Ruling rejects web hate-speech law

One-time neo-Nazi claims free expression victory in legal battle defending his controversial website

By Jesse McLean
Staff Reporter
Toronto Star
September 3, 2009

A one-time member of a Canadian neo-Nazi group is declaring victory after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal denounced the country’s Internet hate speech law as an unconstitutional violation of free expression.

“What this means is that I can write about controversial topics without Big Brother looking over my shoulder,” said Marc Lemire, whose website was the target of a human rights complaint. “It’s a good day for freedom of speech in Canada.”

Free speech proponents are praising yesterday’s decision as the beginning of the end of the Canadian Human Rights Act’s Section 13, a contentious provision targeting online hate speech that has fielded numerous complaints of censorship.

Tribunal chair Athanasios Hadjis’s decision dismissed six-year-old complaints by Ottawa-based lawyer Richard Warman that postings hosted on the Lemire’s website were allegedly discriminatory and would likely expose identifiable groups to “hatred or contempt.”

In response, Lemire challenged the Canadian Human Rights Act itself.

The act was previously challenged in 1990. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the law in a split decision, ruling that even though the law offends the Charter it represents a restriction on freedom of speech that can be demonstrably justified for the betterment of society.

In yesterday’s decision, however, Hadjis said that Section 13 cases were supposed to be remedial, but had instead “become more penal in nature.”

On top of being asked to cease producing the discriminatory messages, the act stipulates that an accused can be fined upward of $10,000.

Hadjis did find Lemire responsible for hate speech for one posting on his website, an article titled AIDS Secrets, that blames the HIV epidemic on the rise of “the sick and sleazy pleasure houses of the `liberated’ homosexuals.”

But because of the unconstitutional nature of the law, he refused to make any orders against Lemire.

In the early 1990s, Lemire was a member of the Heritage Front, a neo-Nazi white supremacist organization. The same legal team that defended Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel headed his constitutional challenge.

Republished by permission.