Bill Before Canadian Parliament Further Restricts Speech

ChuckB writes "John Leo writes in U.S. News & World Report on Bill C-250, apparently about to become

'Canada is a pleasantly authoritarian country,' Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said a few years ago. An example of what he means is Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add 'sexual orientation' to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the 'Bible as Hate Literature' bill, or simply 'the chill bill.' It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups.

Bovoroy notes in a CCLA position paper that 'legal curbs on hate often backfire' because legally useful definitions of hate speech are exceedingly difficult to fashion."


2004, March 27: Report on an act to amend the
Radiocommunications Act

By Canadian Parliament. An act to amend the Radiocommunications Act,
Bill C-2 is being touted as making it illegal for anyone to watch Al Jazeera,
ART Global, ART movies, Dubai Satellite Channel, ESC-1, Future TV, LBC, MBC, and
Nile Drama, even when the consumer pays for a subscription, if the signal is
from a non-Canadian provider. Members of Parliament Carolyn Parrish and Alexa
McDonough have been active and vocal about this problematic bill, the most
contentious part of which is clause 5. The questionable points raised by Bill
C-2, as recognized by Ms. Parrish, are as follows:

  • This bill criminalizes those who enjoy cultural programming that is not
    made available by Canadian providers;

  • The bill fails to distinguish between those who steal satellite signals
    and those who pay for it legitimately;

  • There are over 500,000 Arabs in Canada who are being deprived of their
    right to programming that maintains their links to language, culture and

  • This is a violation of freedom of expression and the targetting of
    specific communities and their civil liberties;

  • Clause 5 allows extraordinary powers to inspectors who can enter any
    place where these channels are being recieved and to remove or copy any item or

An alert from the Canadian Arab Federation from 18 Mar reads in part:

If passed, Bill C-2 will not only affect the Arabic-speaking
community. Bill C-2 will also make it illegal for Canadians to watch Spanish,
Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Iranian and Vietnamese satellite stations. In some
cases these channels are being received illegally and in other cases, people are
paying a monthly subscription to Dish Network. Bill C-2 will not distinguish
between those stealing the signal and those that are paying for it. The fines
for individuals receiving any of the channels will be one year in jail or
$25,000. Satellite dealers will be fined $200,000. The Canadian Radio-Television
and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has already given licenses for at least
one Arabic, Spanish, Polish and Russian channel to be carried by Bell Express
View. However, Bell has indicated that it is not interested in carrying minority
ethnic channels. If this bill passes, all viewers of foreign satellite stations
will be treated as criminals, regardless of whether or not they are paying for
the service. Because Canadian carriers such as Bell refuse to carry ethnic
channels, the consequence is that ethnic programming will no longer be available
for Canadians to view as a means of maintaining links to their language and

In an article in Ottawa Xpress, James Sinclair, on 26 Feb, offered
several salient facts in a well balanced article. He reported:

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is pondering whether
to grant Quebec's Vidéotron cable company distribution rights for
Al-Jazeera, and whether Rogers Cable can broadcast the 24-hour Italian service
RAI International. Decisions on both are not expected before spring, but
speculation is that Al-Jazeera will soon be legal in Canada, much to the
disappointment of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Mr. Sinclair also reported that Canadian Islamic Congress expressed disopprobium
to Bill C-2, while Canadian Jewish Congress expressed discontent with permitting
Al Jazeera into a supposedly free society. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, national
president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was quoted as saying, "If Canadians
can subscribe to foreign magazines and newspapers, why does the Martin
government want to punish them for subscribing to foreign TV channels through an
American distributor when these are not available here? Bill C-2 clearly goes
against Canadian values of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It is
an insidious form of censorship." Ron Singer, Canadian Jewish Congress director
of communications, is quoted, "We are very, very concerned. We have cited many,
many instances of terrible anti-semitism, Holocaust denial, incitement to
violence [in Al-Jazeera programming] - things that would not be acceptable for
any Canadian broadcaster."

The CIC estimates that one million families living in Canada rely on ethnic
programming to keep in touch with their cultures; Canadian- Hindi, Italians,
Iranians, Japanese, Muslims, Poles, Spaniards, Russians, and Vietnamese.

In February, between the first and second readings of the bill, Ms. Parrish
sent a letter to four government officials, including Prime Minister Paul
Martin, in which she wrote in part,

The fundamental problem, as I
see it, is that Canadian Broadcasters are failing to recognize the changing face
and needs of the Canadian consumer. This "new Canadian market" is one that is
wonderfully diverse and multi-lingual. These consumers have found a way of
filling the void left by an unresponsive industry, through the legitimate
purchase of specialty and international channels offered by American providers.

Canada promotes and remains proud of a diverse population. However, the
preservation of culture is paramount in maintaining the diversity enjoyed in
this country. Ethnic programming is essential in maintaining links to language,
culture and religion. Bill C-2 will effectively cleanse cultural programming
from the available consumer choices simply because the host company is not

The estimated losses to Canadian broadcasters should not result in
legislation that circumvents consumer choice and freedoms when, similar,
culturally specific programming is not being offered by Canadian

[If nothing else, this strikes me as a damned odd way to go about promoting
multiculturalism. I can't tell yet if this case constitutes censorship, but I
can't see that it is anything more than the usual butthead, stupid legislation.
What really concerns me is that Clause 5 appears to grant far too much latitude
to any officious oaf with an axe to grind. We've got quite enough of that sort
throwing their weight around in Canada Customs, already.

In reply to Mr. Singer's comment I will say this: You keep your grubby paws
off my mind you ultra-left wing, knee jerk reactionary bastard. I'll decide for
myself whether anything I see on Al Jazeera -- or anywhere -- constitutes
anti-semitism or not. I don't need sniveling, politically correct, little shits
making up my mind for me. And I find the wholesale murder of Palestinian
innocents by the bloodlusting, neo-fascist State of Israel to be a damned sight
more offensive than some news service reporting on said wholesale murder.

Thanks, that's very informative Fang-face. In fact, in all sincerity, if I hadn't wanted to post in this thread, I would have mod'ed you "+1 Informative" (you can all just pick your jaws up off the floor again!). I hope someone mods you Informative--you need to earn some karma back ;-)

Seriously, I think bills like this in other countries show us why the First Amendment in the U.S. is so important. I gather from Leo's article that Canada doesn't have a similar constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech.

While I'm 100% in full support of gay rights, I'm also 100% against censorship in any form. Unfortunately, part of the price of being a civil libertarian is watching would-be oppressors use one right you defend - freedom of speech - in order to attack other rights.

It's not fun - hell, it's painful to watch at times. It may also be why the "good guys" (pro-liberty) are doomed in the end. But we can do nothing else if our principles truly mean anything.

I gather from Leo's article that Canada doesn't have a similar constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech.

Yes, we do. It's in Article 2 of the charter of legislated privileges. We just don't have the free wheeling style extent throughout the U.S. Plus, our civil code is based on English civil law (French civil code in Quebec), some of which, libel laws for instance, are five hundred years old and in serious need of updating. Hate speech laws, which are simply stupid, and I don't know what else. The Canadian gubmint has a most annoying tendency to suck up to the politically correct.

As the CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) site points out, if the Senate doesn't pass this before the federal election in Canada is called, the bill will die. CUPE has a different spin on this bill however:

Hate Propaganda Legislation in Jeopardy!

In his article, Leo writes:

The churches seem to be the key target of C-250. One of Canada's gay senators denounced "ecclesiastical dictators" and wrote to a critic, "You people are sick. God should strike you dead." In 1998, lesbian lawyer Barbara Finlay of British Columbia said "the legal struggle for queer rights will one day be a struggle between freedom of religion versus sexual orientation."

So would the legislation require prosecution of the gay senator quoted above as desiring that God should strike the "ecclesiastical dictators" dead? Does that statement qualify as hate propaganda against members of a religious group because of their convictions?

Also, could someone explain the gay rights agenda in such a way as to make sense of Barbara Finlay's statement "the legal struggle for queer rights will one day be a struggle between freedom of religion versus sexual orientation"? The only way I can make sense of this is to see the goal of the movement (in Finlay's mind, at least) as including at a minimum the establishment of a climate in which no-one is permitted to express disapproval of homosexuality. Given "either/or" she posits between queer and religious rights, it seems to me that she sees no possibility of a balance between the two.

I may very well be missing something obvious here--could someone please help me out? Also, does Finlay's sentiment reflect the mainstream gay rights agenda, or hers a more marginal position?

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