Laws and Justice

Religious Defense for Hate Speech Under Fire in Online Harms Bill

Main image to the post Religious Defense for Hate Speech Under Fire in Online Harms Bill

The federal online harms bill has drawn criticism from the Bloc Québécois, Jewish groups, and LGBTQ advocates, who argue that it allows religion to be used as a defense for hate speech. They fear that this loophole could be exploited to promote homophobia, racial abuse, and antisemitism.

Bloc MP Rhéal Fortin plans to propose an amendment to the bill that would remove the religious defense from the Criminal Code. He believes that religious texts should not be used to justify hatred based on sexual orientation, gender, race, or religion.

LGBTQ advocate Gemma Hickey emphasizes the importance of addressing religion and hate speech during the bill's committee examination. She suggests exploring a strategy similar to the one used in the conversion therapy ban, which successfully addressed the use of biblical passages to support harmful practices without infringing on freedom of worship.

Amira Elghawaby, Canada's special representative on combatting Islamophobia, highlights the need for decision-makers to consider removing the religious defense. She emphasizes that promoting hate against any individual or group contradicts the faith traditions of Muslim communities in Canada.

Richard Marceau, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, believes that no one, including religious leaders, should be able to hide behind a religious exemption to spread hate. He hopes that the bill will be debated soon and that his organization can participate in its study at the committee level.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09