There were two significant developments regarding federal labour
and human rights legislation on June 26, 2013:
Human Rights Developments
Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act
(protecting freedom), received royal assent. Principally, the
Act repeals section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights
Section 13 was designed to combat acts of discrimination
propagated by telephonically transmitted hate speech, which
included—as the primary focus in recent years—the
internet. Under section 13, it was:
"...a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of
persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause
to be so communicated, repeatedly ... any matter that is likely to
expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the
fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the
basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination."
While the dividing line between freedom of speech and hate
propaganda can be grey, many critics found the wording of section
13—especially the word "likely"—to be
ambiguous, especially in comparison to the coexisting Criminal
Code sanctions against hate speech.
Therefore, it will now fall exclusively to the criminal law to
deal with the censorship of internet hate speech. The Act
will come into force on June 26, 2014. This is a positive
development in removing dubious claims from the Human Rights
process and leaving them to the criminal justice system, with its
due process protections.
Labour Law Developments
Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements
for labour organizations), did not have such a positive
outcome on June 26. This Act was designed to increase the
transparency of labour organization finances by making additions to
section 149 of the Income Tax Act. The bill as passed by
the House of Commons would have required unions to publicly
disclose any expenses of $5,000 or more, in addition to the
salaries of any union employees exceeding $100,000 per year.
In an act of unusual defiance, the Canadian Senate (including a
large contingent of Conservative Senators) made significant
amendments to the bill at the final hour which make the legislation
effectively useless. They increased the proposed mandatory
disclosure of union expenses from $5,000 to more than $150,000, in
addition to increasing the mandatory salary disclosure from
$100,000 to $444,000. Further, the Senate specified that the bill
would now only apply to unions with 50,000 members or more.
As Parliament is now adjourned for the summer, the amendments
will sit until the fall before returning to the House of Commons,
where the government can either accept them, ignore them and send
the same legislation back to the Senate a second time, or drop the
matter altogether. Parliamentary convention dictates that the
Senate will likely bend to the will of the House of Commons should
the bill pass again in original form. Time will tell.
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