11/25/2008 (3:15 pm)
Canada seems to be rethinking its Human Rights legislation. This is good.
The focus is a well-publicized attempt by Islamic activists to use Canada’s Human Rights law to silence the Canadian political weekly Maclean’s, and the author of the Maclean’s articles they objected to, Mark Steyn. Steyn faced about 6 months of official persecution for allegedly violating the Canadian Human Rights Act by publishing his book America Alone, which contains statements about Islam that certain activists feel cast Islam in a bad light. The Canadian Islamic Council (CIC) brought suit, claiming that Steyn’s book, a chapter from which was published in Maclean’s, exposed Muslims in Canada to “hatred and contempt.” The suit was brought before the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and the British Columbia Human Rights Commission (BCHRC), and was heard by human rights judicial panels, which are not properly constituted courts and do not use formal courtroom rules or evidence restrictions. A similar suit was brought against fellow Canadian journalist Ezra Levant and the Western Standard magazine before Alberta’s Human Rights Commission for publishing a couple of the now-famous Danish cartoons depicting The Prophet negatively.
The irony of the claim was noted by an editorial in the New York Post at the time. Steyn had taken the position that Sharia, the Islamic law Muslims intend to apply around the world, is incompatible with Western notions of individual liberty. The five Muslim students who brought the suit on behalf of the CIC wanted Steyn silenced — providing a stunning instance of the very incompatibility Steyn had described, a description to which the CIC objected.
The problem was that Steyn is well-known, and so is Maclean’s. They did not roll over; they launched a well-funded defense, including articles describing the HRCs as “kangaroo courts” and “star chambers.” Several of the articles made it clear that they actually hoped to be convicted, so they could take their case into the Canadian appeals courts and have the Human Rights law overturned in its entirety. By the time the cases were heard, the Human Rights Act judicial machinery was already under close scrutiny by several investigative bodies. Steyn and Maclean’s were exonerated by both bodies, probably because the bodies did not want the negative publicity of ruling against legitimate free political speech. Levant’s case was also dismissed.
Apparently dismissing these cases did not help the commissions. Steyn noted today in The Corner that the Conservative Party voted nearly unanimously to abolish the “hate speech” section of Canada’s Human Rights Act at their annual convention, and that at least one liberal in the government renewed a motion in the House of Commons to do the same. Steyn also notes that Professor Richard Moon’s report to the CHRC on free speech rights recommends the repeal of Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, so that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal would no longer hold jurisdiction over “hate speech.”
The Hate Speech provision of Canada’s Human Rights Act has already been used to persecute a Christian pastor for declaring his belief that homosexuality is sin. In fact, Ezra Levant recently published the same letter that earned draconian punishment from the HRC when a Christian pastor published it, and the HRC declined to take action (Levant is Jewish); Levant notes that in its entire history, the hate speech law has only been used successfully to prosecute white Christians and conservatives, never Jews, Muslims, or gays. This, along with Steyn’s and Levant’s experience with the CIC, illustrates that “hate crimes” laws are inherently inconsistent with free speech rights. There is such a thing as unprotected speech — pornography comes to mind, as does incitement to riot — but the notion of “hate speech” inherently assigns illegality to speech that offends the group at which it is directed, and political speech almost always fits that description.
Last week’s unfortunate (and arguably craven) capitulation by eHarmony to Gay Rights courtroom thugs will show us quickly what happens when we surrender without a fight. Eharmony had the economic muscle to fight the thugs; the next victims probably will not. Steyn, Maclean’s, and Levant showed us what can happen when we fight steadfastly… and even if they had lost, I would rather lose fighting for liberty than survive while handing it over.
Bravo, northern cousins!
FrontPage Mag has an interview today with Canadian writer Kathy Shaidle concerning her launch of her new book, The Tyranny of Nice, covering this same topic. The interview has details I left out, and is worth a read.
2 Comments »
Comment by TX CHL Instructor
Rights which are not exercised are eventually lost. One of the most important rights we are in serious danger of losing in this country is the 2nd Amendment, without which, the rest of the document is merely wishful thinking.
Interestingly, I have seen my concealed handgun license class enrollments increase steadily now for over a year. With the election results of November, I am seeing a more rapid increase, and I have enlarged my classes and added to my schedule. I hope that’s a good sign.
(Webmaster notes: too bad you’re not here on Cape Cod. Know any instructors here?)
Comment by RM
I was disappointed about EHarmony’s capitulation to blackmail, but my take is that it probably boiled down to a business decision in the final analysis.
I’m also a little disappointed that there wasn’t some type of conservative, business type or group that didn’t recognize the horrendous ramifications for businesses and for free speech, and step in with a little cash/political muscle. George Soros is apparently financing Al Franken’s miserable recount effort. Where are a couple of those angels on our side? Were any of the conservative legal foundations/groups involved?
Now, however, the jackals are emboldened, and as you point out, there are many other potential victims out there.
Kudos to these people for standing up, fighting, and winning. This is about the most encouraging breath of fresh air I have heard for weeks.