Hate Speech

Public Incitement of Hatred (Hate Speech)

Public incitement of hatred is a criminal offence under s.319 of the Criminal Code. This section of the code states you may be found guilty of this offence if you communicate hateful statements in any public place, or in a manner that is not otherwise private, towards an identifiable group, other than in private conversation.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for this offence is two years’ imprisonment.

What You Should Know

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the fundamental freedom of expression, but it also sets out that there are reasonable limits prescribed by law. In order to be found guilty of this offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused made the statements towards an “identifiable group”.  The Criminal Code defines this as: any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental/physical disability. It should also be noted there are specific defences in the code that specify circumstances in which a person would not be convicted of this offence.

  • True Statement – a person would not be found liable if the communication was true or they had reasonable ground to believe it was true to the best of their knowledge
  • Religious Statement – a person would not be found liable if the communication was an argument or opinion on a religious topic or belief, although the statement must be made in good faith
  • Public Interests – a person may not be found guilty if s/he believed their speech was in the interest of the public or for the benefit of the public
  • Removal – a person is not guilty of hate speech if they intend to remove an existing hatred by pointing out matters that can produce hatred against an identifiable group in Canada

Applicable Legislation Public Incitement of Hatred s.319

Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Willful Promotion of Hatred

(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, willfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Defences

(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)

(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;

(b) if, in good faith, the person 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 he believed them to be true; or

(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

The Next Steps

Lakin Afolabi is an experienced, dedicated criminal defence lawyer in London, Ontario. In addition to this, he is also a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Being an advocate for individuals with views that some may find offensive or disagreeable is something he has experience with. If you or someone you know may be facing criminal charges of public incitement of hatred, call someone who will be passionate about your freedom of speech.

Contact Lakin Afolabi now for a consultation
Call anytime, day or night, 519-495-0870