An Internet censorship bill will be useful in prosecuting bloggers and Facebook subscribers, an RCMP specialist said Monday night. Bill C-36 will “see more things through to charges,” a webinar was told.
“Law enforcement has to have the ability to use the law effectively,” said Cpl. Anthony Statham of RCMP’s British Columbia Hate Crimes Team. Statham complained Parliament did not “define what hatred is” when it outlawed hate speech in 1970, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
Bill C-36 An Act To Amend The Criminal Code threatens house arrest or $70,000 fines for any Internet publisher, blogger or social media user suspected of posting hateful content without incitement of any crime. Cabinet introduced the bill June 23 just minutes before Parliament adjourned for a three-month recess.
“In Canada we don’t have anything regulating speech,” said Statham. “Under Sec. 2 of our Charter Of Rights our freedom of expression is protected. So there is no such thing as free speech in Canada, only freedom of expression.”
Speaking in a webinar sponsored by the federally-funded Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Statham noted the current Sec. 319 of the Criminal Code forbids “public incitement of hatred” by “communicating statements in any public place (that) incite hatred against any identifiable group.” The term “hatred” is not defined.
“The government is now proposing to add a definition of hatred under this section of the Code,” said Statham. “Now, it may come as a surprise to many Canadians just in general, the fact we have this section that deals with promoting hatred, but we haven’t actually defined what hatred is.”
Bill C-36 would define hatred as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain.” The amendment will lead to more charges, said Statham.
“I think the proposal to do that is a very good thing,” he said. “It may not seem like a massive development in terms of dealing with the scope of everything that’s been talked about here today, but it will equip law enforcement to see more things through to charges in this country.”
“This needs to be revisited,” he said. “An amendment to this section of the Code I believe will have a positive effect as far as our ability to do something about online hate when something needs to be done.”
Bill C-36 would make it “a discriminatory practice to communicate or cause to be communicated hate speech by means of the internet or other means of telecommunications in a context in which the hate speech is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
Internet users suspected of vilification would be subject to house arrest “on reasonable grounds” regardless of whether a crime occurred. Facebook content that “discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends” would be exempt.
The Department of Justice in a June 23 Backgrounder document said the measures “would apply to public communications by individual users on the internet, including on social media, on personal websites and in mass emails,” blog posts, online news sites, “operators of websites that primarily publish their own content” and user-comment sections.
Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.