On September 7 and 8, the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith, heavily funded by Hedy Fry’s Department of Multiculturalism sponsored a symposium on “Hate on the Internet”.
This publicly-funded event refused requests by Dr. Ingrid Rimland, author of the revisionist Zundelsite, and Canadian Internet provider, Bernard Klatt, to present and attend. Conference attendees were transported by Metro Toronto police buses to an opening session at Metro Hall. While there were a few dissenting voices, the conference rang with calls for more repression and the gagging of the Internet — the most marvellous and free form of communication since Gutenburg’s invention of moveable type.
The target, of course, was “hate”, by which minorities mean any criticism of themselves. “Nineteen federal departments and agencies are working on an action plan to fight hate crime on the Internet. … The announcement was made last night by Multiculturalism Minister Hedy Fry to … a B’nai Brith symposium…
Co-operation between different countries and different groups in society is vital to battling the spread of right-wing extremism on the Internet, Fry said.” (Toronto Star, September 8, 1997) Her comments clearly stressed the targets of censorship are rightwing political dissidents. As we reported last month, anarchist groups like the publicly-funded ARA terrorists openly call for violence and arson.”Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall tolds the gathering she hopes that a case to be heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission [October 14] gives teeth to law enforcement groups battling hate crime on the Internet. Hall said she hopes the commission establishes a precedent and determines that using the Internet to spread hatred violates laws against spreading hate by telephone lines.”
Thought Police Wannabees Reveal Plans at Closed Meeting
Jeffrey Shallit attended the recent B’nai Brith symposium on “Hate on the Internet.”
His report exposes some of the scary totalitarians schemers who would dearly like to throttle the Internet. Here are excerpts from his report:
“Irwin Cotler pointed out that he knew little about the Internet. He made a big deal of the fact that the Internet made hate speech accessible to millions today and might make it available to hundreds of millions worldwide in a few years. (I thought this was misleading, since the fact that hundreds of millions may have access to a few dozen hate sites does not mean that even 1% will be visiting those sites, and I pointed this out during my reply.) He argued that society has a responsibility to protect powerless minorities, and that hate laws were one way of doing so. He also argued that the minorities themselves demanded such laws. He talked about the need for ‘balancing’ the right to speak with other rights. (The trouble with balancing, Nat Hentoff has remarked, is that free speech usually gets balanced to the back of the bus.)
The next day I attended the Plenary session entitled ‘Regulating the Internet: Should We? Could We?’ The moderator was David Matas, legal counsel for BBC. (He also prepared a paper entitled ‘Countering Hate on the Internet: Recommendations for Action’ that was distributed to all participants.) [Among] the other speakers were: Michael Bernstein, Deputy Director (Prosecutors), Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario; William Pentney, General Counsel, Canadian Human Rights Commission Pentney was soft-spoken, but rather chilling. Not surprisingly, as General Counsel for the CHRC, he was strongly in favor of regulation, especially the application of Section 12 and 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to the Internet. He argued this was society’s duty to protect vulnerable minority groups.
Finally, Michael Bernstein spoke. Like other speakers, he disparaged the use of US cases as meaningful for Canada. He pointed out that hate speech was against the law in Canada, and this applied to the Internet. He also made the single most chilling comment I heard during the symposium: he said that expressions of hate in e-mail might not be protected speech because ‘the Internet is not secure and one cannot be sure of the confidentiality of e-mail communication’. I took this to mean as his asserting that there is no ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ for e-mail, which he later confirmed to me personally.
His view is apparently based on a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland (I do not know the citation) which held that expressions of hate via mail were not protected speech because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in ordinary mail! This is astounding. It seems to imply that the ‘private conversation’ of Section 319 (2) of the Criminal Code does not apply to Canada Post or e-mail. Bernstein also raised the possibility that under various interpretations of conspiracy statutes, one would be liable if one aided others in constructing hate web sites outside the jurisdiction of Canada. He implied that the fact that content outside Canada could break Canadian laws was just a technicality, and that there were various means of getting around this technicality.
Eddie Taylor, Legal Advisor, Canadian Human Rights Commission spoke [next], and at great length. He discussed the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act to the Internet, particularly with reference to the upcoming Zundel case. He spoke a bit about the jurisdictional issue in that case — which is complicated by the fact that Zundel’s web site is actually in California.
He seemed to think this was not a problem for the CHRC’s case, since earlier in the Liberty Net case, when racists moved their telephone hot line from Vancouver to Bellingham, Washington (together with a phone message on their Vancouver line directing them to call Washington) they were held in contempt of court for violating the original court order to shut down the Vancouver line.
He seemed to think this sort of reasoning could apply to the Internet. In particular, in response to a question by me, he confirmed that merely having a link on one’s web page on a computer in Canada to computers outside Canada that deliver hate propaganda, could make one liable under the Human Rights Act. However, he stated that the CHRC is sensible and only goes after the “bad guys”, and so he would never move against Ken McVay, for example.
He pointed out that there have been only a dozen prosecutions under the Human Rights Act. Unfortunately, anti-hate laws have been passed and upheld by the Canadian Supreme Court as a valid restriction on freedom of speech. Not content with these dubious triumphs, many called for additional regulation of the Internet, using both existing laws (such as Section 319 of the Criminal Code and the Human Rights Act) and new ones.
Prosecutors hinted that they would not be bound by the extra-territoriality of offences, saying that, for example, service providers could potentially be held liable for importation of hate propaganda, as could those who merely provide links to hate propaganda sites located elsewhere.
Even conspiring to make this material available might be an offence. I conclude that we will hear more and more about initiatives to regulate the Internet in the future, and we must be vigilant, complaining loudly to our MP’s, MPP’s, and MLA’s about any new proposed changes to the law that would negatively affect electronic speech, and working when possible to repeal existing laws that cast a shadow on freedom of speech in Canada.”
CSIS Snooping Runs Wild
It’s been a bad month for spooks. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was frustrated in its bid to normalize extraordinary and unprecedented wiretapping powers without troubling to go through normal channels of approval. Denied a special warrant that allows them to “extend the wiretap to include other people without returning to a judge to seek approval for extra bugs. … Lawyer Clayton Ruby said it’s unbelievable that both the Federal Court and the government have condoned past CSIS requests for the special warrant. ‘It’s incompatible with democratic government,’ he said.
Judge McGillis wrote: ‘The terms of the proposed clause constitute an unlawful delegation to a [CSIS] employee of the functions accorded to a judge.” (Globe and Mail, October 1, 1997) As if that were not enough, now there are allegations that CSIS may have been involved in the bungled assassination of a Palestinian leader by two Mossad agents carrying Canadians passports. “Agents of Canadian and Israeli security services met in secrecy on the eve” of the assassination bid.” However, the rendezvous was described as a routine get-together … in which [the security services] updated each other on matters of common interest.” (Toronto Sun, October 6, 1997)