About Those Canadian Human Rights Commissions

Over the weekend, the morons had an interesting discussion about Ezra Levant’s experience with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. Levant was the editor of the Western Standard when it reprinted several of the cartoons that various Islamic populations around the world used as an excuse to riot and kill some people. By posting the video he took of his meeting with the commission’s investigator (against her advisement), we’ve been given an inside look at these inquisitions. You can go to his site to see all of his videos and what he has to say about each one.

Canadian Human Rights Commissions have been getting a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately, especially after Mark Steyn and Maclean’s got hailed into three different complaint processes for writing and publishing an article that one Canadian Islamic group claims could potentially subject them to hatred. I’m sorry I missed the discussion here this weekend (I took the weekend off from blogging to work on a new writing project) but there were a few things I wanted to comment on.

Before I get started, I want to make clear that I have not made an extensive study of Canadian law or human rights law in general. My experience with and study of foreign and international law is directed at immigration issues and the law of international armed conflict. So if you have a specific issue that you’d like to bring up with a human rights commission, I suggest you find a lawyer. That said, there are some questions that I thought needed fuller treatment.

First, several morons discussed why this can happen in a place that appears to constitutionally protect freedom of expression. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms describes “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” as “fundamental freedoms.”

Unfortunately for Canadians, under the Charter fundamental freedoms may be ignored by the government in certain situations. That’s how they wrote their law:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Since they were established, the various Canadian human rights commissions have relied on this section to justify applying sanctions in situations where Americans would have immediately cried “free speech” or “freedom of religion.” This is how most Canadians want things to be.

The recent attention should be a reminder to Americans that no matter that they live right next door and (mostly) speak the same language, they are not like us. They do not, for the most part, cherish the same political and legal traditions we do, and that is their own doing.

Second, what can Levant do? Well, he has to do what he’s doing now. Some have suggested that Mark Steyn and Maclean’s should refuse to acknowledge the complaint against them or submit to an investigation. As an act of civil disobedience, I approve because I believe the way the commission is being used is immoral. But sitting this fight out is probably not going to help Steyn, Maclean’s, or Levant unless they are willing to accept whatever punishment the human rights commissions choose. They are empowered to conduct their investigations and recommend sanctions in absentia and it will be a much greater pain in the tail to pursue appeals at that point.

Aside from his legal options, and the excellent public relations strategy of publishing video of his inquisition, there’s not much Levant can do except possibly move to the U.S., eventually apply for naturalization, drop his Canadian citizenship, and stop working for a Canadian magazine. That goes for Steyn too, unfortunately.

Third, is there anything we can do? Not really. I’m sure Levant, Steyn, and the magazines appreciate all the moral support they are getting. To my knowledge, none of the above are collecting funds to help with legal expenses (someone get back to me if I’m wrong about that).

Some of the morons suggested filing counter-complaints. I wouldn’t really suggest that as a viable option. Despite the appearance that the Islamic complainants just drafted quicky, fill-in-the box forms, their involvement in this process will be protracted and, at least in the case of Steyn, involve quite a few lawyers (in other words, it’s expensive). Also, some of the commissions require that you are Canadian or have a sufficient connection to their jurisdiction before you make a complaint. Finally, these commissions are not good subjects of drive-by complaints, especially because it is possible that they will respond to what they view as abuse of process with monetary penalties.

That doesn’t leave us with a whole lot to do except take a breath and thank our lucky stars that we are Americans. (If you’re not, you have my condolences. Get here quick…if you can. Of the Republican candidates, it looks like John McCain’s your man, but that’s another post.) Remember that this is how Canadians wanted things to be. We should point out their folly and offer an example of a better way.

Fourth, will this happen in the United States? In some places, it already has.

The [Pittsburgh] Commission on Human Relations studies and investigates complaints of alleged discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and civil rights practices involving City employees and any conditions having an adverse effect on intergroup relations in the city.

Note the emphasis on “intergroup relations.” These commissions are about identity politics more than anything else. As the Canadian Charter makes clear, these folks think that some individual rights must be limited so as to protect group rights. This is nothing new for the morons so I won’t insult anyone by going on about it.

There is hope for us at least. Despite the common conservative refrain that the courts are reinterpreting their way through the Constitution on their journey to national suicide, U.S. law has proved to be quite robust, especially when it comes to freedom of speech and religion (guns and government searches, not so much, but we’re making slow progress). And commissions like Pittsburgh’s have not widely caught on outside of liberal strongholds like large urban areas with frequent interracial conflicts and universities.

To that end, let Levant’s and Steyn’s experiences in their home country be a lesson to us. We can do better than Canada.


~ by Gabriel Malor on January 14, 2008.

13 Responses to “About Those Canadian Human Rights Commissions”

  1. […] “THIS IS HOW MOST CANADIANS WANT THINGS TO BE”: Gabriel Malor on the foreigners next door …. […]

  2. Your piece is excellent, and I’m certainly not going to defend Canada. But I wonder why you think this system is what Canadians actually want? Canada is not a democracy. The Charter was imposed on us. Nobody ever got the chance to vote on it, and nobody would vote for it if they got the chance.

  3. ebt, while I was poking around for information on the Charter, I came across a recent poll that said that 80% of Canadians approve of the Charter in its current form. Unfortunately, I cannot find where I was when I saw that. Sorry.

  4. As a Canadian (recently having moved to the US), I can tell you that most Canadians don’t have an opinion nor adequate basic knowledge one way or the other about Human Rights Commissions. There has never been an election fought nor vote taken over their existence as they were initiated as part of the 60/70s Trudeau era and never originally intended for this kind of use but rather for employment and rental discrimination cases. Over the last decade or so they have morphed along with so-called hate crimes.

    Unfortunately, Levant and Steyn’s cases, although high profile on the conservative blog sites, will likely not register in the MSM nor significantly with the apathetic Canadian masses, a third of which are structurally antipathetic to free speech in any event. The advanced welfare/Nanny state has left them functional wards of the state and once you have relegated to your Nanny the provision of much of your needs, what’s a little PC thought-control.

    Americans need to learn that the clamour for socialized medicine will ultimately lead to an irresponsible society that will easily sacrifice the rest of their freedoms.

  5. Most Canadians do not want a branch of government that serves as thought and opinion enforcers. They are just unaware of the fact that Human Rights Commissions have quietly expanded their ambiguous mandates to include such perverse functions. By going after Levant, Steyn and MacLeans, these Commissions have bitten off more than they can chew. The “defendants” will continue to force this story into public light, and Canadians will realize what their Human Rights Commissions actually do. A backlash is slowly beginning to form and, I believe, will gain steam as the “investigation” processes march on. Despite their innate, reflexive distrust of all things American, I believe that most reasonable Canadians (i.e. exclude most Liberal Arts students) cherish their freedom of speech and do not want Human Rights Commissions restricting that right.

  6. I can tell you, as a Canadian and a conservative, that people would be more outraged over the tribunals if this didn’t involve Ezra Levant. Even conservatives think he’s a raving nutcase, so many of us are sitting this one out.

  7. Trish

    With apologies to the originating author, first they came for Ernst Zundel and took away his rights to free speech but since he was a holocaust denier and everybody but his lawyer hated him, everyone “sat that one out”, and he was deported. Next, they came for Ezra, and since some people didn’t like him, they “sat that one out”, and then Mark Steyn, and then Macleans, and then etc…..Is it any wonder that when it comes to loss of real human rights, Canadians resemble cattle in the chute headed to slaughter. They are now almost disarmed and before too long, they will be unable to speak freely. Once a great nation now caught in the toilet bowl vortex of political correctness.

  8. And who is driving this politically-correct assault on free speech? Well, I’ll hazard a guess and say white females – white females in the academy, white females in the law courts, and white females within the bowels of the nation’s HRCs. If you’ve ever crossed swords with feminists, one thing you’ll quickly discover is that these people brook no dissent; if they can’t win the argument, they use lawyers, a pliant academic community that indulges them, intimidation, and the so-called politics of personal destruction to silence those who point out the frivolity of their positions on a host of issues. Until we as a society confront these people, the slow decay of our civil liberties will continue – especially if you are male.

    And as for “Trish”: methinks she’s not a real conservative at all; rather, she’s one of those women who’s a closet liberal who simply thinks conservatism is an intellectual framework for keeping the present Trudeaupian status quo in place (I know the type; I went to school with them).

  9. I’m going to choose to believe that bk is kidding about the “blame it all on white chicks” thing. Maybe he had a bad breakup?

  10. Ezra Levant put out a call for funds the moment he was advised of the “complaint” against him and his magazine, The Western Standard. His rationale was that the complainants have no costs to bear, but the Respondents have to retain counsel and pay for the defense. The Respondents have the onus of “disproving” the complaint, and “truth” is not an issue or a defense against hate speech, however characterized. I was proud to contribute $100 to the cause on principal only, recognizing throughout that the Western Standard could carry its own weight. In some small way, I supported free speech in Canada…..but it ain’t easy.

  11. What is astounding to me is that the entire publishing industry in Canada does not rally to defend the basic premise on which it has prospered, the right to say or print anything, however offensive, so long as it does not cause physical harm or insurrection. If the Muslim fundamentalists prevail against MacLean’s and the Western Standard, does the Globe and Mail or the Calgary Herald not recognize that, short of it becoming a toadies and lackies , they are certain to become a target of a primitive, tribal religion? For if the imams win thew will certainly become more agresive in their search for offense.

    Are there no principled, courageous law firms in Canada that will spring to the defense of a heritage of standing up to injustice dating back to the Magna Carta?

    This is no trivial issue. It strikes at the basis of all free societies. Should the so-called Human Rights speech-police not be bound by some constraints that recognize the difference between driticism or an expression of contempt or reasoned difference of opinion, and “hate”. Ordinary citizens might be excused for apathy, but shouldn’t the publishers and QC’s raise their voices early and loud?

    God help Canada if it has fallen so far into spineless socialism.

  12. […] GABRIEL MALOR: About Those Canadian Human Rights Commissions …. […]

  13. Sir, I don’t dispute that any competent pollster can produce numbers that say most people like human righta. That doesn’t change the fact that the Charter was imposed without any democratic approval, and the government that imposed it didn’t dare submit it for approval.

    Besides, if the Charter as written were in force, I’d approve it. It expressly provides for freedom of speech, thought and expression. Unfortunately the Canadian judiciary repudiated the CHarter twenty years ago.

    The human rights legislation under which these proceedings are conducted expressly protects free speech in general and the expression of religious beliefs in particular, as well as recognizing absolute defenses of truth and fair comment. These provisions are indeed necessary to comply with the Charter. Unfortunately, the courts have struck down all these protections. They can do this because the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the Charter does not apply to judges.

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