Conservative MP Garnett Genuis has brought forward a private member’s bill to add political belief and activity as protected grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
“This bill is about protecting the rights of individuals – their freedom of speech and their freedom to be involved in the democratic process without facing reprisals,” said Genuis in a statement. “But it is also about realizing the benefits that come with a free democracy and a robust civil society.”
Speaking with True North’s Candice Malcolm on Tuesday, Genuis said that although some provinces offer provisions in their own human rights codes, there are not currently any federal protections against discrimination based on political beliefs or activities.
“There’s a difference between discriminating about ideas and discriminating against individuals,” Genuis explained. “So in terms of prohibiting discrimination against individuals on the basis of their political beliefs or activities, it’s about saying that governments or banks shouldn’t be able to fire someone or deny someone service on the basis of their political beliefs – that if your employer finds out that you’re conservative, they can’t fire you because of that.”
Genuis said that the Freedom Convoy showed a recent example of where individuals were persecuted on the basis of their political views.
“Let’s say somebody had made a small donation to the convoy and their employer found out about it,” he said. “This bill would, I think, provide some protection from that person being fired.”
Genuis added, however, that his bill would likely not work retroactively to recover jobs already lost.
He also said that “there is a distinction between someone facing discrimination and someone just having people be mean to them.”
Genuis explained that Bill C-257 would also provide exceptions for bona fide occupations where partisanship or political neutrality are reasonable requirements for employment. A political staffer is expected to have a certain worldview, he said, while other roles may require an employee to be nonpartisan.
This bill remains in first reading at the moment.
Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis seconded the bill.
“We must remain a country where everyone is free to speak their mind, especially about their own government, without fear of repercussions,” said Lewis in a tweet.
Genuis said that Canadians must be free to express and act on their political beliefs without being afraid of intimidation from governments or private employers.
“This freedom is essential for a strong democracy with a robust and independent civil society,” he said.
Queen’s University law professor Bruce Pardy said that in an era of cancel culture and anti-conservative discrimination, human rights codes should include political belief as a protected ground.
“No government of any political stripe has the courage to repeal human rights codes,” said Pardy in a column in the National Post. “The only way to even approach political neutrality is to have them protect political beliefs.”