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Online hate propaganda

The first thing to know is that hate propaganda is against the law in Canada, regardless of what medium you uses to spread it.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada:

“Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of…”

Furthermore the second section expands on the first by stating that anyone who is “willfully promoting hatred against any identifiable group,” is guilty of a crime.

The laws on hate propaganda were developed long before the Internet made communications instantaneous. The problem with having most discussions and communications online is that the possibility of hate speech online also increases.

However, the phrase “any public place” applies to online communications as well. Therefore, it is caught under the laws that forbid hateful propaganda.

Hate propaganda includes, but is not limited to:

  • Public incitement of hatred;
  • Advocating genocide;
  • Wilful promotion of hate against an identifiable group.

Next to hate propaganda being forbidden under Canadian criminal law, many provinces/territories usually forbid the dissemination of hate propaganda through their human rights codes. It is through these human rights laws that you can ask a website be shut down or for hate comments be removed.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects every Canadian’s right to freedom of expression under s. 2 (b), which states:

“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms… freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication…”

Often people who promote hate propaganda use the above section to try to argue that they have the right to say what they want, regardless of whom their hatred is directed towards.

A major court case in Canada helped stop the argument.

R. v. Keegstra

James Keegstra was a schoolteacher in Alberta. He held highly anti-Semitic views and would disseminate those views to his students and even test them on it, even though it went against the school curriculum.

He was charged with willfully promoting hatred against Jews.

Keegstra appealed and argued that his Charter rights were being infringed under s. 2 (b) of the Charter.  The Supreme Court agreed with him. However, the court also said that there is a reasonable limit of the rights and freedoms under s. 1 of the Charter and that hate propaganda fell under the reasonable limit.

The court ruled in Keegstra’s case that they would overrule his right to freedom of expression because “the objective of preventing the harm caused by hate propaganda is of sufficient importance to warrant overriding a constitutional freedom.”

R. v. Topham – a case of online hate propaganda

The Supreme Court of British Columbia found Topham guilty of willfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group.

Roy Topham created a website that promoted hate propaganda against Jews. The court used the reasoning in Keegstra to convict Topham of willfully promoting hate propaganda, under s. 319 (2).

As can be seen, there is not a significant difference in how hate propaganda is promoted verbally, in print or online. As long as it’s being publicly promoted, it counts as hate propaganda.

If you have seen online hate propaganda, you should let the web administrator know and you may want to contact local police.

Read more:

Criminal Code of Canada Hate Propaganda

Internet Hate