TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
(CJFE) welcomes the more clearly and narrowly defined definition of
hate speech contained in today's decision by the Supreme Court in the
case of Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. William Whatcott, but
continues to be concerned that hate speech remains partially in the
purview of the human rights tribunals.
As one of several intervenors in this case, CJFE expressed our concerns
about the constitutionality and interpretation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. The Supreme Court's ruling today was unanimous, and while not going as
far as CJFE would have liked, does bring greater clarity to this issue.
"We were happy to see that CJFE's arguments about overbroad language
were accepted by the court," said CJFE Board member and lawyer Peter
Jacobsen. "However the decision still leaves the Human Rights tribunals
with ability to restrict free speech, a role CJFE believes should be
restricted to the courts with all of their procedural and
Hate speech had been defined in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code as language "that exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules,
belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of
persons on the basis of a prohibited ground." This decision recognized
that the language is overly broad and struck down the section that
included speech which "ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the
dignity." The Supreme Court ruled that these words "unjustifiably
infringe freedom of expression and finds them constitutionally
Also important, the Court recognizes that media reporting would
ordinarily not fall within the prohibitions under the Saskatchewan
legislation: "expression that targets a protected group in the context
of…news reports about hate speech perpetrated by someone else, would
not likely constitute hate speech."
CJFE continues to hold the belief that the only arbiter of what
constitutes hate speech should be our court system applying the law as
set out in the Criminal Code. This would afford all involved the
protections inherent in our judicial system and those accused, the
benefit of the standard of reasonable doubt.
CJFE monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to
information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we
promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE
boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and
encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of
their own and others' free expression rights.
SOURCE: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
For further information:
CJFE Manager Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 x. 226