Canada must do more to address hate

Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights


Speaking Notes

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.

Chief Commissioner

Canadian Human Rights Commission


Presentation to the

Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights


Marking the 70th anniversary of

the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ottawa, Ontario

Good morning,

Thank you for inviting the Canadian Human Rights Commission to take part in this discussion on the progress of human rights in Canada since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am joined by Monette Maillet, Deputy Executive Director and Senior General Counsel for the Commission.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a response to unspeakable atrocities born from hatred.

It united the world in a common cause: to promote the principles of equality, dignity and respect for all.

It was a worldwide acknowledgement that every human being, no matter where they are, is born with the same fundamental rights and freedoms.

Over the past seven decades, Canada has embraced the values articulated in the Declaration.

Much of our progress as a nation has not been by accident. It has been achieved through careful design.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as provincial and territorial human rights legislation were all built on the principles in the Declaration.

These laws have given people in Canada the power to stand up against injustice.

And in doing so, to make change for the better – not just for themselves, but for their fellow citizens.

This anniversary is a time for contemplation and a renewed commitment to action.

The Commission’s recent submission to the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review highlights the very pressing human rights issues facing…

… Indigenous peoples,

…persons with disabilities,

…racialized individuals, and

…individuals with diverse sexual orientations or gender identities.

There is still much work to do.

And there is a need for vigilance.

Vigilance because of the rise of intolerance, bigotry and hate around the world.

Canada is not immune.

We have seen a rise in hate speech.

Hate speech can lead to hate crime.

Just last week Stats Can released new numbers showing that Police-reported hate crime in Canada rose sharply in 2017, up 47% over the previous year.

Offences motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance are all examples of hate crime.

So too are crimes motivated by bias against a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

These crimes strike at the heart of Canada’s commitment to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination.

Silence is not an option. We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate.

After the second World War, human rights systems were established to address injustice and discrimination, and to prevent hate from ever taking root again.

The systems in Canada do well in addressing discrimination but there is gap when it comes to addressing hate.  

The last time Parliament conducted a broad study on Hate was in 1965.

The Cohen Committee, found that: “… the individuals and groups promoting hate in Canada constitute ‘a clear and present danger’ to the functioning of a democratic society...”

While this still applies today, Canada is a much different place than it was 53 years ago. The world is a much different place.

Everyone has the power to be a broadcaster.

One individual can be louder and influence more people than ever before.

A whole new generation is now exposed to hate online.

As a result, the threat posed by hate speech is amplified.

We need to take a closer look at how it spreads, how to address this phenomenon, how to hold accountable the people who share it, and those who provide the platforms to post it.

That is why I encourage this committee to initiate a study on how to address hate in Canada.  

You are well positioned to take the lead, engage all the players and bring everyone to the table.

This could include governments, civil society, experts, regulators, service providers and lawmakers.

You have demonstrated great leadership in the past by not shying away from pressing human rights issues.

Your leadership on this issue would help inform citizens, propose action, and define a clear path to protecting people from this clear and present danger.

In conclusion, Canada has much to be proud of on this anniversary. But our sense of accomplishment cannot result in us lowering our guard.

We must continue to push for equality, dignity and respect for all.

Thank you. I look forward to answering your questions.

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