Editor's note: After this letter and other calls for study, a House of Commons committee is actually holding a study on this topic, to which the EFC made a submission May 10, 2019 as did other groups.
The Honourable David Lametti
Minister of Justice
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Lametti,
In a number of recent tragic events, we have seen how violence often follows the online promotion of hatred. The attack and mass murder this fall at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is one of the clearest examples of a person promoting online hate and then carrying out a devastating attack.
New Statistics Canada data on police-reported hate crime indicates there has been a significant increase in hate crimes in 2017. The proliferation of hate and misinformation online is a growing and serious concern.
The EFC affirms the call for Parliament to study and find ways to combat online hate, as was proposed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
At its best, Canada is a country where different religions and races live in peace with one another. We strive for a country which upholds fundamental rights and freedoms including freedom of religion and conscience, belief, opinion and expression.
We must respect and promote these fundamental freedoms, even when the beliefs protected are unpopular, while drawing a clear and firm line at expressions of hate and the incitement of violence.
It is critical for Canadians to think carefully about how to live with others who have different views and different beliefs. Tolerance and respect for those with whom we disagree are so needed at the present time. At the same time, it is important to recognize that dissent, disagreement and critique are not hatred.
Hate must be carefully and clearly defined in light of free speech protections. To call disagreement or critique hatred compromises our ability to call out and respond to actual instances of hatred.
We support the call for a national discussion on online hate that carefully considers what constitutes hatred as well as the relationship between hate speech and violence. This discussion should be informed by research on the prevalence and expression of online hate and violence.
Director, Public Policy
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Author: Julia Beazley