It’s something that has been discussed in this country for years: the proposal of making Holocaust denial a criminal offence.
It was buried in Bill C-19, Division 21, Section 332. This wasn’t a stand alone Bill, but rather, slipped into a budget. Most likely, very few people know about it.
332 (1) Section 319 of the Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):
Willful promotion of antisemitism
(2.1) Everyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, willfully promotes antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
(2) Subsections 319(4) to (6) of the Act are replaced by the following:
Defences — subsection (2.1)
(3.1) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2.1)
(a) if they establish that the statements communicated were true;
(b) if, in good faith, they expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;
(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds they believed them to be true; or
(d) if, in good faith, they intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of antisemitism toward Jews.
(4) If a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (1), (2) or (2.1) or section 318, anything by means of or in relation to which the offence was committed, on such conviction, may, in addition to any other punishment imposed, be ordered by the presiding provincial court judge or judge to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province in which that person is convicted, for disposal as the Attorney General may direct.
Exemption from seizure of communication facilities
(5) Subsections 199(6) and (7) apply, with any modifications that the circumstances require, to subsection (1), (2) or (2.1) or section 318.
(6) No proceeding for an offence under subsection (2) or (2.1) shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.
(3) Subsection 319(7) of the Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
Holocaust means the planned and deliberate state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators from 1933 to 1945; (Holocauste)
Would “Conservatives” oppose this on free speech grounds? Would they fight for the principle that even controversial speech must be protected? Will they object to it being slipped into a budget? Not exactly.
Kevin Waugh, a “Conservative”, introduced Bill C-250, a Private Member’s Bill, that would do basically the same thing. Interestingly, Waugh’s lacked some safeguards that Bill C-19 had, such as remedies to prevent prosecution.
It’s unclear why this was introduced twice in the House of Commons. Perhaps Waugh’s Private Bill was a backup plan in case Schedule 21 got removed from the budget.
Both versions have the provision that consent from the Attorney General is required for a prosecution. While this may be seen as a check, it opens the possibility of politically selected cases.
Where’s Pierre Poilievre on this free speech issue? Where’s Maxime Bernier?
Remember the flack Iqra Khalid caught for M-103? That was a Motion simply to “study” Islamophobia, and she has heckled for a long time afterwards. She never proposed putting anyone in prison.
For what it’s worth, Senator Paula Simons was willing to speak out on this. However, she’s very much in the minority when it comes to addressing the subject.