Ottawa, Ontario May 6, 2019
Ontario’s Bill 84 – An Attack on Free Speech
On March 20, 2019, Bill 84 was introduced in the Ontario Legislature. It is a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by York Centre MPP Roman Baber.
The bill passed second reading at the end of April, and is now before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy.
The bill is entitled Prohibiting Hate-Promoting Demonstrations at Queen’s Park Act, 2019.
The bill provides that no demonstration, rally or other activity that, in the opinion of the Speaker, is likely to promote hatred against any identifiable group, shall be permitted on the legislative grounds.
“Hate” is Always Unacceptable
No reasonable or rational person accepts or agrees with the deliberate spread of “hate”. It is unacceptable in a civilized society.
The problem with this bill, however, lies in the fact that the definition of “hate” is uncertain under Canadian law. As a result, unfortunately, the use of the word “hate” can be a useful tool for some to prevent differing views from being expressed. That is, the word “hate” can be used to silence opposing views expressed when, in fact, the views are simply a reasonable expression of belief.
This concern is based on actual experience. Canadians have already experienced the contempt shown by the Supreme Court of Canada towards Section 2 of the Charter of Rights which provides for freedom of opinion, expression and religion. In the Trinity Western Christian University case (2018), a private Christian university’s moral covenant was deemed hateful and discriminating. In the Bill Whatcott case (2013), the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the effects of an expression used, not the communicator’s intent, is what is relevant. The court went on to conclude that “truthful statements and sincerely held beliefs do not affect the finding of “hate”. Mr. Whatcott merely expressed in his pamphlet the well-established facts about homosexuality which the court held to be “hateful”. It is worth noting that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, presumably consisting of equally learned judges, had previously concluded that the pamphlet was not hateful. The Supreme Court of Canada prides itself on being a “progressive” court and has an established bias as evidenced in a series of decisions that have struck down laws based on traditional values. There is little likelihood that the court will protect tradition-based groups if they are denied the right to demonstrate at the provincial legislature.
There is a consensus in Canada, for example, that anti-Semitism and any other discrimination on the basis of faith, whether Christian, Islamic, Sikh or Hindu, is indeed vile and “hateful”. (B’nai B’rith Canada, on its 2018 annual audit, reports a 16.5% increase in incidents from the previous year.) There is also a consensus in Canada that discrimination on the basis of race is equally unacceptable.
But there are other applications of the word “hate” which are problematic. For example, it has been well established that the LGBT community demands unquestioning acceptance of its agenda and insists that any opposition to it be silenced. This is done by discrediting those holding opposing opinions by describing them as “hateful” “bigoted” or “homophobic”.
No Individual Should Determine Meaning of “Hate”
No single individual should have the legal right to define “hate” and ban expressions of speech or demonstrations, especially on the grounds of the Provincial Legislature which is a public place, presumably owned and operated on behalf of the citizens.
It is especially a concern that this right to define “hate” is given to the Speaker under Bill 84, an elected member of the legislature, and a member of a political party represented within that legislature. This raises the possibility that political considerations, rather than consideration of the right to free speech, may be a factor in the Speaker’s decision to deny approval for the demonstrations. In short, such a decision may be influenced by how the decision may affect his political party. Moreover, the responsibility of the Speaker is to settle matters of Parliamentary procedures and to maintain decorum within the legislature. The determination whether a group promotes hate is far removed from these responsibilities.
The Speaker should not be placed in such a controversial position, enabling him/her to curtail free speech which is a fundamental freedom under the Charter. Such power given to the Speaker is an affront to democracy and extremely dangerous. If this bill is passed, it will create an alarming precedent for other provinces, with a further curtailment of free speech across this country.
In short, this bill may cause countless harm to our fundamental freedoms of free speech, opinion and expression. This bill, as written, is unacceptable. It is harmful to our democracy.
Please write immediately to the following individuals, raising strong objections to Bill 84:
Ontario Premier, Doug Ford
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2S9
Your Provincial Member of Parliament
For the Family,
REAL Women of Canada