Combatting Racist Speech: The Canadian Experience


  • Bruce P. Elman



This article traces a decade of Canadian jurisprudence on hate speech and Holocaust denial historical revisionism. It first compares the cases of Keegstra and Zundel and examines the constitutionality and efficacy of Criminal Code sections 319(2) and 181 as invoked in each case respectively. The article then examines alternative methods to the imposition of criminal sanctions for addressing the problem of hate propaganda. The cases of Malcolm Ross, John Ross Taylor and the Aryan Nations are reviewed in order to evaluate the use of human rights legislation to combat hate speech. The author concludes that while it is important for Canada to maintain criminal legislation, human rights legislation has some considerable advantages over criminal sanctions. Human rights hearings are less expensive, less time-consuming, and less complicated than criminal proceedings. Further to this, the standard of proof is the civil standard of balance of probabilities, and intent to harm need not be proven as in a criminal trial. Finally, the author gives a reminder of the value of education as an effective method of both minimizing the credibility of the hate-monger's message, and decreasing the susceptibility of the public to such messages.