Insulting someone isn’t necessarily illegal, unless the insult is discriminatory. The Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a Quebecer to pay for discriminatory insults towards a woman wearing an Islamic headscarf.
Right to Dignity and Honour
The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms says everyone has the right to equality and to respect for their dignity and honour. Actions that target someone based on personal characteristic such as race, ethnic origin, or religion are discriminatory. Racist insults are an example.
The victim can ask the person who made the insult for compensation for the harm caused. For example, by paying an amount of money. The victim has various options. The Human Rights Tribunal recently ordered two people to compensate the victim for racist comments.
It doesn’t matter if the insult was made in private or during an argument. However, it must be serious enough to make the victim feel humiliated, degraded or lose confidence, for example.
The same applies to insults about sexual orientation, a disability or any other personal characteristic named in the Charter.
In extreme cases, discriminatory insults can be a crime, for example, if they are so serious that they encourage hatred against an ethnic, religious or other group.
From Insult to Defamation
Insults can have legal consequences even if they’re not discriminatory. Public insults or insults that are widely circulated can harm the victim’s reputation, which the law also protects.
So, be careful about what you say on the internet or social media.
If your words hurt someone’s reputation, that person can take you to court for defamation and ask for compensation.