This seems to have gone missing in mainstream media, partly because it’s a private member’s bill we’re talking about, and partly because it’s also a deferred vote whose official results will show up next Wednesday, the 6th of June (which somehow seems appropriate). But you’ll probably want to know that last night was the final debate on Bill C-304, which repeals the controversial Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Those who rose to speak on this bill include its sponsor, Conservative MP Brian Storseth:
Under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, truth is not a defence and intent is not a defence. One no longer has the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial or the right to an attorney. It is alarming that until recently the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had a 100% conviction rate. This is not a sign of vindication; rather, it neglects to acknowledge that 90% of defendants fail to obtain legal advice because they simply cannot afford it, while at the same time the legal costs of the plaintiffs are fully covered. This is simply un-Canadian.
As a boy born and raised in northern Alberta, I have grown up obsessed with hockey. My son has followed in my footsteps. His favourite hockey player is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I often compare this scenario to a hockey game. Placing well-paid human rights lawyers up against defendants who generally have little to no background in the legal field is like placing a recreational hockey team up against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and being surprised when the professional team wins again and again and again. This approach simply makes no sense, as the tables are obviously tipped in favour of the professional team or, in this case, the human rights lawyers.
The leader of the Green Party, you might think, would vote against this bill on general principles, but as it turns out Elizabeth May isn’t quite so sure:
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.
Now that’s interesting, because that admission turns this particular bill into one of those arrows that can be shot at any incumbent in an upcoming election (“Did you support the principle of freedom of speech?”).
As I mentioned, the recorded vote on this bill will happen this coming Wednesday. All things considered, though, the Member for Westlock-St. Paul deserves some congratulations for getting his bill this far, wouldn’t you say?