(Ottawa, November 9, 2015) – The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) denounces the criminal prosecution of Mr. Arthur Topham taking place in Quesnel, BC.
Mr. Topham is on trial for charges under the “hate speech” provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code (s. 319(2)). The Crown is expected to make its closing statements today.
These provisions criminalize belief, opinion, and expression of one’s beliefs and opinions, and are incompatible with the universal principle of free debate in a democracy.
No person should ever be subjected to a criminal prosecution without the state having the onus to show actual harm to a person and intent to produce the actual harm, beyond a reasonable doubt.
The “crime” in essence is in the abstract, regarding production of an emotional response “at large”. No actual effect or imminent danger need be demonstrated by the Crown. The Crown will not rely on showing actual harm or intent to harm.
Canada’s “hate crime” provisions require specific consent from the province’s Attorney General for a prosecution to proceed. This feature makes the state’s decision about whether or not to prosecute alleged “hate crimes” particularly susceptible to political influences. In the present political climate in Canada, cases where the expression can negatively impact public opinion about Canada’s diplomatic and military support for US and Israel policy and actions in the Middle East, or where state suppression of targeted expression supports the geopolitical goals of the US and Israel in the Middle East, are among those which are most at risk from being attacked using disproportionate means wielded by the state.
In September 2014, the OCLA launched a petition to the Attorney General of BC asking that she retract her consent for the criminal proceedings against Mr. Topham. The petition, which gathered over 1,400 signatures, can be viewed online at the following link: https://www.change.org/p/hon-suzanne-anton-attorney-general-of-bc-jag-minister-gov-bc-ca-hon-suzanne-anton-retract-your-consent-for-the-criminal-proceedings-against-mr-arthur-topham
All expression stems from the individual’s experience and perception, and is therefore of value to society, in that it reveals points of view for evaluation. Any individual’s expression of any view is needed content in the struggle for greater democracy and understanding. The OCLA defends Mr. Topham’s expression of his views, along with any other person’s expression of any view. The health of our democracy depends on freedom of speech.
The “hate speech” provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada are irreconcilable with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and should be repealed. They are an offence against decency and human rights.
About the Ontario Civil Liberties Association
The OCLA vigorously advocates for authentic and unqualified freedom of expression of individuals, on all topics and in every form, in accordance with the right to free expression enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OCLA also advocates for unimpeded civil liberties and civil rights of all persons, in dealings with public and private institutions and corporations.
Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) http://ocla.ca