A mandate letter to the justice minister asks for the return of previously repealed Section 13 of the Human Rights Act.
The Heritage Minister's marching orders include two new taxes to prop up failing Canadian news broadcasters and new hate speech laws for digital platforms that will make social media companies responsible for the content they publish.
The newly issued ministerial mandate letter to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez directs him to:
- Reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act to ensure foreign web giants contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian stories and music.
- Swiftly introduce legislation to require digital platforms that generate revenues from the publication of news content to share a portion of their revenues with Canadian news outlets to level the playing field between global platforms and Canadian outlets. This legislation should be modelled on the Australian approach and introduced in early 2022.
- Continue efforts with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to develop and introduce legislation as soon as possible to combat serious forms of harmful online content to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host. This legislation should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations.
The mandate letter issued to Justice Minister David Lametti calls for the return of Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, repealed under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in 2012, ordering Lametti to:
Continue efforts with the Minister of Canadian Heritage to develop and introduce legislation as soon as possible to combat serious forms of harmful online content to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host, including by strengthening the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate and reintroduce measures to strengthen hate speech provisions, including the re-enactment of the former Section 13 provision. This legislation should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations.
From 2001 until it was officially off the books in 2014, Section 13 read:
It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
The repeal of Section 13, ironically was first attempted at the behest of a Liberal MP.
In 2008, Liberal MP Keith Martin proposed a private member's motion (M-446) urging Parliament to repeal Section 13.
Martin described the legal test of “likely to expose” as “a hole you could drive a Mack truck through,” and said it is being applied by “rogue commissions where a small number of people [are] determining what Canadians can and can't say.”
Martin argued in the House of Commons that history's most important ideas “were originally deemed to be sacrilegious and certainly in opposition to conventional wisdom. Who's to say that a commission cannot rule those ideas out of order and penalize people for saying or thinking them?”