The House of Commons justice committee voted to expunge the name and words of the Christchurch shooter from its record Tuesday, a week after a Conservative MP read from the gunman’s manifesto.
Last week, as part of hearings on the spread of online hate speech, Michael Cooper read a portion of the 74-page manifesto in which the Christchurch gunman points to his admiration of the political values of the Chinese government.
Mr. Cooper was responding to the testimony of Alberta Muslim Affairs Council president Faisal Khan Suri, who told committee that hate speech online is an “enabler, a precursor and a deep contributor to not just real-life hate, but to murder.”
Mr. Suri raised examples of recent attacks in places of worship, before laying out the online history of the gunman who killed six Muslims in Quebec City in 2017. “[Alexandre Bissonette] repeatedly sought content about anti-immigrant, [far-right] and conservative commentators, mass murderers, U.S. President Donald Trump and about Muslims, immigrants living in Quebec," Mr. Suri said.
Mr. Cooper said that Mr. Suri “should be ashamed” for the comments that linked “conservatism with violent, extremist attacks. They have no foundation, they’re defamatory and they diminish [Mr. Suri’s] credibility as a witness,” and then quoted from the Christchurch gunman’s manifesto, which has been banned in New Zealand.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced over the weekend that he had removed Mr. Cooper from his role on the justice committee. But the committee took it upon itself at today’s meeting to ensure his words were erased from the record.
Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault moved the motion to expunge from the Committee record the name of the Christchurch gunman and the quoted portion of the manifesto. Mr. Boissonnault described Mr. Cooper’s treatment of Mr. Suri as “discriminatory, hurtful and disrespectful”, and moved that reading the comments from the terrorist attacker into the record was “inappropriate.”
The motion passed with Liberal and NDP support. Conservative members abstained from voting.
Conservative MP John Brassard said the motion “is nothing more than a stunt.”
As part of its discussion around online hate, the committee then heard from free-speech advocates Lindsay Shepherd, Mark Steyn and John Robson, who were invited by Conservative members of the committee. Ms. Shepherd said in her opening statement that the bar for what constitutes hate is too low and Mr. Robson said censoring hate will drive it underground. Meanwhile, Mr. Steyn said he was concerned about Mr. Cooper being punished for his comments.
The discussion became heated when Liberal MPs asked Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Steyn about their own online activities.
Liberal MP Colin Fraser asked Ms. Shepherd about her appearance on a YouTube channel that he said hosts white supremacists. He said the topic of population replacement came up and that she did not rebut comments made about white genocide. Ms. Shepherd responded by saying she wasn’t appearing before committee to defend her personal track record and wouldn’t be talking about her personal activities, adding that the interview “did not constitute online hate. It was not hate speech.”
Picking up from Mr. Fraser, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith asked Mr. Steyn if he regrets any comments he has made in the past about Muslims, referring to comments he made in his book America Alone in 2006. Mr. Steyn avoided answering the question directly, saying he regrets many comments he’s made on subjects over the years.
Mr. Erskine-Smith took aim at both witnesses. Noting this week’s 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Liberal MP said, “Ms. Shepherd, when you go on YouTube and embrace the views of population replacement with a white nationalist, just remember who the Nazis are.” Ms. Shepherd did not respond.
Mr. Garrison said he found the discussion challenging. “As someone who has been the first out gay man in a lot of different positions and I don’t think any of you three understand what the result of hate speech is for people in my position or for transgender people, for Indigenous women in Canada."