CHRT Rejects S. 13 Penalty of the CHRA in Warman v. Lemire

All the recent talk here about free speech online is proving extremely relevant.

In the high profile case between Marc Lemire and Richard Warman, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has refused to apply s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which stated that hate messages also affected,

…a matter that is communicated by means of a computer or a group of interconnected or related computers, including the Internet…

Tribunal chair Athanasios Hadjis said,

Since a formal declaration of invalidity [of Section 13(1)] is not a remedy available to the Tribunal, I will simply refuse to apply these provisions for the purposes of the complaint against Mr. Lemire and I will not issue any remedial order against him

The complete decision can be reviewed here:


Off the hook? Not necessarily – Mr. Warman will likely seek judicial review. And the civil actions previously discussed here for defamation, as well as much more rigorous Criminal Code provisions, will still attempt to regulate Internet activity.

This paper by Alexander Thesis, commissioned by the Attorney General of Canada, comes to a different conclusion – the provision is rationally connected with minimal impairment.

Here’s a scorecard of the outcome of judicial reviews of CHRT decisions:

2004 2005 2006 2007 TOTAL
Cases referred 139 99 70 82 390
Decisions rendered 14 11 13 20 58
Upheld 6 1 0 0 7
Overturned 0 0 2 0 2
Judicial review withdrawn or struck for delay 1 0 1 0 2
Judicial review pending 0 1 1 7 8
Total challenges 7 2 4 7 20


Commentary by various personalities, both for and against, available here.

Terrence Watson points out that it’s only the penalty that was deemed unconstitutional, not the provision itself, and Big City Lib points out it will have limtied effect on future cases.


  1. Ankur Bhatt has a great piece on this on The Court.