be best to amend—not abolish—Section 13. 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.
The commission will take further action if this attempt at early resolution is unsuccessful at remedying the situation.
"I'm happy that they're doing something," Campbell said.
He's not sure how effective the CHRC letter will be, especially considering Craigslist is based in the United States, but hopes the action will help stop hateful remarks from popping up on Canadian Craigslist sites.
"I don't want to see this stuff, period. And that's the real final conclusion I want to see out of it."
The House of Commons is expected to vote on bill C-304 this spring.
Unlike Campbell, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association supports the abolishment of Section 13. Micheal Vonn, policy director at the BCCLA, says hate speech should not be regulated.
"Fighting speech with speech is where we come from because the dangers of censorship are so pronounced," she said. "Spouting your hatred, spouting your uninformed opinions, etcetera, should not be criminalized."
Vonn said upholding freedom of expression does not mean one supports bigots or racism. She added it is one of the duties of citizenship to respond when people say troubling things.
"Part of free speech is you have a right to be wrong, but everybody else has a right to tell you that you're wrong," she said.