Canada’s unions welcome new hate speech provisions, express concern about timing

June 25, 2021

Canada’s unions are cautiously welcoming proposed federal legislative amendments to make it easier to prosecute and hold accountable purveyors of hate speech.

The federal government tabled amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act on Wednesday.

Yet Canada’s unions say the timing is disappointing, as the House’s adjournment for the summer and a potential election in the coming months decrease the likelihood of the legislation being passed.

“Equity-seeking communities have been waiting a long time for legislation to effectively help curb the rapid spread of hateful and violent rhetoric in our society — which has only gotten more virulent and lethal since the start of the pandemic,” said Bea Bruske, CLC President. “Legislation such as this would go a long way toward tackling it. Lives are at stake and it must be a top priority.”

Bill C-36 would define hate speech as “content that expresses detestation or vilification of a person or group based on a prohibited ground of discrimination,” including over the internet, where hate speech is rampant.

The proposed amendments include a number of provisions the Canadian Labour Congress, along with many equity-seeking groups and organizations, have long been calling for. These include introducing an updated and strengthened version of the former section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), or implementing an updated provision similar to the previous section 13 within the CHRA to fight online hate and harassment communications.

Given the rapid proliferation of hate rhetoric and escalation of acts of hate and violence such as the recent murder of members of a Muslim family that took place in London, ON on June 6, this legislation must be of pressing concern for government if hate speech and its violent and devastating consequences are to be successfully eradicated in Canada.

Canada’s unions stand ready to help ensure that we get Bill C-36 right to stamp out hate speech and prevent another tragedy such as the one that took place in London.

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