Nineteen federal departments and agencies are working on an action plan to fight hate crime on the Internet, an international symposium has heard.
The announcement was made last night by Multiculturalism Secretary of State Hedy Fry to lawmakers, law enforcers, academics, and educators at a B'nai Brith symposium at Metro Hall.
"I think it's time that we stop denying the existence of hatred", Fry said.
Co-operation between different countries and different groups in society is vital to battling the spread of right-wing extremism on the Internet, Fry said.
"It defies walls. It defies borders."
Canada's greatness is built upon tolerance and respect for different people, and this is threatened by hate groups using the Internet, Fry added.
Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall told the gathering she hopes that a case to be heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission next month gives teeth to law enforcement groups battling hate crime on the Internet.
Hall said she hopes the commission establishes a precedent and determines that using the Internet to spread hatred violates laws against spreading hate by telephone lines.
"It is an important issue", Hall said. "It's not an abstract issue."
Hatred on the Internet can spark increased violence on the streets, speakers said.
"The value of the Internet as a tool to promote democracy and human rights is astounding", said Lyle Smordin, national president of B'nai Brith Canada.
"Unfortunately, the same technology also allows for the spread of hatred and the encouragement of violence against identifiable groups", Smordin said.
"The Internet links scholars from around the world furthering the cause of science and knowledge, yet the same technology also links extremists, thus furthering their cause with the same speed and efficiency."
"The international nature of the Internet requires that a concerted effort is made to create international co-operation in dealing with the new issues that arise from this method of communication", symposium co-chair Lawrence Hart said.
"Our challenge in a democratic society, as always in human rights issues, is to balance the right to freedom of speech with the right to be free from being the object of hatred and the violence that flows from it", said David Matas, symposium co-chair.