Social cohesion programme to address incitement of hatred and discrimination

 Social cohesion programme to address incitement of hatred and discrimination

The Government is launching a significant programme of work to strengthen social cohesion in New Zealand and create a safer, more inclusive society.

The work is part of the wider response to recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain (mosques), and builds on existing initiatives by government to strengthen social cohesion.

“The Government wants to ensure Aotearoa is a place where everyone feels safe, valued, heard, has a strong sense of belonging, and is able to participate fully in society,” Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.

Today the Government is announcing public consultation on the latest programme of work on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 to strengthen protections against speech that incites hatred and discrimination; and seeking New Zealanders’ views about how they would make Aotearoa New Zealand more socially cohesive.

“Our diversity extends across ethnicity, culture, gender identities and expressions, religion, values and beliefs, ages, disabilities, sexual orientation, and the structure of our families.

“We are stronger as a nation because of this diversity but to maximise that strength, we need to create a society where our diverse communities are able to access opportunities, and express differences of opinion in a way that is safe,” Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.

“The context for creating a socially cohesive society in Aotearoa New Zealand is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Te Ao Māori perspectives and the Māori-Crown relationship.

“Building social cohesion, inclusion and valuing diversity can also be a powerful means of countering the actions of those who seek to spread or entrench discrimination and hatred,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Ministry of Justice is seeking public feedback on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 that aim to strengthen protections against speech that incites hatred and discrimination.

“Abusive or threatening speech that incites hostility can cause significant harm and divide communities.

“Protecting our right to freedom of expression while balancing that right with protections against ‘hate speech’ is something that requires careful consideration and a wide range of input,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Ministry of Social Development will lead a programme talking to the public about whether there are changes people would like to see to make Aotearoa New Zealand more socially cohesive, and what success might look like.

Public submissions for both work programmes are open from 25 June to 6 August 2021.

Media contacts:

Peter Stevens – 021 971 354 (Minister Faafoi)

Alex O’Connor – 022 097 3929 (Minister Radhakrishnan)

Editor’s Notes:

The Human Rights Act prohibits speech which incites racial disharmony. It also prohibits discrimination against a person because of a feature of their identity.

The Ministry of Justice is seeking public feedback on the following six proposals:

1. Changing the language in the incitement provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993 so they protect more groups that are targeted by hateful speech

2. Replacing the existing criminal provision in the Human Rights Act 1993 with a new criminal offence in the Crimes Act 1961 that is clearer and more effective
Note: The Royal Commission of Inquiry found a number of issues with the current wording in the Human Rights Act and recommended a clearer provision that would cover extreme speech.

Under the proposal a person who intentionally stirs up, maintains or normalises hatred against a protected group would break the law if they did so by being threatening, abusive or insulting, including by inciting violence.

3. Increasing the punishment for the criminal offence to better reflect its seriousness

4. Changing the language of the civil incitement provision to match the changes being made to the criminal provision

5. Changing the civil provision so that it makes ‘incitement to discriminate’ against the law
Note: Discrimination against certain groups is already unlawful as set out in the Human Rights Act 1993.

This change would make it against the law for someone to incite others to discriminate against a protected group. This would bring us more into line with international human rights obligations (in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”).

6. Adding to the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act to clarify that trans, gender diverse and intersex people are protected from discrimination.

More detail about the current law, the proposals for change and the reasons for them are provided in the full Discussion Document: Proposals against the incitement of hatred and discrimination. This is available at www.justice.govt.nz/proposals-against-incitement-of-hatred-and-discrimination.

Submissions are open from 25 June to 6 August 2021. Public views can be submitted either through the Citizen Space website, www.consultations.justice.govt.nz, by email humanrights@justice.govt.nz, or by posting to Human Rights, Ministry of Justice, SX10088, Wellington

Discussions with Māori as the Crown’s Te Tiriti partner, as well as Pacific peoples, disabled peoples, ethnic communities, faith-based communities, migrant communities, Rainbow communities and refugee communities will ensure these communities’ voices are heard.

Definition of social cohesion

The Royal Commission’s report defines a socially cohesive society as one where individuals and groups have a sense of:

·       belonging (a sense of being part of the community, trust in others and respect for law and human rights)

·       inclusion (equity of opportunities and outcomes in work, income, education, health and housing)

·       participation (involvement in social and community activities and in political and civic life)

·       recognition (valuing diversity and respecting difference), and

·       legitimacy (confidence in public institutions)

MSD will be engaging with communities and the public to seek feedback on this, as well as ways to build a more socially cohesive society.

Submissions are open from 25 June to 6 August 2021. Public views can be submitted by taking MSD’s online survey. The online survey can be found by going to the front page of the MSD website (www.msd.govt.nz) and clicking “Social cohesion for everyone in New Zealand”, or by going directly to: https://social-cohesion.citizenspace.com/.

Public views can also be submitted by email to social_cohesion@msd.govt.nz, or by posting to: Ministry of Social Development, PO Box 1556, Wellington 6140.

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