The wording of Quebec’s hate-speech legislation can be understood as banning religious satire and won’t stand up to judicial scrutiny, says a former provincial politician who quit the Liberal caucus in 2014 over its secularism policy.
The bill violates freedom of expression because it is vague and can be interpreted as forbidding the mocking and criticism of faith-based groups, Fatima Houda-Pepin told a legislative committee in Quebec City on Monday
“It won’t hold up in court.”
Bill 59 would give new powers to Quebec’s human rights commission to launch its own investigations into suspected cases of hate speech.
Premier Philippe Couillard, in response to the bill’s critics, recently affirmed the right of Quebecers to mock religions.
Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee told the committee Monday the intention of her bill is not to ban the mocking of religion but to target those who incite others to commit violence against a group of people.
Vallee says she is willing to make changes to the bill “to make it more clear.”
Houda-Pepin was born in Morocco and became a vocal critic of Islamic fundamentalism when she was a member of Quebec’s legislature. She lost her seat in the 2014 provincial election when she ran as an Independent candidate.
She was a member of the Liberal caucus for 20 years but was pushed out in January 2014 because she thought Couillard’s policy on state secularism didn’t go far enough.
Houda-Pepin told the committee the real menace facing Quebec is Islamic fundamentalism and the problem won’t be solved with Bill 59.
She said the bill is “timid and minimalist” and should be scrapped. All four parties in Quebec’s legislature need to come together, she said, and draft another piece of legislation that specifically defines the secular nature of Quebec and aggressively goes after religious fundamentalism.
“Your opponents aren’t in front of you,” she told committee members.
“They are the ones who aren’t here.”
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press