Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Much debate about Gay Dominion.ca and hate speech...

I caught Kinsella and others on Michael Coren tonight debating hate speech laws in Canada. It was a very good discussion. Coren has mellowed in recent years, at least on his TV show.

I've written on the subject of hate propaganda or hate speech on a couple occasions. I still believe it's important that our laws discourage the promotion of hatred against any identifiable groups, especially vulnerable minorities.

I might agree with some of my conservative colleagues that some processes used by various human rights commissions could use some tightening up. But Conservative party members voted 99.9% on the weekend in favour of removing the rights of such commissions to prosecute hate speech. If this were to come to pass, we'd have less protection against hate propaganda.

Hate is a weapon used by bigots to inflict pain on their victims. I've always believed the primary purpose of hate speech is to provide the bigot with a special thrill knowing he or she is inflicting pain on those they hate. They don't have the guts to throw a rock, or actually strangle somebody.

So they throw little darts of hate instead. And they do inflict real pain. If I were a closeted teenager sitting in that Sudbury high school earlier this fall and heard an older, political candidate state that all gays should be executed , I would be devastated. The message David Popescu sent to that group of young people was, "it's okay to kill everyone who's gay." What Popescu did was evil and our laws should reflect that. We cannot live in a society that tolerates this type of willful, brazen promotion of hatred in front of teenagers.

The authorities have not yet charged Popescu with breaking Canada's hate laws. It's sad that our friends over at Gay Dominion.ca don't agree with me on the importance of prosecuting hate propaganda. Conservative activists led by GayandRight launched the website at the party's Winnipeg convention. There has been much discussion about whether or not the term queer conservative is an oxymoron. I wrote about the issue of gay conservatives for Xtra Magazine in 2005.

I do want to congratulate the founders for launching this movement. I'm not one of those liberals who thinks queers can't be conservative. I've always seen great value in having queers inside the palace gates, so to speak. Once queer equality gains acceptance among the country's conservatives, that's it the battle is won (on a national scale) for queers and their allies. I know that gay conservatives, through their personal connections with fellow party members and other conservatives, do have a major influence.

So I wish gay conservatives well. We can agree to disagree on prosecuting hate speech, but I still respect them.

7 comments:

Red Tory said...

Fred is such a monumental bore. I can't see his reactionary "GayDominion" developing into much.

KC said...

We need s. 13 of the Human Rights Act to deal with hate speech like we need Guantanamo Bay to deal with terrorists. Both are cop outs by government when dealing with the challenges of due process become "too hard". I think by your reasoning closing Guanatamo would mean "less protection against terrorism".

By the time you "tighten up" the HRC process to the point where there is adequate due process and standard of proof you may as well just bat it back to criminal court where it belongs.

We have the mechanisms to deal with hate speech in the criminal code. The reason they never get used is because the HRC provisions are "easier".

Matt Guerin said...

The problem here is that many Conservatives, incl Gay Dominion, want to do away with ALL hate speech laws, not just Sec. 13 of the Human Rights Act.

You're also advocating that the only refuge against hate propaganda be the criminal courts. Since criminal hate laws came into being decades ago, the number of successful cases prosecuted have been minimal. Compare that to the actual number of hate crimes and you see why I'm nervous about letting our guard down.

The point is - if Conservatives have their way, it'll be easier to commit hate crimes and get away with it in Canada.

For a party allegedly about law and order, to take an action that allows more hate crimes to take place says much about Conservative values. And the last I heard, most conservatives continue to defend the need for Guantanamo.

KC said...

The problem here is that many Conservatives, incl Gay Dominion, want to do away with ALL hate speech laws, not just Sec. 13 of the Human Rights Act.

I realize that but I doubt they'll build a consensus on that one.

You're also advocating that the only refuge against hate propaganda be the criminal courts. Since criminal hate laws came into being decades ago, the number of successful cases prosecuted have been minimal.

Of course they havent. Why bother going through the difficulty of proving the elements of the offence (including intent) beyond a reasonable doubt with admissible evidence when you can refer it to an HRC to prove on a civil standard with a loose standard?

The point is - if Conservatives have their way, it'll be easier to commit hate crimes and get away with it in Canada.

Show me where mainstream conservatives have advocated doing away with hate crimes laws. Hate crimes are not the same as hate speech. Abolishing s. 13 wont affect hate crimes laws whatsoever.

And the last I heard, most conservatives continue to defend the need for Guantanamo.

Two wrongs dont make a right. I just think its hypocrtical that the left gets all up in arms about Guanatanamo and the lack of due process its inmates receive but fully support our HRC's.

Matt Guerin said...

KC, your points are well taken. I don't fully support our HRCs as I do think much has to be done to clean up their processes so they are more fair to those accused.

My main concern is preventing hate speech and other hate crimes. If we disarm ourselves completely outside of the criminal courts, we will remove a huge disincentive against hate speech. If a bigot thinks it's easy for them to get away with saying anything they want (because the authorities seem very hesitant to prosecute even the most obvious hate speech cases), they won't hold back. And that will have consequences.

MilitantLiberal said...

I also have mixed feeings about the HRC. On the one hand I hate to see people prosecuted for what they say. There really is a free speech issue there. I have also always been a believer that people who spew hate usually mostly manage to make themselves look bad. They kinda serve as a bad example. For example I think most people who read Hitler's book come away with even less respect for Hitler, (If that is possible) than they already had. On the other hand, as you pointed out the HRC certainly does represent a deterent to many of the would be haters who have to watch what they say. This makes hate speech even more socially unacceptable. That's a good thing. Maybe the answer is to have a set of standards that cleary separates hate speech from other speech. For example, If you say, "All gay people should be killed." that is hate speech. If you say, "Gay people shouldn't be able to get married." you're stupid, but you're not hating.

Matt Guerin said...

I agree with you, militantliberal. I think there is precedent and some clearly defined differences between simple opinion and hate speech. Hate speech is the promotion of violence against an identifiable group, when the speech so thoroughly defames the entire group, robbing it of its humanity, lowering it to the level of "vermin", to the point where violence or even genocide seems reasonable. It has to be deliberately motivated and clearly incited. Saying all gays should be executed is very clearly hate speech.

Just saying you oppose gay marriage doesn't constitute hate speech - it's just an opinion.