The Centre debate tackles online hate

Michelle Bitran, The Canadian Jewish News

section 13 event, The Centre for israel and Jewish Affairs

TORONTO — A controversial section of the Canadian Human Rights Act that covers hate speech on the Internet was up for debate at a town hall in Toronto last week, with a human rights lawyer arguing for its retention and a civil libertarian calling for its repeal.

The Jan. 10 debate on Section 13 of the act, held at the University of Toronto’s George Ignatieff Theatre, was intended to be the first in a series of similar events on issues of the day to be organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Section 13 outlaws hate speech spread via the Internet or by phone. Complaints about hate speech that fall under this category can be brought to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and may end up before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Constitutional scholar Richard Moon recommended the repeal of Section 13 in 2008, and there’s currently a private member’s bill in Parliament calling for its repeal that’s expected to come to a vote in the spring.

Supporters of Section 13 see it as an effective tool in fighting hate speech, but those who seek its repeal consider it a limit on free speech and an unnecessary addition to the law, given the provisions against advocating genocide and the public incitement of hatred that are already a part of the Criminal Code.

Arguing for its retention at the CIJA event was human rights lawyer Richard Warman, who has been a successful complainant in 15 Internet hate cases since 2001, when Section 13 was amended to clearly include online messages.

Arguing for the section’s repeal was Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a former president of the Law Commission of Canada.

Well-known criminal lawyer Edward Prutschi moderated the debate.

“The Internet is not the Wild West in Canada,’” said Warman, adding that people can and should be held accountable for hateful material they post online.

He argued that “it is the hate propaganda that leads to the acting,” so fighting hate speech online is part of fighting it off line as well.

Warman also argued that for the Criminal Code to be an effective tool in combating hate speech on its own, significant additional resources are needed. Largely because those resources aren’t in place and because there is “an institutional reluctance to lay these kinds of charges,” he said, Section 13 is both necessary and effective.

In contrast, Des Rosiers argued that pursuing hate speech through Section 13 is a misallocation of resources and can chill free speech.

“There will never be enough resources to go after everything that is discriminatory,” she said. “Going after acts may be a better investment.”

She added that although controlling speech was not the intention of the section, it seems to have had that effect. “It is dangerous in any society to leave the government with the task of deciding which points of view can be expressed and in which way,” she said.

Des Rosiers suggested that a better way to fight hate speech is with condemnation. “The response to bad speech is stronger speech, better speech and more speech, not less,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, the Jewish Defence League’s national director, Meir Weinstein, challenged Warman about a section on Warman’s website regarding a short film called Fitna, which Warman describes as “a 16-minute long video by Dutch far-right, xenophobic politician Geert Wilders that seeks to demonize the Muslim community using classic hate propaganda techniques.”

Weinstein also took issue with a link to another website that, among other topics, includes strongly anti-Israel views, including a reference to “Israeli apartheid.”

Warman stood by his assessment of Fitna as being criminal hate propaganda against Muslims, adding that he fights hate speech directed at any community.

He also noted that his site states that he doesn’t necessarily endorse the viewpoints presented on linked websites, and that he personally finds the claim that Israel is an apartheid state to be “bogus.”

CIJA chair, David Koschitzky, told The CJN that CIJA will be launching a web seminar series in February about controversial issues related to Judaism and Israel. The first topic in the series, titled Unity not Uniformity, will deal with religious pluralism and the role of women in Israel.

“Our feeling is that to be as inclusive as possible, we have to educate people as to how many different points of view there are,” Koschitzky said. “In spite of these diverse opinions, we are unified.”


3 Responses to The Centre debate tackles online hate

  1. Mortimer Tournbulle says:

    “people can and should be held accountable for hateful material “?

    Sounds good to me but will Warman make good on his word?

    “In 2009, according to data gathered from more than 14,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, there were 1,376 hate crimes motivated by religious bias. Of those, just 9.3 percent — fewer than 1 in 10 — were committed against Muslims. By contrast, 70.1 percent were committed against Jews, 6.9 percent were aimed at Catholics or Protestants, and 8.6 percent targeted other religions. Hate crimes driven by anti-Muslim bigotry were outnumbered nearly 8 to 1 by anti-Semitic crimes.

    Year after year, American Jews are far more likely to be the victims of religious hate crime than members of any other group. That was true even in 2001, by far the worst year for anti-Muslim incidents, when 481 were reported — less than half of the 1,042 anti-Jewish crimes tabulated by the FBI the same year.”

    Hate crime statistics:

  2. Mortimer Tournbulle says:

    And this debate was held at U of T whose policy states clearly that :

    “The purpose of the University also depends upon an environment of tolerance and mutual respect. Every member should be able to work, live, teach and learn in a University free from discrimination and harassment.”

    The definition of discrimination is the “singling out of a group or the unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice”.

    Now what about “Israel Apartheid Week”? Is there an equivalent at the University of Toronto when it comes to any country/people in the world outside of Jews and Israel?

    Is the singling out of Jews and Israel discrimination?

    Should Universities be used as vehicles to promote personal campaign of hate, discrimination , racism and in the case of Israel and Jews an ongoing assault on the latter using a battery of revisionist history akin to the Blood Libels !

    So why would thr University of Toronto award a student a prestigious Masters Degree for her “paper” that is filled with racist discrimination against Jews and Israel?

    “Janet Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel. Peto contends that “Zionist politics” are hidden behind the “liberal-sounding goals” of the March of Remembrance and Hope. She writes that there are “questions about the implications of white Jews taking it upon themselves to educate people of colour about genocide, racism and intolerance.”–u-of-t-slammed-over-jewish-racism-thesis

    In the words of Matthias Kuntzel -‘Islamophobia’ or ‘Truthophobia’?

    “While racism usually makes people “small” in order to enslave, exploit or expel them, anti-Semitism makes the Jews delusionally “big.” The most important characteristic of anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory that holds the Jews responsible for both capitalism and communism, for AIDS, revolutions and financial crises — in short, for every “inexplicable” catastrophe of modernity.

  3. Corey Balsam and his “Masters Thesis “


    Corey Balsam uses the term, or label; “Zionism” as though it is something illogical, unreasonable, amoral or not factually based and probably not understood what “Zionism” actually is.

    Please allow me to explain some of the factually correct truths about “Zionism” in a religious or Jewish context and also its sad Socialist manipulation called “Labour Zionism”. Zionism, in a religious context, is well rooted in the Bible or, as the Qur’an identifies: the Torah. For example in the Book of Genesis Abraham (meaning “the father loves” in the Akkad language); Ibrahim to Muslims in the Qur’an, took his family from Ur in Mesopotamia, or modern day “Iraq”, to the lands of Canaan on God’s or Islam’s Allah’s behest. Now these lands of Canaan and the presence of Hebrew – or Habiru – speaking Semitic peoples from the East are well established within Canaanite and Egyptian antiquity through the archaeological discoveries of clay cuneiform tablets known as “The Amarna Letters”. They are on display at the British Museum.

    Now the lands of Canaan, although from my memory are never mentioned within the Qur’an, were then controlled by numerous tribal city-states collectively known as “Canaanite” peoples which later came under Egyptian control. Without getting into to much detail as this information is readily available, this same plot of land was also known as “The Promised Land” within the Bible for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel whose descendants laid claim through both assimilation and conquest of these tribal city-states to be known as “The Land of Israel”. The Christian texts refer to this land as “The Holy Land”.

    Of course as time passed these 12 tribes of Jacob/Israel formed a collective of provinces within the identified “Holy Land” or “Land of Israel” of which names were applied to various sectors within this commonwealth of Hebraic Semitic peoples of common faith, language and land existed; one of which was Judah: Judea: Judean and Jew. This information is all readily available either through reading the Bible, and the base ownership of this land through the Qur’an Sura 5 verse 20 and 21, however the entire related history between Israel and its relations with its neighbours; Phoenicians, the Iron Age Greek Sea faring Plistim or “Philistine” peoples, Egyptian, Greek etc. are too well founded within archaeological record within the region and on display within The Cairo Museum, The Israel Museum and The National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

    The more modern historical and archaeological relationship between the above presented stories identified in the extensive history of the Jews: Judeans relations with The Lands of Israel, Judea or Zion as outlined Jewish Bible, Christian Bible and Qur’an were found, at an archaeological dig site in Eastern Syria along the banks of the Euphrates. The site is Dura-Europos. There numerous pagan temples were uncovered as well a primitive Christian Church and an extensive Judaic Synagogue with walls of frescoes depicting extensive relationship between the Jew, the Torah/Bible and the Lands of Israel. This bit of history is too on display for all to see within the Damascus National Museum. As you know, there is no “Palestine” in the Qur’an or “Palestinians” either which tells us that Muhammad too didn’t know any and certainly had never been to the regions capital city of Jerusalem.


    To carry on with the Roman-Jewish theme, the conquered lands of Israel/Judea was turned into a province within the Roman Empire called Syria-“Palaestina” by Hadrian in 135, after an extensive set of Wars between the Roman occupation forces and the Judean peoples starting around 66AD (outlined by Joseph ben Matityahu better known as Titus Flavius Josephus, within his The Jewish Wars written about 75 AD and Antiquities of the Jews written around 94 AD) and remained so into 390 AD. After the War against the rebellious Jews, in honour of the victory the Roman General Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus was honoured by his brother, and then Emperor of Rome; Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus in 82 AD by the victory Arch; Arch of Titus, located on the Via Sacra in Rome. This basic bit of ancient stone masonry outlines the myth of any “Palestinian” people bluntly as it clearly shows Jews being lead away after the Roman conquest of Judea not “Palestine” unless the Judeans still living in the lands after 135 AD were referred to as “Palaestinians”?

    In any event, the above outlines the historical association of the Habiru/Hebrew, Israel, Judean: Jew to the lands, it would be like telling all the Arabians on Earth today, living in Europe, Asia or America that they have no association or ties to Arabia even with all the history of the Arabic language, Arabic culture, Islamic faith through the Qur’an etc… That would be ridiculous wouldn’t it? You must ask yourself, why cannot this same logic, reason and fact not be applicable to the Jews: Judeans or Hebrews? Of course all this now sits accurately and logically no matter how much molestations, revisionism and lies surround the Jew or their belief of Zionism.

    Muslims, through their faith: Islam, can lay claim to the entire Earth as Islamic or belonging under/to Islam but the Jew, inclusive of all the archaeological evidence relating their heritage and their faith cannot lay claim to their tiny plot of land called Israel or Judea?

    Even though a Muhammad or any Muslim for that matter has never stepped foot within numerous countries, lands etc. they still lay claim but the Jew cannot even though their entire history is well established within those lands of Israel/Judea/Zion.

    Zionism is shown by Abraham being told by God, in Genesis to go from Mesopotamia to Canaan and told by God/Allah that all these lands will belong to him and his designated heirs. Again this relationship between the Hebrew Abraham and his sons Isaac and Jacob/Israel are shown within The Book of Genesis in the Torah, which Muhammad also stated during his preaching days in Mecca as being truth. The Bible in Exodus and the Qur’an also tells how Moses/Musa took the Jews from Egyptian slavery back to the lands of their
    forefathers/heritage: Lands of Israel.

    This is another example of Zionism on the part of God/Allah, Abraham/Ibrahim, Isaac/Ishaq, Jacob/Ya’qub/Isra’il and Moses/Musa. Now there are many other examples from both the Bible and archaeological discoveries on display throughout the world relating the Hebrew/Israel/Jew: Judean to the Lands of Israel/Judea one might quote Pslams 19:14 or 137:1-4 as sung through the ages as a hymn called “Rivers of Babylon” where the Judeans: Jews where held under Babylonian captivity around 586BCE and desired to return home to their ancestral homelands. That’s another example of ancient and Jewish Zionism found within Judaism itself. Again Qur’an 5:20-21.

    One can note the relationship between Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great and the Judeans: Jews by his allowing the Jews to return back to their lands after his conquest of the Babylonians in 539BCE as indicated on the mud-brick Cyrus Cylinder currently on display within The British Museum. Again, Cyrus allows the Judeans to return to their homelands in Judea: Israel: Zion and to rebuild their religious Temple for the first time.

    I believe I answered to Corey Balsam ‘s misguided thesis with examples of how Zionism is well rooted not only in both Judaism but Islam and archaeology to which you can take a moment and research the latter.

    One cannot, with any intellectual integrity or honesty, blame Jews or Judaism for “expansionism”. Jews cannot even attain control over their tiny ancestral homelands within Zion:Judea/Jew /”Palaestina is in fact a territory that is 120,000 sq. km in size. Today Judea/Israel/”Palaestina” is only 27000 sq. km and it is Arabs who have the majority of “Palaestina”- 93000 sq. km ancient Judea/ Jew!

    Israel and the religion of Judaism wishes that the tiny plot of lands be Jewish unlike Islam. Since the close of the ’67 war, a point in time that I will use as an example Israel and the Jews gave away the entire Sinai and Gaza (which was actually mandated and historically associated to Israel/Jews and not Islam or Arabia).

    Crey Balsam is an insult to intelligence.

    If Judaism was truly expansionist , Constantinople would not be Istanbul today but “Constantsteinople” and the ancient Visigoth Church of St. Vincent, the Saint Sophia Church or the Temple Mount in Jerusalem would not be Mosques but synagogues.
    Corey Balsams ill thought rhetoric is entirely unsustainable under any scrutiny whatsoever.

    Islam, unlike, Judaism demands the entire Earth to be “submitted” to Islam. Over 50 countries today do not practice Judaism, but Islam. How do you believe it got to be this way? Is this not an example of Imperialism, Expansionism and the various Islamic communities scattered throughout “dar al-Harbe” that have literally made war against their host “harbis” nations, cultures

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