Bill 59 to smother free speech
Thirteen years, thirteen honor killings, all in Muslim families, all of them in Canada. But if you should condemn those murders, you might find yourself the subject of investigation and convicted of a crime.
Quebec Human Rights Commissioner Jacques Frémont has proposed a bill “to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence.”
If adopted, the law known as Bill 59 would allow Quebec’s Human Rights Commission or members of the public “to initiate a ‘hate speech’ lawsuit against a person who makes a statement considered discriminatory against a group,” Marc Lebuis, director of Point de Bascule, an organization that tracks Islamist activities in Canada, said in a recent interview.
In addition, the bill would grant the commission power to investigate people alleged to have uttered hate speech, said Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée. Those convicted of promoting hate could be fined up to $20,000 and their names would be made public and posted indefinitely to a list available online.
Most view Bill 59 as a response to pressure from Muslim groups, who have filed several complaints of “Islamophobia” and anti-Muslim hate speech in recent years. In many ways, the bill resembles UN Resolution 16/18, an initiative of the 56 Islamic States who comprise the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and which restricts speech that could be considered “discriminatory” or which defames religion and can be considered “incitement to violence.” Only Bill 59 is worse: it pertains to personal, subjective, emotional responses that an individual has to something that he reads, hears, or encounters.
That this proposed statute flies in the face of everything we in the United States as well as in Canada believe to be fundamental to human and civil rights and the sanctity of free speech is not the only challenge the proposed bill presents. But it presents its greatest threat to democracy and the values the West holds sacred.
Ironically, Lebuis says, supporters justify the bill by suggesting it will protect democracy against terrorism. They reason that “terrorism is a reaction towards people who criticize their religion,” he explains, “so by banning the criticism of Islam, we would end terrorism.” Such arguments have been made both by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and by Muslim groups such as the Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec (AMAL). “Hate and Islamophobia drive certain people in groups subject to discrimination toward another form of extremism and violence,” said AMAL President Haroun Bouazzi in a recent presentation to the National Assembly during a debate over the bill.
But Canada’s federal criminal code already calls for imprisonment (up to two years) for “anyone who incites hatred against any identifiable group,” as the Montreal Gazette points out. Though the proposed bill addresses hate speech against individuals, not groups, it fails even to define what “hate speech” is. As attorney Julius Grey testified, “Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Voltaire could all be found to have incited violence and hatred. Should they have been censored?”