Statement - 70 years later, we all have a responsibility to speak out against hate

December 10, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Marie-Claude Landry, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission issues the following statement:

“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.

“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. Our recent submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Canada 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 in Canada.  We have seen a rise in hate speech. Hate speech can lead to hate crime. Statistics Canada recently 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 they do very little to address 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 last week I encouraged the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights to initiate a study on how to address hate in Canada. I encouraged them to bring governments, civil society, experts, regulators, service providers and lawmakers to the table to define a clear path to protecting people from hate.

“Hate cannot be addressed by one group alone. Everyone needs to work together to understand and address this issue. Leaders need to stand up and denounce hatred and discrimination. This does not just include politicians but all leaders.

“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.”

— Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner, the Canadian Human Rights Commission 

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