Equal opportunity hatred?

According to John Leo, it will soon be a crime [in Canada] to state negative opinions about homosexuality:

Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the "Bible as Hate Literature" bill, or simply "the chill bill." It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups. The bill has a loophole for religious opposition to homosexuality, but few scholars think it will offer protection, given the strength of the gay lobby and the trend toward censorship in Canada. Law Prof. David Bernstein, in his new book You Can't Say That! wrote that "it has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex." Or traditional Jewish or Muslim opposition, too. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
From what I understand, the bill would add sexual orientation to a list of already protected, "hate speech" catgegories. Assuming that is the case, then wrong is added to wrong. Because it should no more be a crime to publicly criticize homosexuals than any other group -- whether ethnic, racial, religious, or, I suppose, philosophical.

But under current law, I guess it's illegal to call someone a "nigger" or a "kike" but not a "faggot." Unlawful to say "kill the Eskimos" but not "kill the homos"!


My esteemed blogfriend Ghost of a flea offers long and thoughtful discussions of the issue here and here, during which Nicholas supplies a link to more background:

The existing hate propaganda law, passed in 1970, bans incitement of hatred on the basis of colour, race, religion and ethnic origin, but not "sexual orientation." Conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

Gays have long protested the omission, citing the fact that homosexuals are frequently targeted for verbal and physical attacks. Mr.Robinson has fought for its inclusion since 1981.

"What my bill would do is to recognize that just as we say it's wrong to promote hatred or violence against racial or religious or ethnic minorities, so too, should we say it's just as wrong to promote that hatred or violence directed at gay or lesbian people," Mr. Robinson told CBC Newsworld before the vote.

This is obnoxious legislation added to obnoxious legislation. But there's no getting around the logic that if one group should be protected, then another should be too.

It could go on forever. No one should be "omitted" from such lists -- because no one should be on them in the first place. Such laws are wrong. Freedom of speech includes hate speech. You should have the right to insult me, hate me, and even tell me I deserve to die.

Protected categories shouldn't have anything to do with it.

posted by Eric on 04.12.04 at 07:11 PM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Equal opportunity hatred?:

» A matter of justice from
Canada has had a law on the books banning incitement to hatred and genocide since 1970. That act placed discriminatory speech under the aegis of Canada's Criminal Code including colour, race, ethnicity or religion as protected categories. In 1996, this... [Read More]
Tracked on April 12, 2004 8:44 PM


Greetings, esteemed blogfriend!

"You should have the right to insult me, hate me, and even tell me I deserve to die."

This is not quite what the existing Canadian legislation prohibits and the right say insult and hate people on the basis of their sexual orientation will still be broadly protected under Canadian law. And remember, religious belief is already a protected category under the same legislation.

It is, rather, * incitement * to hatred or genocide that is at issue. Even under the First Amendment, speech that constitutes provocation or incitement to, or advocacy of, crime, violence, riot or public disorder does not have the same protection as speech that is merely offensive. In fact, obscenity, typically defined by something as vague as "community standards", is also a form of expression that is regulated in spite the Constitution.

That said, Americans make a different calculation than your neighbours north of the border. Where you have truth, justice and the American way our constitution speaks of peace, order and good government. "Pleasantly authoritarian" is probably a fair description. Like you, I have reservations about legislation restricting freedom of speech... even that which might be construed to incite violence. But a state of affairs where the group most subject to being singled out for violence is uniquely not protected by the law is a manifest injustice.

Ghost of a flea   ·  April 12, 2004 8:20 PM

Thanks Nicholas. It's tough to get into an analysis of Canadian laws (and here I have not read them), but I now find myself wondering exactly what it is that constitutes "incitement." I recall that Howard Stern's show was ruled to be hate speech by one Canadian board or another.

Would American professors William Shockley and Arthur Jensen be allowed to say that blacks have lower IQs than whites? Or would that only be allowed if they said so privately (as opposed to on the air)? I see little difference between that and assertions that homosexuals are genetically predisposed to molest small children.

Or must the speech be accompanied by actual exortations to violence?

Eric Scheie   ·  April 12, 2004 8:55 PM

We have our own barking moonbats. There is a psych prof here in Ontario who has argued/published for years there are "racial" differences in intelligence. Not only has he not been charged with anything under the 1970 incitement laws but he still has tenure despite being very unpopular. I do not know Shockley and Jensen's stuff but it sounds as thoug the Canadian version makes analogous claims.

This link takes you to a reputable critique of part of his work.


Ghost of a flea   ·  April 12, 2004 10:43 PM

Brings up the interesting question though. Is it better to have an unquestionably bad law that is at least fairly and equitably applied, or an unquestionably bad law that does not apply to everyone and thus is not as bad as it could be?

This one I'm going to have to think about.

Dave   ·  April 13, 2004 8:11 AM

Thanks Nick; that guy you cited who has tenure is a nut. (Although I think it may be hate speech now to call him a nut.)

Dave, you reminded me of bad laws which criminalize things, but only for one group of people. (Gun control laws were originally passed to disarm only blacks.)

Eric Scheie   ·  April 15, 2004 11:23 AM

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