Expanding Hatred Again

Don’t expand the Criminal Code’s hate speech provisions. Repeal them!

This morning, the federal government has introduced a new bill in Parliament, C-16, that would, if enacted, add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the definition of “identifiable grounds” used in the advocacy of genocide and hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code. (It would also make them prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian HumanRights Act, but I am not concerned with that here.) Fighting transphobia is a worthy cause, but even in the service of a worthy cause, not all the means are appropriate. As I argued when the previous government introduced its own expansion of the Criminal Code‘s hate speech provisions, this one is not. Here is what I wrote then:

I have argued, in a number of posts (collected here), that prohibitions on hate speech are useless, both because they only punish what I described as “the rear-guard of hatred” and because the truly noxious speech is that of sophisticated and influential politicians who can easily evade the narrow prohibitions of the criminal law, and that they are dangerous, because of their chilling effect and vulnerability to abuse. Needless to say, the greater the scope of the hate-speech provisions of the Criminal Code, the greater their chilling effect and potential abuses are.

I also said that while promoting hatred or advocating genocide on the newly-added grounds is every bit as immoral as on those that were already in the Criminal Code,

criminal law does not and should not perfectly track morality. Not everything that is morally wrong, even deeply wrong, should be criminalized. Hate speech is one of these things.

This remains the case today. The only thing I would add is that the ongoing expansion of the hate speech provisions suggests that there is no limiting principle that would prevent future governments from extending them further and further. Any group that succeeds in making its voice heard in the political arena will understandably demand the same “protections” that others already enjoy, however illusory these “protections” actually are, and the scope of the hate speech provisions will go on expanding. The only way to stop this process is, I believe, to acknowledge that the criminalization of hate speech is inappropriate in a free society, and must be renounced.

2 thoughts on “Expanding Hatred Again

  1. The idea of living in a free society means you can do everything unless it’s specifically outlawed,literally. I think it’s reasonable to expect that in a professional environment one would give and get rather well considered answers. Other than that,it should be quite the contrary. It’s difficult to accept the idea that one needs to ask for a permission for every single word the person is about to use and apologize for who they are and what they think. It’ s just crazy,it blocks creativity and self expression and so in all honesty it doesn’t really feel like living in a free society any more. I can relate to this post very much at the moment🙂 This somewhat reminds me to the PGP lawsuit too. I believe it would be equally crucial to understand how important it is also to protect one’s privacy as well as not to limit free public speech.

  2. Pingback: Pronoun Police? | Double Aspect

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