April 10th, 2008 by Rightsideup

I have posted before about the Canadian Human Rights Commissions and their chilling effect on conservative journalists and bloggers. It seems things are only getting worse despite some temporary progress a while back. Check here and here for the latest. Paragraph one:

Today I was sued by Richard Warman, Canada’s most prolific – and profitable – user of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As readers of this site know, Warman isn’t just a happy customer of section 13 and its 100% conviction rate, he’s a former CHRC employee, an investigator of section 13 thought crimes himself. In fact, he was often both a customer and an investigator at the same time.

February 16th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Canada has been demonstrating that it is really quite different from the US in some ways – notably in the protection of free speech. Two prominent Canadian residents have been investigated by various Human Rights commissions in Canada – both at national and province level – for publications relating to Islam.

Ezra Levant, editor of the Western Standard newspaper, made the decision to republish the (in)famous cartoons of the prophet Mohammed which originally appeared in a Danish paper. Mark Steyn, political commentator and columnist, was investigated for excerpts from his book America Alone which were republished in a magazine available in Canada (the book addresses, among other things, the huge disparity between the growth rates of the Muslim and non-Muslim populations in Europe).

The only offense that has to be committed under these Canadian laws is to say something that might give offence to someone else. At that point, the person making the complaint gets a free lawyer to argue his/her case, while the “defendant” has to cough up his/her own defence money and find a lawyer.

There are so many things wrong with this scenario that it is hard to know where to begin, but here goes. First is the biggest problem, which is the idea that forms of speech other than those traditionally banned – i.e. slander, libel and fraudulent statements – are being banned here. Second is the fact that these are not investigated through the standard legal process but rather are dealt with by a quasi-legal process which dramatically favours the complainant. Third is the fact that the process can be so abused by people with an agenda, such as Syed Soharwardy, the man who brought the cases against Ezra Levant. And the list goes on and on – the abuses of these Human Rights commissions go well beyond these specific cases, as has been well documented by Levant himself and others.

Soharwardy has now written a piece in Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail, explaining why he has now dropped his case. The very reasoning he uses is cause for further concern, since he seems (or at least claims) to have had so little knowledge of the purpose of the Human Rights commissions or the consequences of his actions that he effectively acted with reckless abandon and no thought for what he was subjecting Levant to:

Having no previous experience with any human rights commission, I was unaware of the ongoing debate about whether such commissions should have narrower or broader mandates, or of the doubts many Canadians have about whether such commissions are the right venue in which to argue questions about hate speech.

“I’m just an ignorant fellow trying to do his best,” he seems to be saying. “How was I to know what deep waters I was wading into?”

Subsequent discussions with several Muslim leaders, and more particularly with some of my Christian and Jewish friends, have led me to conclude that my complaint was beyond what I now believe should be the mandate of such a commission. I now am of the view that this matter should have been handled in the court of public opinion.

Really? How enlightened! I wonder if Ezra Levant or anyone else ever thought of that? Oh wait, that was the point of publishing the cartoons in the first place, wasn’t it? And that has been Levant’s argument all along. The poor innocent man finally had some kindly friends explain the proper procedure for dealing with such an issue – lucky fellow. The disingenuousness is astonishing.

Perhaps our elected leaders should, indeed, legislate a narrower role for human rights commissions, but the campaign by Mr. Levant and others to have such commissions abolished is going too far.

Apparently, the problem here is that Soharwardy was rightly interpreting the currently legislated role of these courts, and the solution is new legislation which would clarify their role for poor confused individuals like him. Phew – glad we got that figured out…

And if you [Levant] really believe the central issue is that human rights commissions have over-broad mandates, then that is an issue on which we may now be able to converge.

Ah – almost Obama-nian in its unifying power, that last sentence. How high-minded. Glad they can at last agree on something. To the end, this character appears to be suggesting that this – and not his willing participation in the annihilation of free speech in Canada – was the problem. What a relief.

The newspaper, of course, published all this, presumably unedited, and without commentary. I wonder if they’ll publish a response from Levant?

The most worrying thing for me about all this is that most Democrats and other assorted liberals in the US believe that Canada has much to recommend it, and of course in Europe this sort of thing is all the rage too. The premise of Mark Steyn’s book is that America may eventually be “alone” in that it is the only country willing to resist the encroachment of these ideas and policies. I only hope that, if it does end up being alone, it doesn’t end up succumbing too.