Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-304)

Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. friend from Westlock—St. Paul for his effort in putting forward the bill.

My initial reaction to any human rights code is that we have to defend it. I have also, though, had a number of constituents come to speak with me who are very supportive of this private member’s bill. I want to declare myself as open-minded. I have to confess that I do not know how I am going to vote on this private member’s bill.

I would like to ask my hon. friend who has put this motion forward if he can persuade me that when we change the legislation, as he is proposing in this private member’s bill, we would have adequate tools to deal with the very issue that was just put forward by my colleague from the official opposition. Would women’s rights or hate speech against women be inadequately protected if we changed the legislation?

Brian Storseth: Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her open-mindedness. It is truly the spirit of democracy in which we are all sent here. 

I believe what the bill would do is move hate speech provisions to the Criminal Code. This is something that is very important to realize. I believe this would actually enhance protections against hate speech. These are serious crimes. These are not crimes that a bureaucrat should be investigating through the back alleys of quasi-judicial bodies. These are crimes that should be investigated by police officers. Both sides should have access to lawyers, and the trial should be presided over by a judge. This is a serious issue and a serious crime.

I believe that moving hate speech to where it belongs in Canada, which is the Criminal Code of Canada, would actually enhance hate speech provisions in our democracy and at the same time enhance freedom of speech on the Internet and in other means of communication, which are now being used more and more by youth today to enhance our democracy.