Human Rights Commissions disgusting

Posted on June 10, 2008
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            I believe in and support the defamation laws although I am disgusted with some of the evolution that has apparently taken place.

            There was a time when, if you called a man a liar and a thief and proved he was a thief you did not have to prove he was a liar. The law accepted that a thief had no reputation left to damage by calling him a liar.

            At the Atlantic Community Newspapers Association this year, David Coles, a prominent lawyer specializing in such issues, said that things are different now. According to  him, even Paul Bernardo, convicted of kidnapping, confining, torturing, raping and killing two young women and drugging and raping his wife’s young sister who died from side effects of the drugs, can still be defamed.

            What could one possibly say about Paul Bernardo that would lower him in anyone’s opinion?

            I have always been nervous about laws against hate speech. It is not that I don’t find such speech disgusting. I do. It is just that I think the cure is usually worse than the disease or makes the disease worse.

            I think we are better to have faith in free people and free media than the law to deal with such filth. I realize that is evidence of Abraham Maslov’s statement that, if the only tool you have is a hammer, after awhile everything starts to look like a nail. As a lifelong newsman, I believe that free speech and a free press will lead to civilized judgments and opinions by free citizens.

            I believe that hate speech laws often give lunatic fringe martyrs a much larger podium and profile than their nonsense ever did.

            Neither do anti-hate speech laws seem to be working. Internet chain stories and jokes abound with vile defamation of races, religions, political parties and companies.

            I have only recently become aware that Canada has a federal and several provincial human rights commissions that can haul anyone before them to defend spoken, and in some jurisdictions, published statements without using the traditional justice system.

            Muslim law students laid complaints against Maclean’s magazine in British Columbia, Ontario and Ottawa for a Mark Steyn article and others that they claim fostered hatred of Muslims.

            I don’t much like Mark Steyn. He tends to blame things on liberals that, in my experience, have more often been the habits of conservatives.

            For example he castigates liberals for cozying up to Castro and China and Russian communist totalitarian states. He doesn’t seem to notice or remember that conservatives installed and supported many brutal dictators in this hemisphere and others and did and do business with some of the most horrible people imaginable. The arms trade is not the purview of liberals.           He seems to think liberals are against free speech when, in my experience, it was the rich, powerful, old boys conservative, back room, networks that liked to keep the public and often their own employees in the dark about their own affairs, threats to their health and anything else that might have cost the establishment money.

            Having said that, I read the Steyn articles in Maclean’s and did not see anything that inspired hatred of Muslims in them.

            I disagreed with his assumption that, because Muslims currently have more children than ethnic groups who have been here and in Europe longer that Muslims and Islam will soon have a dominant influence in the western world. Bear in mind that, even if a dominant influence were the wish or objective of Muslims, that is not hateful.

            It seems to me Christians have missionaries with that objective.

            I have faith in Canadian society to attract any group of immigrants to our way of thinking in a generation or two.

            I do think that any preachers who come here and counsel killing enemies from their native lands or citizens of this one ought to be deported.

            Frankly, I like having right wing columnists and writers like Steyn and Barbara Amiel to challenge and test my own thinking and beliefs.

            I watched one of the complaining Muslim law students, Khurrum Awan, defend his complaint on the Business News Network.

            He said Maclean’s would not allow his group to respond to what they saw as a pattern of articles promoting hate.

            I had read in Maclean’s what the Muslim students demanded as the terms of their response. Essentially it was to turn over complete control of editorial space to them. Awan did not mention any terms. He just said the magazine has allowed no response. I have seen many letters disagreeing with the Maclean’s position in Macleans.

            He said the complainants offered evidence of the hatred the articles produced in the form of hate messages posted on blogs and in emails. He said the messages were provoked by the Maclean’s articles.

            Asked the difference between hate messages about Muslims and hate messages by Muslims, he replied that the Muslim bloggers are not a national magazine. Neither are the anti-Muslim bloggers. Awan compared Muslim bloggers to Maclean’s, not to anti-Muslim bloggers.

            Even if Maclean’s were anti-Muslim rather than, as I believe, concerned about the influence of some of the nasty and violent elements that exist within it, I don’t think there should be provision outside the courts to deal with it.

            The magazine has been harsh in its criticism of people within political parties, lawyers, some university administrations, the medical system and the US justice system that imprisoned Conrad Black. Did they inspire hatred of those groups? Did they and other media inspire hatred of Catholics by covering stories about abuse by some priests?

            I certainly have no faith in bureaucrats to sit in judgment of what constitutes free speech. Free speech is free speech.

            As Oliver Wendell Holmes, the renowned US jurist said, “Free speech does not include the right to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre.”

            There are laws every civilized country has to deal with that.

            The thought of government departments hauling citizens before them, causing ridiculous expense to the accused, passing judgments and levying fines, as the BC commission can, makes me feel physically ill.

            Pierre Trudeau famously said that government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

            I feel just as strongly that it has no place in the court of public opinion.

            Law has a place when people or groups are defamed. Government bureaucracy does not.

            Governments should kill the human rights commissions ability to deal with anything other than access to employment, goods and services.





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