Legislation to Combat Hate in Canada

1. Criminal Code Remedies

Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offense to: (1) advocate genocide, (2) incite hatred or to (3) make public statements that promote hatred against an identifiable group, based on ethnicity and/or colour of skin. While neither section 318 or 319 specifically addresses hate on the Internet, they both have been used to stop Canadians from posting hate propaganda on the Net. Breach of ss 318 and 319 can result in imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to $5,000. However, no proceeding under s. 318 or s. 319(2) of the Code can take place without the consent of the Attorney General of the province where the offence took place and consent has often proven to be very difficult to obtain. A second problem is that it must be proven that the accused intentionally acted out of hatred. Other defences available against ss 318 and 319 include the defence of good faith expression of opinion on a religious subject or belief based on a religious text.

Under s. 320.1 of the Code, which came about due to the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, a judge can now order hate propaganda removed from the Internet even where the intent to advocate genocide or the wilful promotion of hatred cannot be proven and regardless of whether the content provider is also prosecuted under ss. 318 or 319.

Section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code also makes it a crime of mischief to deface a building that is primarily used for religious worship, including a church, mosque, synagogue or a cemetery, where the mischief is motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin. Whether s 430(4.1) applies, or should apply, to virtual places of worship is a matter of debate.


2. Other Criminal Code Remedies


Section 265 defines assault as “the use or attempted use of force against another person without consent, or either the plausible threat of force or the dsiplay of a plausible facsimile of a weapon.” It is not necessary to prove physical contact to prove a charge of assault. The maximum penalty for assault is five years.

Uttering Threats

Section 264.1(1) makes it an offense to knowingly threaten (directly or idnirectly) death or bodily harm. The maximum penalty is five years. The same section makes it an offense to burn, destroy or damage property or to kill or injure an animal that is the property of another person.


Section 423 makes it an offense, without lawful authority, to try to compel another person to do or abstain from doing snything by threats or acts of violence against that person, his /her family or his/her property or by interfering with his/her travel, business or home life. The maximum penality six months.


Section 269.1 makes it an offense for any person acting under the authority of a public official to torture anyone. Torture is defined as intentionally inflciting severe physical or mental pain or suffering, for the purpose of intimidating, coercing, punishing or extracting information from the victim or third person. The maximum penalty is 14 years.

Dangerous Offender Status

Perpetrators of hate crime are by definition likely to harbour deep-seated hatred and, as such, are more likely to be long term threats to public safety. Bill Jefrey therefore recommends that victims and their advocates should attempt to have persons convicted of hate crime declared dangerous offenders. If approved by the court, offenders may be imprisoned for an indeterminate period of time.

Defamatory Libel

Section 298 prohibits the publication of words or symbols that are likely to insult or injure the reputation of a person as a result of exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule. The maximum penalty is two years and where the publisher knows the the defmatory libel is false, five years imprisonment.

Crimnal Harassment

New amendments of the Criminal Code have been made to help protect women who are being stalked by men, especially their former partners, but the amendments might be more generally applied. Section 264 defines criminal harassment as pesistently following, communicating, watching or threatening any person or anyone known to that person when the perpetrators knows or ought to know that the other person might reasonably fear for their safety or anyone known to the victim.

False messages and harassing telephone calls

Section 372 prohibits communication designed to harass persons. Subsection 372.(1) prohibits the transimission of false information by any means, directly or indirectly, which is intended to injure or alarm any person. The maximim penalty is two years imprisonment.

Subsection (2) makes it an offense to make an indecent telephone call to any person with the intent to alram or annoy any person. The maximum penalty is six months imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

Subsection (3) prohibits repeated telephone calls to any person with the itnent of harassing any person. The maximim penalty is six months imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

Damage to property

There is no specific charge for the destruction or desecration of a place of worship other than section 430 which makes it an offense to willfully destroy, damage or interfere with the use of property. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment if there is danger to life and up to 10 years for damage in excess of $5,000 and two years imprisonment.

3. Human Rights Protections

Along wit many anti-racist, human rights and groups opposed to hate, we are lobbying for human rights legislation to be enacted to replace  former s. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act to more easily prevent the spread of racism and recruitment on the Internet and in social media. Our recommendations and proposals will be presented below. Sections of www.stopracism.ca present the analysis of the former Section 13(1). 



1. See Hate, Inc on this site for case summaries, complaints and outcomes.

2. Cynthia Cornish and Alan Dutton, Organizing Rules: Combating Hate Groups. Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (Chapter 6). 2001

3. Alan Dutton et al. Combating Online Hate. Secretariat for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism and All forms of Discrimination, 2001.

4. Andrea Stone, Combating Hate on the Internet: Current Canadian Efforts and the Recommendations of Non-Governmental Organizations to Improve upon Them. Department of Justice, 2007.

4. See International Convention on all forms of Discrimination - United Nations CERD