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Hate Speech Laws and Israel Boycotts


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Long story short, the federal government apparently wants to pursue hate crime charges against those who boycott Israel (not breaking, it's the Holy Mother CBC):

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ottawa- ... -1.3067497

I don't know much about BDS, the group mentioned most in this article (and what I've read paints a pretty iffy image, at least in its European incarnation), and I am not particularly interested in boycotting Israel, but the potential application of this law scares the shit out of me. Something is really rotten here.

And really, I did not think my esteem for the Harper government could be any lower, but you learn something new every day.

ETA: Found this, make of it what you will:

http://globalnews.ca/news/1991748/repor ... -feds-say/

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Between this and the passing of Bill C-51, I'm not sure what country I live in any more.

When Neil Macdonald tried to get clarification from Blaney's office, they avoided the question and referred him to the defence department. So I don't know if they're backtracking or trying to pretend it never happened or what.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/read-em ... -1.3069884 (article with the emails)

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Neil MacDonald has a specific POV, and has never been a fan of Harper. I'm taking the report with a mountain of salt, esp. since the Tories flatly deny any such plan, and trying to unpack the allegations.

Hate crime laws are on the books in Canada, but their use is extremely rare. I can't figure out if this was bad communication by the government rep or MacDonald not understanding what was said.

Here is what the Criminal Code actually says about hate crimes:

Promoting genocide is not allowed, and that includes a reference to national or ethnic origin:

318. (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Definition of “genocideâ€

(2) In this section, “genocide†means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely,

(a) killing members of the group; or

(b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.

Marginal note:Consent

(3) No proceeding for an offence under this section shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.

Definition of “identifiable groupâ€

(4) In this section, “identifiable group†means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability.

Willfully promoting hatred or inciting hatred such that someone is going to breach the peace is also prohibited. "National or ethnic group" is included in the definition of identifiable group. There are several defences, including the argument that the speech was true, or that it relates to the public interest and the person believes that the statements are true.

319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Marginal note:Wilful promotion of hatred

(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Marginal note:Defences

(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)

(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;

(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

© if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or

(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

Marginal note:Forfeiture

(4) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 318 or subsection (1) or (2) of this section, anything by means of or in relation to which the offence was committed, on such conviction, may, in addition to any other punishment imposed, be ordered by the presiding provincial court judge or judge to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province in which that person is convicted, for disposal as the Attorney General may direct.

Marginal note:Exemption from seizure of communication facilities

(5) Subsections 199(6) and (7) apply with such modifications as the circumstances require to section 318 or subsection (1) or (2) of this section.

Marginal note:Consent

(6) No proceeding for an offence under subsection (2) shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.

Marginal note:Definitions

(7) In this section,


« communiquer »

“communicating†includes communicating by telephone, broadcasting or other audible or visible means;

“identifiable groupâ€

« groupe identifiable »

“identifiable group†has the same meaning as in section 318;

These laws say nothing about boycotts

The only possible concern would be the statements made to support and advocate the boycotts. If someone was deliberating spreading false information for the purpose of inciting hatred, that could potentially be a problem - but proving that is extremely difficult. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld this law in the Keegstra case (might be a bit before your time, but this involved an Alberta school teacher in 1984 who taught students that the Holocaust was a hoax), because it contained all of these defences, but those same defences make it almost impossible to prosecute. How do you prove that someone didn't watch a YouTube video and actually believe the BS that they start spouting. When I worked with a human rights organization 20 years ago, they had fought hard to keep the hate speech laws on the books, but were very aware that it was almost impossible to get consent to prosecute from the Attorney General and then to go ahead and get a conviction. The focus moved away from using criminal law.

Civil liberties groups in Canada have ALWAYS opposed hate speech laws. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union under Alan Borovoy (who just passed away, and who had spent decades with the CCLU, and who intervened to defend neo-Nazis even though he was Jewish) intervened in the Keegstra case, opposing the law.

One other point to keep in mind with hate laws: they can apply to any group. As one opponent of hate speech laws once said in a lecture I heard, "what if you support a law against racist speech, and then the university declares that Zionism is racism?"

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Warren Kinsella is ripping apart MacDonald's piece: http://warrenkinsella.com/2015/05/this- ... sly-false/ (unbroken, not a fundy blog)

Kinsella is a long-time Liberal, and not exactly a fan of Harper.

ETA: I read through the actual email exchange. The statements didn't come from the Minister, they came in an email from the spokesperson. There was no threat made at all. MacDonald keeps asking what the government intends to do re "zero tolerance", she directs him to a different ministry, he insists on knowing exactly what Public Safety's role was, and she quotes the Criminal Code. NOTE: the original question talks about a Memorandum of Understanding addressing combatting ANTI-SEMITISM, not just specifically BDS. When it comes to combatting anti-semitism IN GENERAL, then the response was absolutely correct. There are hate speech laws on the books in Canada, and those laws have been there for ages. It was Neil MacDonald who made this into a specific threat against BDS organizations, when the government never linked BDS and hate crimes.

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Thanks for the swift analysis 2xx1xy1JD! It's definitely very helpful and paints a much better picture of the situation.

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