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Tag Archives: Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been hailed by many as a victory for freedom of expression.[1] The section gave the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal the power to sanction individuals for speech deemed to promote hatred towards recognizable groups. The power to sanction such hate speech is now solely in the hands of the judiciary. However, this decision highlights fundamental tensions between individual and collective rights and interests which often emerge in human rights debates. Some commentators argue that repealing Section 13 does not go far enough in removing restrictions on free expression. For example, the noted columnist Andrew Coyne argues that Section 319.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada should be similarly appealed and free speech should only be limited where it causes an identifiable harm to a specific individual.[2] Is Andrew Coyne right to conclude that harm should be the singular impetus to override free expression? Or can a democratic society reasonably impose greater limitations on the civil discourse than those flowing solely from the harm principle? This article will argue that, greater limitations are not only legally permissible but may also be desirable.

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