Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Issues Internet Hate Decision

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued a noteworthy Internet hate decision that focuses on the applicability of the Human Rights Act to Internet hate materials (Globe coverage here).  The Tribunal ordered fines against several individuals for their role in maintaining several hate websites and newsletters.  The lengthy decision is worth reading for at least three reasons. 

First, it provides a good illustration of the difficulty in bringing actions under the Human Rights Act against alleged hate purveyors.  The challenge is not in finding the hate online (it is readily available) but rather in linking specific content to specific people.  In at least one case, that necessitated a policy raid and forensic examination of computers seized during the investigation.

Second, the Tribunal found against a provider of Web hosting services despite the presence of Section 13(3) which provides that "an owner or operator of a telecommunication undertaking through which hate messages are communicated, is not in breach of the Act by reason only that its facilities were used by other persons for the transmission of the material."  The Tribunal concluded that by playing a role in soliciting and actively promoting hate content (a significant percentage of hosted sites focused on race issues), the owner of the hosting service did more than just provide the service.  That interpretation is noteworthy as it obviously reads limits into the telecommunications exemption section by not treating it as a blanket immunity provision for Internet providers.

Third, I found it interesting that the Web hosting services established the servers in the U.S. which the owner admitted was designed to avoid Canadian law.  That did not work and serves as yet another example of why the location of the server is of limited importance in an Internet jurisdictional analysis.

Since this is one of several Internet hate cases currently before the Tribunal or the Human Rights Commission, it suggests that the Act may emerge as the leading tool to combat Internet hate in Canada.


  1. You know, I really dont know how I feel about this…I mean on one hand I am not for hate pages, but I am for freedom of speech. Does this not become a part of that? It is not necessarily solicited to people. They are websites that people either happen upon or are directed to via some other website of the same interest. I dunno. I dont think people should feel limited in what they post on the net. It is a free place to express yourself. Whether we agree with the message or not.

  2. Jeremy Maddock says:

    If you ask me, the Tribunal is greatly overstepping its limits with this issue. Freedom of speech laws, combined with the CRTC’s (locical) decision to keep the internet unregulated, essentially allow one to publish whatever they want online.

    There are obvious limits like conspiracy to commit a hate crime, but from what I’ve heard, these were merely humour sites, and didn’t fall under that category. Whether people actually find racist content “humourous” is up to them to personally decide, but definitely not up to the HRT.