Canada

Mandatory Niceness

'Human rights' in Canada

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In January an officer of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission interrogated the Canadian journalist Ezra Levant about his decision to reprint the notorious Muhammad cartoons that originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Levant, the former publisher of the Western Standard, did not try to ingratiate himself. He called the commission "a sick joke" and dared the "thug" across the table to recommend that he face a hearing for offending Muslims.

Levant wanted to be convicted, since that would give him a chance to challenge the censorship that Canadian human rights commissions practice in the guise of fighting discrimination. "I do not want to be excused from this complaint because I was reasonable," he told the officer. "It is not the government's authority to tell me whether or not I'm reasonable." That position has attracted broad support in Canada, where editorialists, columnists, activists, and legislators from across the political spectrum have criticized the commissions for threatening freedom of speech.

The national and regional commissions were established in the 1970s to vet complaints about illegal discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services. But many of them have broad, ambiguous legal mandates that can be used to target controversial speech. Alberta's Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act, for example, prohibits publishing anything that "is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt."

Syed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, claimed Levant did that by running the Muhammad cartoons. "Publishing of cartoons in the Western Standards [sic] is in fact spreading hate against me," Soharwardy scrawled on a complaint form he submitted to the commission in February 2006. He also complained that "Mr. Ezra Levant insulted me" when the two debated the cartoon controversy on CBC Radio. Until mid-February, when he announced that he planned to withdraw his complaint, Soharwardy was demanding an apology. Human rights commissions can impose fines and gag orders as well.

Meanwhile, the Canadian, Ontario, and British Columbia human rights commissions are considering similar complaints against Maclean's magazine and the journalist Mark Steyn over an October 2006 article adapted from Steyn's book America Alone. The Canadian Islamic Congress claims Steyn "subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt" and harms their "sense of dignity and self-worth" by worrying about high Muslim birth rates. Levant notes that even if a complaint is dismissed, responding to it requires "thousands of dollars in lawyer's fees" and "an enormous amount of time," which encourages journalists to steer clear of touchy subjects.

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  1. Did he think Canada has freedom of speech?

  2. Canada badly needs some pro-bono legal defense teams/funds to fight for the liberty of individuals. Does anyone know if they have something analogous to the Institute for Justice?

  3. Remember, freedom of speech “is an American concept”. That’s all it takes for Canadians to reject it. Shit, if sex were somehow seen as “American” the Canucks would become celibate.

  4. Haven’t Maple Leafs & Canadiens fans been offending each others’ sense of dignity and self-worth since the early 20th century?

  5. I could crush your head like a nut.

  6. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [constitution]

    2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association.

  7. Remember, freedom of speech “is an American concept”. That’s all it takes for Canadians to reject it. Shit, if sex were somehow seen as “American” the Canucks would become celibate.

    No, I think that’s all it takes for Canadians to complain about it, while trying hard as they can to duplicate it.

  8. It’s also an entrapment scam for making money:

    “Not only is Canadian Senator Anne Cools a Negro, she is also an
    immigrant! And she is also one helluva preachy c*nt. She does NOT belong in my
    Canada. My Anglo-Germanic people were here before there was a Canada and her
    kind have jumped in, polluted our race, and forced their bullsh*t down our
    throats. Time to go back to when the women *** imports knew their place . And
    that place was NOT in public!”

    Horrible, shocking stuff. But even more shocking is the identity of the fellow
    whose electronic fingerprints were all over the message: famed Canadian
    human-rights lawyer Richard Warman.

    Warman is a legend in anti-racism circles. A former member of the Canadian
    Human Rights Commission, he’s launched countless complaints against right-wing
    extremists, and won almost all of them. But during proceedings surrounding one
    of Warman’s 2003-era complaints against freedomsite, the respondents turned
    the tables. A computer expert named Bernard Klatt did some digging under
    freedomsite’s back office, and determined that the Cools posting had been made
    from a computer bearing the IP address 66.185.84.204, the very same address
    from which Warman had admitted to visiting freedomsite using a different
    alias.

    Warman is the plaintiff in over half of the CHRC section 13 cases and used his sockpuppet posting as the basis to file a suit against that blog.

  9. Point taken, Warren. Though you’d think they would have eliminated The Beer Store’s monopoly if that were the case.

  10. I think this is the CHRC’s unofficial motto:

    “Everyone will be tolerant if we have to beat it into them and take their life savings.”

  11. Levant notes that even if a complaint is dismissed, responding to it requires “thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees” and “an enormous amount of time,” which encourages journalists to steer clear of touchy subjects

    So Islam and Scientology now have the same ideas about defamation?

  12. Ezra Levant is an asshole, and yet is absolutely in the right in this situation. I like Canada and (most) Canadians, but this is atrocious.

  13. In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was incorporated as part of the Constitution of Canada. It protects the right of free speech, expression, and assembly. It also guarantees the right to participate in democratic elections, acknowledges the rights of minorities and limits the power of the state. Now see how clever they distinguish themselves from the U.S.

    Encarta entry here.

  14. “Alberta’s Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act, for example, prohibits publishing anything that is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt.”

    So does that mean they will take action against those Muslims whose words and deeds are the reason so many people have grown to see Islam as violently intolerant? 🙂

  15. In January an officer of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission interrogated the Canadian journalist Ezra Levant about his decision to reprint the notorious Muhammad cartoons that originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

    Does this sentence sound as scary to everyone else as it does to me?

    2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association.

    Apparently not.

  16. Paul, do you have a link for that? It would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. To anyone familiar with the way real racists write on the net, the fakery is pretty obvious.

  17. Of course I was referring to the comment about Warman’s sock puppetry, not the last one.

  18. Shminky,

    I do not have a link for it. I got the text from this post.

  19. Sorry, shminky, I just realized you may be referring to the imposter ‘Paul’, not the Paul that all of you know [and love].

  20. So Islam and Scientology now have the same ideas about defamation?

    The crafty infidels and their lawyers have impressed us. We will steal their practices for our own.

    Soon, Operation Seven Dwarves will have the gov’t at our mercy.

    Why is there a bomb on my head?

  21. Bunch ‘a stuff on this very issue here: the beloved/hated/controversial Mr. Steyn also in the “human rights” hit-lit.

    http://www.steynonline.com

  22. ..do’h …make that “human rights” hit list

  23. All the people talking about the “Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” all forget to point out the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly states “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. Not to mention, “section 33 override clause,”, in which provinces are allowed to make laws that violate the Charter.

    Basically, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows the government to ignore the charter any time it wants.

  24. Man, slow news day/week/month.

  25. Rex Rhino | April 11, 2008, 2:41pm | #

    …the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly states “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. Not to mention, “section 33 override clause,”, in which provinces are allowed to make laws that violate the Charter.

    Basically, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows the government to ignore the charter any time it wants.

    Yup! Rex Rhino – right on eh!

  26. Man, slow news day/week/month.

    You can say that again. I’m just glad no one is talking about elections. I’m so done with that whole thing.

  27. And yet we have a veritable blackout here of the very newsworthy (and hilarious) Beijing Olympics Torch Fiasco. A target-rich environment if there ever was one. The future super-fascist state of China plans a party, sends out runners and they get shit on at every stop. Who’s red-faced now?

  28. You’ve got Mark Steyn and Maclean’s in the same boat with Levant. I would find it hard to believe that there could be any headway in the system, and it’s an awful thing that they would have to take it to the Canadian Supreme Court, but they WILL win there.

  29. “Encarta entry here.”

    Encarta? I thought they’d been bought out by Wikipedia.

  30. ed, funny that only one commentator (Frank Deford at NPR) has seen fit to point out that the torch bearing relay is a relic of the 1936 Olympics (something they didn’t bother to tell us fourth graders in Australia as they propagandized us for about the whole six months leading up to the ’56 Games). Actually, Deford seems to be pretty much alone in question the whole concept of the Olympic “movement”

    Actually, it strikes me that the whole mystic bullshit about this flame being so special (it was lit on Mt Olympus and brought down from there, don’t you know?) is a pretty good metaphor for what a whole bunch of bullshit the whole Olympic “movement” is.

  31. Supposing he were convicted, what is the worst they could do to him?

  32. This is extremely worrisome for Americans as well, Universities often enact speech codes, and there are many on the left who would like to codify them nationwide. The left in America is also known to take cues from Canada (see healthcare)

  33. what a whole bunch of bullshit the whole Olympic “movement” is

    Indeed, Isaac. The wider and more pertinent question is whether nations still should be involved in these shenanigans. Our continued Official Participation in the sham only serves to condone and legitimize criminal states who wish to become respectable. I say remove the nationalistic imprimatur of The Games and make them wholly private. I do expect some resistance.

  34. ed

    Funny thing is, a huge part of the propaganda we got back in ’56 was all about how the Olympic athletes were competing as individuals and not as members of a National Team. And the Games were not awarded to a country but to a city.

    Little kids swallow that shit whole.

    Most adults know better.

  35. Ezra Levant is my new hero!

  36. I don’t see any reason why Canada should be trying to appease religious extremists like those morons that threw a temper tantrum over the Muhammad cartoons. Unfortunately, this type of nonsense does happen here in the United States whenever anybody refers to inconvenient parts of the history of a religion (most commonly with the Inquisition and the Dark Ages, denial of both of which is on the rise because they are embarrassing moments for America’s largest Church).

    I can understand the reasons why the left would want to implement speech codes and human rights commissions (religious crazies who go around harrassing gay people, the KKK etc.), but this is not a good idea because it will get used against people who speak the truth about religion when that truth is embarrassing to religious leaders. I hope that the left will realize that we must tolerate hate groups because anti-hate speech laws will eventually be used to harass people who oppose dangerous groups (could you imagine what Scientology would do if they had one of these laws to shut up their critics?).

  37. How many posts did reason write to defend Irving freedom of speech rights?

  38. This whole issue makes me a bit sick. The people who stealing our freedom of speach seem to believe that they are on a “holy crusade”. Just like environtologists. It used to be that I could just look at such fools and feel sorry for them, hoping that they would realise their folly sooner rather than later. I never dreamt that they could get so much power and so many supporters in what I thought was a nation of sensible, intelligent, reasonable people.

    They first came for the freedoms of racists, and many people thought, “Good. We don’t want to hear that racist crap.” Then, they came for Christians, “We don’t want you homophobia here, prudes.” Look who they’re after now. Who’s next? That’s why I believe that racists should have the freedom to express their views, regardless of how stupid they are.

  39. ‘Alberta’s Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act, for example, prohibits publishing anything that “is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt.”‘

    Hasn’t publishing the law itself exposed its authors to “hatred [and] contempt”? Wouldn’t that mean that this law violates itself?

    Problem solved!

  40. Paul is referring to the infamous Ann Cools message. It was first exposed on the conservative boardFree Dominion back in January. It’s now the subject of a lawsuit by Warman against FD as well as the most prominent conservative bloggers in Canada.

  41. LIESTOPPERS?!
    If Liestoppers is such a wonderful truth seeking site, then why have they closed the message board on the blog page? Must you be a part of their clique? So much for censorship, and their ironic claims to seek truth and justice, despicable!
    Rhonda Fleming
    Sister Of Durham Citizen, STILL Unsolved, Neglected, And Refusing To Give Up Until There Is Indeed Justice For Allen Croft!
    justice4all2005@yahoo.com

  42. So if any Canadian journalist attacks, let’s say, American foreign policy, I can complaint that because I am American, his comments may subject me to ridicule?

    And if I criticize the law, can the laws supporters complain that I am subjecting them to ridicule?

  43. The anti-capitalist Lenin once described the achilles heel of capitalism as the eagerness a capitalist would have to sell the hangman the rope that would be used to hang him. This incident, the “Praying Imams” incident, and others now prove to us that intolerant Muslims have learned how to use the West’s own tolerance and political correctness as a weapon of war.

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