Le 15-18 full radio show broadcast by Radio-Canada on December 2, 2014 (in French)
Michel C. Auger’s interview of Jacques Frémont archived on Point de Bascule (to be added)
On December 2, 2014, during the Le 15-18 radio show on Radio-Canada, Michel C. Auger interviewed Jacques Frémont, President of Quebec’s Human Rights Commission (QHRC) on his project to facilitate complaints to his organization against those whom he described as “anti-Muslims.” QHRC President indicated that, in the absence of complaints from the public, his Commission could even initiate complaints against “a website that rants and raves (‘déblatère’), publishes material and incites to hatred against certain groups, like the Muslim groups, for example.”
During the interview, Mr. Frémont justified his approach by invoking recommendations to that effect made by United Nations bodies. For many years, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that includes 57 Muslim governments throughout the world, introduces proposals asking all United Nations members (including non-Muslim states) to sue their own citizens when they criticize one aspect or another of Islam. The OIC and its allies describe their call for censorship under different names: forbidding blasphemy, forbidding defamation of religion, forbidding hate speech, etc.
In the past, Canada has not supported OIC’s calls for censorship that the Quebec Human Rights Commission wants to implement now. In 2008, for example, a report presented to the Canadian Senate (p. 15 / WebArchive – Archive.Today) highlighted that “Canada has spoken out consistently against proposed resolutions condemning the defamation of religions, noting that Canada disagrees with the focus on only one religion, that freedom of religion is an individual right and not a right belonging to a religion, and the fact that these resolutions do not address the issue of freedom of expression.”
During the interview that follows, Michel C. Auger and Jacques Frémont refer to article 10.1 of the Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Here is its content, and that of article 10 to which it relates, as it appears in the official English version of the Charter:
ARTICLE 10 Every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.
Discrimination exists where such a distinction, exclusion or preference has the effect of nullifying or impairing such right.
ARTICLE 10.1 No one may harass a person on the basis of any ground mentioned in section 10.
Transcript of the December 2, 2014 interview given by Jacques Frémont, President of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, to Radio-Canada
The time references before the interveners` names refer to audios archived on Radio-Canada’s website (SRC) and on Point de Bascule (PdeB) (to be added).
SRC 02:13:25 / PdeB 00:06 Michel C. Auger / Radio-Canada’s host of Le 15-18 radio show: The [Quebec] Human Rights Commission wants to play a greater role against intimidation and, in order to do so, it recommends adding to the [Quebec’s] Charter of Rights and Freedoms a provision that would forbid hate speech based on discrimination. I am talking about it with the President of the Commission, Jacques Frémont. Good afternoon, Mr. Frémont.
SRC 02:13:43 / PdeB 00:24 Jacques Frémont / President of the Quebec Human Rights Commission: Yes, good afternoon Mr. Auger.
SRC 02:13:44 / PdeB 00:25 Michel C. Auger: There’s already a provision in the Criminal Code forbidding hate speech. There have been initiatives at the federal level against intimidation. Why does it have to be included in Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms now?
SRC 02:13:56 / PdeB 00:37 Jacques Frémont: Precisely to complete this system of laws because the Criminal Code has a provision for it. This means that legal actions are needed, legal actions by police, etc. If it were included in Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it would allow those who are victims of hate speech to complain and, eventually, to be compensated.
SRC 02:14:24 / PdeB 01:05 Michel C. Auger: But, to a certain extent, it is already in Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Article 10.1 stipulates, I am quoting it: “No one may harass a person on the basis of … colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation,” etc., etc. Harassment is already mentioned.
SRC 02:14:39 / PdeB 01:20 Jacques Frémont: Effectively. Discriminatory harassment is already there. However, the prejudice must affect one person specifically. A person must show up and demonstrate that he/she is personally a victim. The complainant must explain how he/she is affected and why he/she is entitled to compensation. Article 10.1 was enacted for this situation. With our new proposal, when a website that rants and raves (‘déblatère’), publishes material and incites to hatred against certain groups, like Muslim groups, for example, we have seen some of these websites, nobody has a sufficient interest to notify the Commission and lodge a complaint. With the new provision, it would be possible, for us, to investigate even without receiving a complaint. If a website is targeting Muslims, a French-speaking Quebecker could also lodge a complaint.
SRC 02:15:41 / PdeB 02:22 Michel C. Auger: But, usually, you are not very enthusiastic at adding to the Charter principles that are already part of it. When the Charter of values was discussed, last spring, you were saying: the equality between men and women is already there, the neutrality of the State is already there. It is not a good idea to include it again. Why are you doing it now?
SRC 02:15:56 / PdeB 02:37 Jacques Frémont: This is a good question. I would remind you that the equality between men and women is mentioned in two, if not in three parts, of the Quebec’s Charter. Our concern, our concern was that there would be too much noise about it if we were to mention it once more. But, in this case, we are targeting public incitement to hatred based on discrimination in a much broader way. Once again, the complainant does not have to be a victim himself or herself and he/she won’t have to demonstrate how he/she is affected by this hatred. If one is displeased, if one thinks that there was incitement to hatred, then… There is an opening for legal action. What we are proposing is a legal option that does not exist at this time. If we had received complaints against anti-Muslim websites, for example, and we did receive such complaints in the past, we must discard them given the current law. However, with the new provision that we are proposing, we could accept them and proceed.
SRC 02:16:47 / PdeB 03:28 Michel C. Auger: What happens when the motives of intimidation are not specifically described as discriminatory by the Charter? If we talk about what happens in schools, for example, somebody may be intimidated because he is fat, because he is ugly, because he is not good in school, and for other reasons. Could we protect them with the Charter?
SRC 02:17:02 / PdeB 03:43 Jacques Frémont: The examples that you are mentioning involve discrimination, precisely because they are fat, they are short, they have pimples, or whatever. That’s precisely… These cases are, would be covered. But, it is clear in what we are proposing that it must be related to discrimination, to harassment, or exploitation. These are the three requirements. So, if we could think of some intimidation, of an act of intimidation that is not related to one of the three requirements, I am not sure whether or not the provision would be valid. We based our proposal on a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada because the freedom of expression is at stake here. For the Human Rights Commission, the freedom of expression is very important, so we must not restrict it overly. But the Supreme Court teaches us that in cases of discrimination, harassment or exploitation, we can go forward. It’s legitimate, and it’s legitimate for provinces to legislate in this field.
SRC 02:18:02 / PdeB 04:43 Michel C. Auger: But, you were giving me, earlier you were giving me the example of a website that would say things against Muslims, for example. It is very difficult to determine the boundary between discrimination and freedom of expression. There are many traditions. The Americans would not react like us, for example.
SRC 02:18:17 / PdeB 04:58 Jacques Frémont: Absolutely. Rules vary from country to country. In Canada, the Supreme Court already supports it … There are provisions in certain provincial laws. There is a recommendation by the United Nations General Assembly, by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that goes in the same direction. And, according to what I understand from the press, even the Supreme Court in the United States is ready, at this very moment, to reconsider the First Amendment when hate speech is present. In other words, around the world, there is a general tendency to react and to state that hate speech of this type is not acceptable.
SRC 02:19:01 / PdeB 05:42 Michel C. Auger: Mr. Frémont, let’s put ourselves in a situation… well, it’s a hypothetical case, but… a young man is being intimidated by his classmates because he is Muslim, for example. How will the provision that you want to add to the Charter help him, protect him?
SRC 02:19:16 / PdeB 05:57 Jacques Frémont: If it’s a young man who is being intimidated because he’s Muslim, that’s already covered by the Quebec Charter. You are absolutely right. Our proposal is concerned with general statements, general hate speech, incitement to hatred, etc., when the group in general is targeted, rather than specific individuals.
SRC 02:19:38 / PdeB 06:19 Michel C. Auger: According to you, will the number of complaints processed by the Commission increase? Are you ready to deal with these complaints?
SRC 02:19:45 / PdeB 06:26 Jacques Frémont: Well, listen … We will be ready to receive them if they come but, we hope that, on the contrary, these behaviors, this hateful speech will diminish. We hope that people will realize that it is serious and there is a victim. People, who belong to certain groups, do suffer when they read this. Let’s hope that it is a phenomenon that we will collectively control and that we will succeed at reducing intimidation. That’s why we proposed this new provision to the Government of Quebec.
SRC 02:20:17 / PdeB 06:58 Michel C. Auger: Jacques Frémont, President of the Human Rights Commission, thank you very much for having been with us.
SRC 02:20:22 / PdeB 07:03 Jacques Frémont: Thank you Mr. Auger
SRC 02:20:23 / PdeB 07:04 Michel C. Auger: See you
SRC 02:20:23 / PdeB 07:04 Jacques Frémont: See you