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If criticism equals 'hatred', Svend Robinson's Bill C-250 will suppress free speech Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 12 April 2004

In his long and colorful career, Burnaby MP Svend Robinson has taken full advantage of his right of free speech.

Throughout his 25-year crusade for gay rights he has liberally branded his opponents personally as "hate-mongers" and "homophobes."

He once managed to call Liberal MP Roseanne Skoke hateful four times in three short sentences.

None of his opponents tried to suppress his right of free speech. So why is he so hell-bent on taking away theirs?

And why is the federal Liberal government making sure he succeeds?

I'm referring here to Robinson's private member's bill, C-250, which will add "sexual orientation" to the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code.

Even though it's Svend's personal bill, it has been rammed through the Commons, and almost through the Senate, by the Liberal government.

Under C-250, it will become a criminal offence (punishable by two years in prison) to "incite hatred" against gays (and other groups already listed) if the communication is "likely to lead to a breach of the peace."

No excuses are allowed under this section (319.1) of the Criminal Code. It doesn't matter if your statements are true, honestly held, or based on religious texts.

(A religious defence is allowed for the following section, 319.2. But it doesn't help if you are charged under 319.1)

This means if any provincial crown prosecutor thinks your comments are over the line, and persuades a judge that your public remarks might (sooner or later) endanger persons or property in the protected groups, you're going to jail.

Defenders of this gag law can't imagine how it could inhibit free speech.

Well, Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the Red Deer Advocate criticizing promotion of the gay lifestyle in public schools and has been hailed before an Alberta human rights tribunal.

MP Grant Hill, a medical doctor, warned Parliament about the health consequences of gay practices and was nationally denounced as homophobic.

Hugh Owen, a Saskatchewan prison guard, was punished for publishing Bible references in a newspaper ad. Scott Brockie, a Toronto printer, was punished for refusing on religious grounds to work for a gay advocacy group. B.C. high school teacher Chris Kempling was punished for mentioning the health consequences of gay behavior in a rural B.C. newspaper. I could go on.

Now it's true that these people were not charged criminally. But all of them, and many others, have been accused in strident language of "spreading hate."

And it isn't just gays. We are informed almost daily by self-appointed spokesmen for this or that "identifiable group" that any criticism leads their members to low self esteem, drug problems, suicide and crime.

Get it? Criticism equals incitement to hatred, which leads to any number of breaches of the peace. This is the new theory.

With Svend's new law in place, it's just a matter of redirecting "hate-mongers" from human rights commissions, which are bad enough, to the criminal courts, which are worse.

All it takes is one zealous prosecutor and a politically correct judge--hardly a rare combination.

Free speech is destroyed long before someone goes to jail. It vanishes the moment ordinary citizens feel exposed to arbitrary prosecution for voicing their honest beliefs.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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