Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST)

The committee met twice this week to study Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom). The bill repeals section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which is alleged to erode the right of freedom of expression.

On Tuesday, April 24th, the committee heard from the bill’s sponsor, Mr. Brian Storseth (), who gave an opening statement and answered questions. A second panel followed that included Mark Toews and Judy Hunter of the Canadian Bar Association; Mark Freiman of the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation; and Kathleen Mahoney of Calgary University. Each witness was critical of the bill, but none more so than the representatives of the CBA, who came prepared with a comprehensive submission on the bill drafted by the organization’s Constitutional and Human Rights Law section. The debate between the CBA and Conservative members of the committee was often heated. The relevant transcript can be found here.

On Thursday, March 26th, the committee heard from representatives of B’nai Brith Canada, who expressed their support for Bill C-304. The committee then proceeded to commence clause-by-clause study of the bill. The amendments offered by Liberal Sean Casey were rejected and a single amendment offered by Conservative MP Robert Goguen() was ruled out of order by Conservative chair Dave Mackenzie (). The latter was ultimately passed through an appeal of the chair’s decision made by Goguen and supported by the NDP. The sole member to vote against the appeal was Mr. Casey (See the Minutes here. ) It was ordered that the bill be reported as amended to the House.

Before adjourning the meeting for the day, the committee sat in camera to discuss matters related to committee business.