The Good Atheist 051

Welcome back to The Good Atheist podcast. This week, Ryan and I discuss a new show on television called Bully Beatdown and how this relates to my views on empathy, as well as discuss  Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Comments (3)

  • avatar


    Bully beatdown is fake, but I still think your point about the bullies having to take a beating to relate to their victim makes sense in most cases.
    Hearing stupid and retarded stuff is the price of free speech, I was surprised on Ryan’s take on this. Running a website that pisses of so many people I would think he’d appreciate everybody’s right to say whatever they want. Don’t you think so?
    Entertaining show as usual.

  • avatar


    I’ve never seen Bully Beatdown, but I heard Jordan Breen rag about it on Sherdog Radio. He says that it is largely staged and most of them are probably just ripped guys picked out at random and passed off as bullies.

    Anyway, I think a compromise to the free speech issue is to allow anybody to be free to say anything that they want, but citizens should be allowed to petition to force a debate between a voted on representative and the guy who is making the disputed factual claims.

  • avatar


    Holy overreaction batman. I just wrote my constitutional law exam, so perhaps I can shed some light on how s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act actually works.

    First, as you know, Canada is a split jurisdiction federation between Parliament and the provinces. Some things, like broadcasting/radio/internet and criminal law are the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament, whereas other things, like property/civil rights are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

    Secondly, we have the Charter of Rights which is entrenched in our constitution. All laws and all government action must not be inconsistent with it. If a law or some government action contravenes the Charter, that violation must be justified.

    The Canadian Human Rights Act is a piece of federal legislation, and it is administered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a federal government agency. This agency is primarily complaint driven (meaning someone has to complain before it will do anything). Only under extremely narrow circumstances can it initiate an action on its own. Further, the Human Rights Commission is run by the government, not by the courts. This means everything it does is subject to judicial review, and the Charter can be quite demanding.

    This means 1) the Act has extremely limited application, applying only to matters of federal regulation (in this case, the internet); 2) even if the Act did apply, there are no criminal sanctions for contravening it – that is governed by the Hate Speech provisions of the Criminal Code (enforced by the police) – rather you’d just get a takedown order and a fine; 3) The Human Rights Commission does not have the ability to ‘get you’ – someone has to complain first; and 4) everything the Human Rights Commission does do is subject to judicial review under the Charter.

    What s. 13 does is fill a gap between provincial and federal human rights codes. Provincial human rights codes apply in 99% of cases, but they have no jurisdiction over human rights violations on the interwebz. s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act fills that gap.

    In the absence of s. 13, if there was awful hate speech out there on the interwebs, your only recourse would be a) tip off the police, but generally it’d fall below the Criminal Code threshhold for hate speech which is quite high, or b) if it was somehow directed at you, sue for libel/defamation. Option A is ineffectual (and we’d rather constrain, rather than enlarge criminal penalties), and option B, if it applied, is crazy expensive. Otherwise, nothing could be done.

    So what s. 13 attempts to do is grant more remedies to more people. If there’s an awful website out there and someone complains about it, the Canadian Human Rights Commission will investigate the matter, try to resolve it, and if not, refer it to the Human Rights Tribunal, where an order can be granted to shut it down/pay some sort of fine. Some may be up in arms about this in terms of censorship, but remember that the Commission/Tribunal is subject to the purview of the Charter’s guarantees of free speech, so there are limits built in.

    If you’re still reading, the more interesting thing about s. 13, in my view, is the Canadian government’s assumption they can invoke jurisdiction over the interwebs. If there’s a hate site based out of Iran, how will the Canadian Human Rights Act apply? (it won’t) What about Facebook? If there’s a local jihad-jew-hating facebook group formed by local high school students, does the Act apply? On one hand the students were physically in Canada when they wrote and disseminated the hate, but on the other hand, the server is likely not in Canada.

    So the real question about s. 13 is whether there is ANY ability to invoke jurisdiction over hate disseminated on the webs, unless it’s a clear cut case of a server in Canada, with hate posted by a Canadian, in Canada. Chances are, most of the time that’s not the case.

    I hope that clears things up.


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