Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jon McComb on Human Rights in Canada

Yesterday I heard an extremely powerful analysis on the current state of "human rights" in Canada from CKNW's Jon McComb. I asked him for a copy of the editorial, which he has given me, along with permission to post here in full.

Human Rights Report - November 26, 2008

With all eyes fixed on the economic and financial turmoil a recent development in the free speech debate got lost in the shuffle…but I think it’s an important one to shed light on.

You’ll recall the recent nonsense around the human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress. Maclean’s was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending itself before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over an article written by commentator and author Mark Steyn. The Islamic Congress tried to portray the article as promoting hatred against Muslims.

But even the activist human rights tribunal couldn’t swallow that argument and eventually ruled in Maclean’s favour. But the magazine is still out the thousands in legal fees.

Imagine you’re an online blogger or website owner and, because you’ve done little more than hurt someone’s feelings, you’re made to mount a similar defence … even if a ruling goes your way, you’re still likely put in a terrible financial bind, if not bankrupted by a lengthy, secretive process. By the way, the complainant has their lawyers paid for by the taxpayer.

Well, now a report done for the Canadian Human Rights Commission by a Queen’s University law professor says the Commission needs to get out of the business of trying to censor hate speech … because freedom of expression trumps overbroad minority rights laws. Professor Richard Moon said: "Because discriminatory attitudes and assumptions are so pervasive, it is vital that they be confronted, rather than censored."

Professor Moon goes on to point out that Canada already has criminal code legislation to deal with hate mongers and hate crimes…and such matters should be left up to the police and the courts to sort out. In his view, Section 13 of the Human Rights Code should be repealed. Amen to that.

What’s outrageous is that cases involving basic charter rights are being heard before a bureaucrat driven skeleton of a real court … by a group of human rights lawyers, most of whom have never practiced anything else. “Kangaroo Court” is a description that comes up a lot.

Then there’s the fact the tribunal doesn’t adhere to standard procedures of evidence and due process so central to our real court system. These are proceedings in which truth is not a defence, innocent intent is not a defence, fair comment and the public interest are also out, as is good faith and responsible journalism. In other words, there is virtually no defence when going before a human rights tribunal.

Think about that for a second and then ask yourself what country we’re in.

Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Jennifer Lynch said that she welcomed the "thoughtful report" from Professor Moon but noted it is not binding. She said she will solicit public reaction to the recommendations over the next few weeks, before she asks Parliament to clarify her mandate.

As far as I’m concerned Parliament doesn’t need to clarify anything. It needs to take swift action on Professor Moon’s recommendations and repeal Section 13. I advocate getting rid of these commissions and their “Star Chamber” proceedings altogether … but that might be too much to hope for. While they’re at it, Parliament should amend the Human Rights Act to bring in legitimate rules of evidence and conduct.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently underscored our right to free speech by confirming the defence of fair comment…why then are Human Rights Tribunals still putting that right in jeopardy?

1 comment:

nachtwache said...

Amen to that. Shut them down!