Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The ABCs of fighting for free speech

I published an early version of this piece on my blog awhile ago. This is the revised version which was published by

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is an administrative body responsible for enforcing Section 13 of the Human Rights Act. This section prohibits phone or internet messages that are likely to expose a person or person to hatred or contempt on the ground of race, sex, religion, etc. In recent years the CHRC and Section 13 have come under attack by activists and bloggers who allege that the CHRC and Section 13 are a danger to freedom of speech and expression.

It was a motley party from the beginning. A confusing mess of die-hard social conservatives and liberals (not to mention libertarians), Jews and Muslims, gay rights activists and priests and pastors who had dedicated their lives to opposing gay rights activists. They were attacking the inaptly named Canadian Human Rights Commissions and most specifically hate speech laws.

The weapon of choice was mostly blogs. You know, those online diaries where people pontificate around like their opinions are the most important things in the world and usually have a readership of -- well -- not a lot. This collection of rag-tag fire-breathing radicals was attacking a decades-old law and a nicely established government department. A government department, moreover, that monopolized most of the feel-good words -- human rights, anti-hate, reconciliation, arbitration, anti-discrimination -- and had a whole host of feel-bad words to toss at their opponents -- hate-mongerers (sic), bigots, racists, regressive, anti-human rights, right-wing extremists, unfeeling, marginal, obnoxious...

No bookie would have given this collection, held together with as much duct tape and Tim Horton’s coffee as anything else, better than very long odds on getting the Human Rights Commissions to acknowledge their existence, much less anything more. It looked like another tedious social conservative-type stand-off where a few “radicals” stormed around talking a lot and achieving nothing while the status quo slipped blithely along without registering more than an occasional little ripple.

But this time it was different. This time they got publicity. This time they got the attention of their opponents and had them squealing. This time they gained momentum. This time, although it is far to early to be sure, victory is starting to look rather likely, if not very likely. This time they aren’t withering in obscurity, they are not on the defensive, they are on the offensive and the enemy is retreating and deserting rapidly.

How could this happen and what can we learn from it?

The Power of the Active Individual:“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual - for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.” M. Scott Peck

Okay so this is very clichéd but do I get extra points if it's true? Every cause needs a hero to rally around or, failing that, a martyr. The free speech movement got a major boost when the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal made the worst mistake in their history. They accepted a complaint against magazine editor Ezra Levant for reprinting the Danish Mohammed cartoons as part of a news story about the cartoon riots. Levant won his case, or rather got it dismissed (which, as he explains, is not really a win), but the experience opened his eyes to the direction that the HRCs were taking. Once he started talking the government quickly realized that he was impossible to shut up. Since then he and others have been incredibly influential in bringing the abuses of the Commissions and the totalitarian nature of hate speech laws to the attention of the public.

The Power of a Dedicated Minority: "History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith." R.J. Rushdoony

Without dedicated friends and supporters even the greatest people can accomplish little. Few people have the time, money, energy, eloquence, or just pig-headed stubbornness to lead an activist movement. Most people have the time, money, energy, eloquence, and/or stubbornness to write to a politician, donate $20 to a favourite cause, write a letter to the editor, discuss these issues with their friends, vote for leaders who support their point of view, pray, or just refuse to bow to the self-proclaimed arbiters of political correctness in their own lives. This minority, a minority that is active and concerned, can do great things.

The Power of the Media and/or Alternative Media:“They have an engine called the Press whereby the people are deceived. We should die without ever being heard of.”C.S.Lewis

You can have individuals making heroic stands but if no one ever hears about them it is useless. The free-speechers, or at least their message, won the friendship and support of the entire mainstream media, from conservative to liberal. While the blogs, Youtube, and other forms of alternative media had a pivotal role to play in the fight, the established media is still more widely respected and influential. Many conservatives seem to regard the press as a perpetual enemy. While this may be true for the most part, we are facing an uphill, and probably futile, battle as long as this problem is not adequately addressed. How can people form a dedicated minority if they are ignorant of the issues at hand?

The Power of Polemicism: “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” Georg Wilhelm

This idea I stole unapologetically from Mark Steyn. The vast majority of people do not want to be seen as extreme radicals. They want to be seen as left of centre or right of centre. Therefore, although the extremists and polemicists on both sides are not really effective in persuading the majority, they can be effective in moving the centre. Some may not be comfortable with the idea of a “Fire. Them. All.” (Levant) approach but because of it they are emboldened to advocate for reform. After all, they aren't like THOSE extremists.

The Power of Scratching Below the Surface:“Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.“ Franklin D. Roosevelt. “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Lenin.

The tension between these two quotations affects us all. A lie repeated often enough can produce a veneer of consensus and the appearance of truth, but it can never really become the truth.

In today’s society we have an ingrained set of politically correct responses to any issue. Hate speech laws: well,of course, we don’t want people spouting hateful speech all over the place. Human Rights Commissions: well, isn’t it good that we have an organization to look after human rights?

But if you scratch below the surface and start to explain to people what these things are really about, they can have an entirely different response. Hate speech laws, you are censoring who for saying what?! Human Rights Commissions, you mean I could get in trouble for doing that?!

The Power of a Greedy Enemy: “Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone.” Pyrrhus

While this is not really something that we can control, it should give us room for hope in times of discouragement. The free speech movement took off because the Human Rights Commission went too far. They thought that they had carte blanche to define the word “hate-monger” and deal with all forms of “hate speech”. What they didn’t realize was that there was a Canada beyond the doors of their office building which might have different ideas. It was the atrocious cases where they tried to prosecute pastors and popular, mainline media that provoked the storms of outrage. No one really wants to publicly defend a neo-Nazi, but Macleans? Or your local priest? That is something that people can defend and feel good defending.

In Conclusion: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win." Ghandi

It is not enough for conservatives to have good ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The ideas that change the world are those which can reach the cabbie and the mechanic. The ideas and issues that get discussed over coffee at work. The ideas that inspire professors and lawyers to speak and write. The ideas that get airtime on every TV and radio network. The ideas that creep into our education system. The ideas that a dedicated minority push in every possible way until they become in the minds of your average Joe to be self-evident truth. If the liberals and social engineers can alter the heartbeat of a nation so that abortion, gay marriage, and censorship becomes the normal status quo, we can alter it back.

Remember: Politicians want to get elected. If they start to lose elections because of their stance on Human Rights Commissions do you think they won’t notice? I promise you, they will.

Sauce for the Goose...

Tarek Fatah, Anita Bromberg, and John Thompson need to take a deep breath and have a few second thoughts.

An Imam said these things in a speech in Toronto.

“Allah protect us from the fitna [sedition] of these people [calling for a ban on women covering their faces]…. Allah destroy them from within themselves….”

“You will see a lot of them going to the kuffar, taking them as friends and allies. The wrath of Allah is upon them. If they were true believers they would never take them as allies.”

I think that this illustrates that even if we were to get Section 13 and the HRC abolished, our fight would not be over. B'nai Brith would like the POLICE to investigate this? Are they nuts?

Do they really want the police walking in and tearing pages out of the Torah? What about banning the psalms? Do they think that precedent will only ever work in their favour?

Let me spell this out. NO ONE goes into our churches and makes sure our pastors are following the straight and narrow path of sugar coated, politically correct, relativistic, let's all have a teary eyed group hug to make up for our past intolerance of marginalized people that we in our arrogance thought were "wrong".

So let's be careful what we ask for. Because with what standard we judge, the HRC will give us back 100 fold.

"The kindest, most-loving man who ever lived was crucified because He is intolerant of sin." Jan LaRue (Yeah He even wants to tear the teeth of the wicked out by the roots, Psalm 58)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bankrupting pastors = A teachable moment

Yeah, teachable all right....

Anyway, getting back to business, please see my event blog post yesterday if you need context for this post.
Moon actually did a very good job, more or less, all things considering. Hiring him was Jennifer Lynch's biggest mistake, almost as big as the Alberta HRC deciding to investigate Ezra Levant. Not quite, but almost.
His point was that getting involved in hate speech under the level of violence would involve extraordinary government power and would compromise freedom of speech. At present there is far too great a danger of speech chill. You'd almost think he was listening to Ezra. Watch out Prof. Moon, the habit might grow on you.
He talked about the fact that the commission should always be the one prosecuting hate speech cases (If they don't repeal the hate speech act presumably). Frankly the significance of the whole point somewhat eluded me. The phrase polishing brass on a sinking ship springs to mind.
Moon did get in a sly hit at Warman for his Neo-Nazi postings, I hope Warman heard and benefited. Not holding my breath though. To even things out Moon did take a few shots at the media darlings who spout off with personal attacks like some people whose names we will not mention. You do realize, Moon, that your very presence there (not to mention $50,000) is due to those intemperate and unprofitable attacks? Just checking, just checking.
Bernie Farber talks about how they speak for the widest cross section of Jews, needless to say setting off Ezra Levant's short fuse who called him "appalling" on his blog.

Mark Freiman was up next. His case boiled down to this, you need to censor "dehumanizing" and "demonizing" speech because by the time it gets to advocating violence it is too late. Hate speech propaganda is used to anesthetize a population so that when it actually gets to violence people will look the other way.

I think there are some practical problems with Freiman's arguments. The way I see it is this. Any real attempt to bring matters to a genocidal level would not start with dehumanizing speech. They would start with "critical" speech (Like maybe anti-Israel hysteria) Then it would gradually increase in intensity, at the level that society would bear, until it finally reached the dehumanizing level. However this would be done "frog in boiling water" style. So gradually that by the time "dehumanizing" and "demonizing" speech became widespread enough and socially acceptable enough that it could anaesthetize an entire population, it would already be too late.

We already know that the commissions won't deal with politically correct hate speech. Consider the Imam who called for the murder of homosexuals. Or the music group that wanted to kill all the Christians and would enjoy watching them die. Or even just the new atheists. Any effective attempt at marginalizing and demonizing a group would likely move at the level that society could tolerate and thus would not be prosecuted for hate speech.

Frieman even admitted that Section 13 or equivalent would not stop genocide if there were other factors in play.

The problem with government censorship is that whatever you intend to protect one group can be turned around against them. I read a line recently that in England it is now more rude to accuse someone of anti-Semitism than to be an anti-Semite. Why should it not be considered demonizing in the future to refer to someone as a racist or anti-Semite even if they are? Could it not have potentially been considered demonizing for someone to call Hitler evil and genocidal before he got into power?

Besides which if you have censorship, what prevents a genocidally inclined government from censoring opposition in the name of security and doing their own anesthetizing?

Section 13 is not going to stop a genocide. Unless you were to stop all critical speech (which would incidentally necessitate a genocide) you cannot prevent by legislation a gradual increase in hate speech to the point of violence.
Anyway, if we are talking about extreme, evil, dehumanizing speech, why do we want to focus on words not on punishing people? If it is so dangerous wouldn't we want to focus on those people?
Moves on to talking about how naive Ezra is because he thinks genocides could never happen in Canada again. Ezra does want to know "Does he really have such a low opinion of his fellow Canadians? Does he really think that, were it not for the CHRC, his neighbours would throw him into the ovens?" but I don't think Levant is naive. I think he just doesn't believe that censorship laws would help anymore than they did in pre-Hitler Germany. He also doesn't trust the left (small wonder) and is of the opinion that as a Jew the people he would prefer guarding his back are evangelical Christians, who happen to be very high up on the HRC enemy list. Nothing like silencing your allies to advance your cause.

Bernie Farber passed around pictures of racist defamations on Jewish tombs. The points were appropriately brought up that such vandalism is already a crime and that Section 13 has no jurisdiction over such acts anyway. The excuse? Well section 13 acts as an official denouncement of the acts and such civil cases can help young people understand that acts of this type are not acceptable. That is so spectacularly weak it is stunning. If our young people don't understand that racist graffiti is not acceptable in Canada then we have a problem which a few obscure little cases before an administrative tribunal that almost no one pays attention to are not going to fix it. Also note my title, Bankrupting pastors = A teachable moment.

A little disagreement here. The CJC think that Section 13 is quite alright but if anyone wants to amend it for clarity they won't object. Moon wants it repealed.

Moon also thinks there should be an intent provision which Freiman considers dangerous. Might want to rethink that when you realize that your friend Warman there is about to be investigated for intent-less hate speech. (Or at least we assume it was intent-less) By the way, any bets that the Warman case is going to be anything more than a rerun of today, nothing to see here folks, you can go home, everything was completely ethical thank you very much?

Question of whether demonization is subjective, for the record people, it is. Christians for example cannot be demonized. See above.

Moon ends on an interesting point that the HRC is not competent to handle Section 13 cases because they have a very broad definition of discrimination. That is probably as good an argument as any for why the HRC shouldn't have jurisdiction over a toothpick (although Moon considers it appropriate in non-speech cases).

So end the fun, games, and highjinks at your friendly Parliamentary Committee.

“Another such victory over hate speech, and we are undone.”

Something which should be running through Jennifer Lynch's head on a regular basis these days.

(By the way, this is a commentary on the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights yesterday, see my event blog post below for context.)

Jennifer Lynch, head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission seemed to have one agenda and one only at the committee, look how great we are! Canada needs us so much, it is so lucky to have us! Aren't you just so proud of me?

Savor it bloggers, let it linger on your tongue. Only a desperate person would need that much frantic self-esteem therapy.

She also broke the Guinness world record for most use of the words "balancing", "equality", "vulnerable" and "untruthful" in a serious speech. Okay so nix the serious speech bit, but anyway.

Then there was her habit of pausing for a long time before answering any questions. It made her sound as though she hadn't expected that question and was scrambling to figure out how to respond to it. It didn't improve her appearance of honesty. Honest answers are easy, figuring out how to lie consistently is much harder.

By the way, guess who Lynch was sitting beside during the second hour of the meeting? Richard Warman who is under investigation for hate speech. I'll let you draw any conclusions about the appropriateness of that.

The strawman in the room is the phrase "unfettered freedom of speech". How many times does Ezra have to give his disclaimer about of course it's not unfettered before they will stop talking about "some people". Having got that out of the way, what is ironic about pointing to the Charter in support of freedom of speech? Lynch does it herself. The issue is, what constitutes a reasonable limitation? That is not something that you can directly bring out of the Charter itself without reference to other tradition and law.

She is at least qualified to lead a human rights commission in one way, someone so intolerant of criticism directed at her would probably be very sensitive to anyone else's feelings. Except Levant and Steyn's of course. I wonder if Levant should bring a libel case against Lynch for calling him a liar. It would at least force all the evidence into the open.

The Commission provided a complete and balanced report? Does anyone believe that after today? Probably not. Really, big surprise. A government bureocracy found that, when all the evidence was in, they preformed a vital function, weren't corrupt, and shouldn't be fired.

Hate speech strikes at the root of equality if you didn't know. Let me guess, freedom of speech also strikes at the root of government too. Or are we not quite there yet? (Mind you if criticism of government wasn't allowed then Section 13 wouldn't be in danger and thus equality for millions wouldn't be jeopardized... Thomas Friedman said "One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks, but when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century." He was talking about environmental issues but maybe he and the HRC should have some talks...)

Does anyone else find it funny that when we are talking about extreme, demonizing, dehumanizing speech, a case actually made it to the tribunal and the victim never even bothered to show up? Just a thought, just a thought.

Why should I even bother to comment on her comments about the strongest ethics of her employees? Truth is stranger than fiction after all. Well almost, Jennifer Lynch's fictions that an entire department worth of civil servants have never deviated from the straight and narrow is so weird that it might almost be stranger than fiction. She should remember that she is talking to a group of MPs who know what civil servants are like, not a bunch of lay people. She likes that term by the way, lay people. So helpful for condescendingly marginalizing her opponents.

The HRC are servants of the public, far above petty squabbling and libel suits. They much prefer private drive by smears and avoiding debates. After all, you just never know what might come out in they have already found out.

What about the Neo-Nazi postings? The commission did no such thing, that event never happened. Well maybe it did happen but only once. And it was harmless and bland.

Lemay seems to think that Section 13 is quite clear and doesn't need amending or repealing.

I like Mr. Woodworth's comments about it not being fear but a fierce affection for freedom of speech that drives Canadians. Lynch's answer is almost totally off topic.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Event Blogging: Jennifer Lynch, CJC, and Richard Moon before the Committee on Justice and Human Rights

House of Commons
Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
Review of the Canadian Human Rights Act (Section 13)

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a transcript but a summary of the events and speeches in my own words. It it a very rough summary for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only, not the speakers' exact words, or even very close to their exact words. It also probably contains many errors due to the speed with which I had to take it down. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk and consult the official videos and/or transcripts if you want to know anything for sure.

The meeting starts on a high point of irony, the committee being seated under a painting representing the "Spirit of the Printed Word" Savour it people.

Jennifer Lynch was up first, alternating between English and French every few minutes.

She is pleased to be here and to contribute to the discussion. Introduces Philippe Dufresne (Who did not, for the record, speak).

The rights to equality and dignity and the rights to freedom of speech are not new. The role of the commission is to provide competent and balanced help in navigating this difficult issue.

Parliament established the Human Rights Act to help foster equality, in Canada we are committed to multiculturalism. The HR Act brings a powerful vision to Canada.

{Quotes Section 2 of Act} This is what inspires them.

The Human Rights Commission brings access to justice for the most vulnerable members of society. They have heard thousands of cases and achieved many victories. These victories include improving accessibility to public transportation, bank machines, and some television programming. Protecting workers from all kinds of harassment, supporting aboriginal rights, and supporting the rights of working mothers.

Discrimination and hate speech continue in Canada. Freedom from discrimination is a Charter right, thus it is ironic that people point to the Charter in support of unfettered freedom of speech.

This debate has been mostly decided by Parliament already. The Commission has narrowly applied Section 13 according to the Dixon ruling {quoted the Dixon ruling} The Macleans case is a perfect example of how well the Commission works. While the speech was offensive, it did not meet the strict criteria of hate speech and was therefore dismissed. This was the only case heard against mainstream media.

The Commission does not regulate offensive speech. Some people have been levelling unsubstantiated charges against the commission, even before this committee, referring to them as psychologically disturbed, dress-up Nazis, and comparing them to Saddam Hussein. Allegations made against commissioners Sandy Kozak and Dean Stacy are irresponsible, hurtful, and untrue.

The Commission serves the public interest and serves Parliament. They provided a complete and balanced analysis to Parliament on the situation. Professor Moon released his findings on the matter. After all the research was done, the HRC found that an administrative answer to hate speech, as well as the criminal code provisions, was necessary. The goal of the hate speech laws is to remove the hate speech; the goal of the Criminal Code is to punish the perpetrator.

The HRC recommends amending, not abolishing, Section 13. Hate Speech strikes at the core of equality. Canada must not waver in her commitment to equality.

Brian Murphy

The Committee heard Mr. Levant's evidence before, most of it seemed evidentiary and procedural. In Mr. Murphy's opinion there needs to be a broad debate on Section 13 and hate speech. Levant was arguing that we should limit it to the Criminal Code, speech that relates to violence. President Obama in America also seems to be moving toward similar legislation. Section 13 is not that. It prosecutes extreme speech that Justice Dixon described as being "extreme ill-will" and "calumny" These are very old fashioned words, do you think we need to update our terminology? Move towards a more American approach? Stay the same?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC is here to protect equality. Hate speech can cause harm. It strikes at the root of equality and exposes people to discrimination and in extreme cases violence. The HRC is comfortable with the way Section 13 has been applied. The statistics speak for themselves in this regard. Of 70 or so complaints that have been brought to the commission only 21 were found to be hate. Of the 19 that went to the Tribunal, 16 were finally convicted. In a recent case the material was found to be hate speech but the law was not applied because of the penalty provision. In another case, neither of the parties showed up.

The HRC doesn't regulate offensive speech, Dixon only allows for the regulation of extreme speech.

The Act should be amended so that is clear.

Serge Menard

Mr. Menard has a good understanding of the Quebec system but didn't understand how important the federal commission was. He thought this was covered under provincial systems.

Now that the Tribunal has found Section 13 unconstitutional, where do things stand?

Jennifer Lynch

The Commission has appealed for judicial review. Section 13 was more often subject to penalty than mediation. We appealed because the Tribunal can't declare something unconstitutional because of the way it is applied.

Serge Menard

That was not his question, he wanted to know where it is now, is it at the appeal level?

Jennifer Lynch

The Commission is a screening body, the Tribunal hears cases.

The appeal will go to the federal court.

Serge Menard

How do you live with this?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC always processes cases according to their rules and responsibilities. There is only once case in the works right now and we will only be seeking the public interest not penalties.

Serge Menard

The Moon Report recommended that Section 13 be repealed but suggested reforms if it was not repealed. What do you suggest?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC filled its special report and in it they analyzed Moon's report. They recommend that Section 13 not be repealed. They recommend that it be reformed.

Moon suggested that the definition of hate should be inciting and condoning violence. The Commission does not agree because that definition is too narrow. Moon also brings up procedural issues, for example that only the commission, and not individuals could bring complaints. The Commission doesn't agree. However the Moon report was very helpful to the commission.

Joe Comartin

When Levant and Steyn were here they made very serious allegations. Has any analysis and investigation been done by the commission into these matters?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC play a vital role in access to justice and thus we must have a fair and transparent process. Employees of the Commission have the strongest ethics and have not erred from them. This storm of allegation has unfortunately been taken as fact.

Canadians can have pride in the commission's employees.

Joe Comartin

Have you conducted a detailed investigation?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC has conducted an internal inquiry and so has the RCMP and the Privacy Commissioner. There has been no breach of ethics or law by any employee.
Joe Comartin

Has any civil lawsuit been brought against Levant?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC is a servant of the public, leaders and catalysts in equality.

The accusations are unfortunate and untrue.

Joe Comartin

Also libellous if not true.

Jennifer Lynch

The organization cannot bring libel suits. The Department of Justice will support legal costs in defence, not costs to bring charges.

The HRC has responded to these accusations in other ways.

The debate is how they balance two fundamental Charter rights.

Joe Comartin

Did you examine the practices in other countries with similar systems?

Jennifer Lynch

There are approximately 150 countries that signed legislation protecting people from hate and hate speech. Canada is one of the few that covers the internet. They could provide more information if desired.

Brent Rathberger

He is very confused and concerned. You say that the allegations are untrue and unsubstantiated.

You say there will be no libel suit because of the costs to individuals. The HRC doesn't have that downside because complainants don't need a lawyer.

Jennifer Lynch

Canada is fortunate enough to have a place where vulnerable people can go for justice.

Brent Rathberger

But defendants don't have that advantage?

Jennifer Lynch

They don't need council, the process is informal.

They have recommended that the Tribunal have authority to award costs in exceptional cases.

Brent Rathberger

Is there a Code of Ethics?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC employees subscribe to the Public Servant's code of ethics. Their lawyers also subscribe to lawyer's ethics codes etc.

Brent Rathberger

Dean Stacey posted on a Neo-Nazi site under a false name. Is that ethical?

Jennifer Lynch

The Commission and its staff did no such thing. That event never happened. We have statute to investigate hate so staff did go to Nazi sites for that.

Brent Rathberger

Steacy said he had posted under Jadewarr.

Jennifer Lynch

Steacy did make one post, it had nothing to do with hate speech. He also engaged in a very bland email trail.

Brent Rathberger

Jadewarr was a private citizen's domain.

Jennifer Lynch

No it wasn't, you are getting confused.

Marlene Jennings

The HRC recommend a clear definition of hate speech as in the Taylor case. If that happens the commission should have power to dismiss complaints at an early date if it does not have jurisdiction over it. This power it does not currently have.

Why does the commission not have power to prosecute at the tribunal? The Commission is not a party in the complaint when it goes before the tribunal.

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC has power to initiate complaints and is in fact considering doing it more. A while ago the HRC represented the public interest in every case before the Tribunal but for various reasons they only do so occasionally now.

Lay people are confused and need clarification.

Marlene Jennings

Individuals should bring cases to the commission but the commission should prosecute at the Tribunal level.

Marc Lemay

Before you amend law you must be very careful. LeMay has read the Moon report. However he thinks that Section 13 would be difficult to amend as it now stands {Sec 13 1 and 3} Considering other HR Act sections we cannot just amend Section 13. He does not agree with repealing the section.

What about Section 13 is not working?

Jennifer Lynch

Section 13 cases represent less than 2% of HRC cases. One case in particular has become prominent. In response to this concern they did an in-depth analysis.

The HRC supports the amending of Section 13 so that it is better understood.

The HRC has an obligation to investigate every case in its jurisdiction. They think that this should be changed so that the commission can dismiss complaints early if needed.

Stephen Woodworth

You say that ordinary people don't have to fear being prosecuted for offensive speech. When he goes door to door and hears people talk about this, which he does, he doesn't hear fear. He hears a fierce affection for freedom of speech.

The Commission does have punitive measures such as speech bans. Mr. Woodworth was in the judicial system for over 30 years and even though there were extreme safeguards, the judicial system still made mistakes.

Constituents are concerned that free speech does not have the same safeguards. For example why not award cost in every case where the accused was innocent?

Jennifer Lynch

The HRC must find a balance between freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination. This balance was achieved in Taylor.

The HRC are an administrative body, the language of prosecution does not apply to them. The tribunal is quasi-judicial, they don't prosecute either.

The HRC follows justice, freedom of expression is protected as the statistics have shown.

Section 2 of the Charter protects freedom of speech. Section 15 protects equality and freedom of discrimination. Section 1 says that everything in the Charter is subject to reasonable limitations.

Stephen Woodworth

You missed my point, I was talking about procedure.

Richard Moon

In his report he recommended repeal of Section 13 and that hate speech cases should be handled by the Criminal Code.

Censorship should only be about violence. The failure to ban this type of extreme speech on the internet is a problem because on the internet it can avoid a critical public and encourage violence.

Other less extreme but offensive and harmful speech should not be banned because to do so would involve extraordinary state power and would damage freedom of speech. Other ways should be found to deal with this type of speech.

Freedom of speech is affected every time a complaint is heard, even if it is dismissed. The commission must hear all complaints that are not vexatious or trivial, and they may be reluctant to dismiss any case because to label it trivial would downplay the hurt feelings of the victim.

Individuals should not be complainants. Hate speech because of it’s nature, is usually only found by those who are looking for it or who stumble upon it. The burden in time, money, and in some cases threats, of going through with a hate speech case should not be born by individuals.

In addition, going on Neo-Nazi website is fraught with such ethical difficulties that it should not be handled by individuals.

The HRC shouldn’t be involved in hate speech cases.

The media seems to focus on people who are more interested in personal attacks than debate, they talk about things like a 100% conviction rate, racist postings, and “crazy” cases like the MacDonald’s cases.

Section 13 should be repealed.

Bernie Farber

For 90 years the CJC has represented the broadest cross-section of Jewry and advocated on their behalf. In Jewish tradition we believe that words are very powerful and that evil words can have evil consequences.

He introduces their President, Freiman, an expert in Constitutional law and involved in the Ernst Zundel case.

Mark Freiman

The CJC believes that it is important to protect the vulnerable. Section 13 is constitutionally appropriate because it only deals with dangerous speech. The CJC does not believe that the Criminal Code by itself is an adequate substitute.

It is not advisable to restrict hate speech laws to only material that advocates violence.

Section 13 is not without problems. There can be improvements in weeding out frivolous cases, speeding up the process, and protecting respondents.

There is a need to understand the context. Section 13 does not deal with speech in the abstract or even with all speech. It only deals with speech delivered via telecommunication methods. Censoring speech is common practice, TV networks for example do it all the time. Canada has defamation laws, contempt of court, advertisement laws, pornography rules, these are all limits on speech.

This legislation prevents harm and danger. Is hate speech harmful? Yes, you have only to look at Nazi, anti-Tutsi, etc. propaganda to know that.

Does Section 13 deal with only dangerous speech or also with politically incorrect speech? Only dangerous speech that dehumanizes, says that people are worthless based on their group. That such groups have no redeeming features.

Demonizing precedes violence. If society wants to protect people then it must start there, not with violence.

Human rights law appropriately focuses on messages not people.

Is Violence key? Violence is the spur but by that time it is too late. It must be stopped at the demonization stage.

The HRC is not dangerous or biased. The Dixon definition is a good one. There is also the appeals system as additional protection.

Things could be improved if the commission could reject complaints at an early stage, sometimes award costs, and have more specialisation.

Brian Murphy

Freiman said that words can do harm. He also reviewed Shakedown and agreed with Levant that there are some procedural issues.

Levant is a minority but makes that case that he can defend himself. Times have changed, the holocaust won’t happen again. Is he naïve? Would Section 13 or equivalent have prevented genocide?

Mark Freiman

No, Section 13 couldn’t have prevented genocide if other forces were in play. However the constant demonization of Jews helped Nazis by anesthetising the population so that they looked the other way when the holocaust started.

Yes, Levant is naïve, he believes history has stopped.

Brian Murphy

Do you think a balance has been struck in the tension between freedom of speech and anti-demonization?

Mark Freiman

There could be improvement.

Canada has a very broad definition of expression, even including such things as lap dancing and pornography.

Bernie Farber (I Believe)

Only 60 years ago over 6 million Jews were killed in one of the worst genocides in history. Just a few days ago in the Jewish Memorial Gardens swastikas and racist comments were written on tombstones in the sacred burial grounds. (Pictures of this were passed around)

Does Canada want to allow this?

Marc Lemay

If he heard correctly Freiman doesn’t want to appeal Section 13 but would support clarification. Mr. Lemay believes Section 13 is already quite clear.

Mark Freiman

Section 13 is already clear but you could amend it to include Dixon’s definition.

Marc Lemay

Is there really a need to include Dixon?

Mark Freiman

There is no need but it could be done if people want to.

There are administrative issues that can be improved. Specialization, dismissal of complaints, staff staying on the job and not rotating out.

Marc Lemay

Does Moon share your opinion?

Richard Moon

It would be more appropriate to repeal Section 13. Improvements could be made but they would not be good enough. If it was amended it should require intent and measure impact.

The cases finally convicted by the tribunal were very extreme., it is what comes prior to that which is the problem.

Joe Comartin (I believe)

Moon made a lengthier article submission to a law school, can the committee see that before it is published?

Richard Moon

That shouldn’t be a problem, it is a lengthier version of a speech he gave recently.

Joe Comartin (I believe)

How can demonizing speech be dealt with?

Richard Moon

Hate speech laws should only focus on violence. It is not necessary to prove that violence actually happened, but using violence is a measure of extremity. Indeed all of the Section 13 convictions were so extreme that they could almost be criminal.

There needs to be a consideration of intent.

Mark Freiman

These debates are profitable unlike some others.

The intent provision is dangerous. We need to focus on words not people. Dehumanization and demonizing are indirect incitements to violence. You will never be able to prove a state of mind.

Marc Lemay

Can Moon comment on specialization and intent?

Richard Moon

He didn’t look into specialization much. There is no reason why not, although it might not be practical.

There are criminal code provisions such as 320.1 which enables government to take down material without bringing charges. This is not used enough.

Brent Rathberger

It is reprehensible to defame Jewish headstones, synagogues, etc but what protection was Section 13 against that?

Mark Freiman Or Bernie Farber (Sorry)

Section 13 acts as an official denunciation. It may be superfluous but it may not be. Would taking down websites prevent this? He doesn’t know but it might be helpful if the internet wasn’t there to incite this kind of thing.

Brent Rathberger (I think)

They were criminal acts not covered under section 13

Mark Freiman Or Bernie Farber (Sorry)

Perhaps the use of civil cases could help to educate young people that this is not acceptable.

Brent Rathberger

His problem is “Likely to expose”. You said “demonizing and dehumanizing”, who gets to define that?

Moon says that Criminal Code is best, will section 319 need amending? Not advocating violence is not a criminal code defence.

Richard Moon

Yes there would be a need to look at the Criminal Code, it might be acceptable, he doesn’t know. There are concerns with issues like the Attorney General having to approve cases. That might need to be looked into.

Marlene Jennings

Commission should have carriage of case before tribunal.

Does not agree with Rathberger that demonization is subjective.

Richard Moon

In his report he did recommend that the committee have carriage.

Mark Freiman

Demonization is not subjective. The word “likely” as used in this law doesn’t mean anything, it is the same as if it said exposes someone to hatred.

Marc Lemay

He has his answers and is meditating on them.

Joe Comartin

Should there be a better definition of skills for commissioners?

Answer (Possibly Moon)

Yes, better control is always good.

Russ Hiebert

Alan Borovoy says section 13 stifles freedom of press, has no defence of truth, and is too vague. There is support for recovery of costs sometimes, why not always?

Richard Moon

He suggested repeal so did not give much thought to costs. It would make sense to have more support for people who are targeted.

The law does appear vague but legislation narrows it. The problem is not with the language of the law but it’s location within a body that regulates discrimination.

The HRC has a wide definition of discrimination, the hate speech laws require a narrow definition. Therefore the HRC should not be regulating it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Round-Up, Shriveling Weeds and Catching Horses

On the subject of freedom to shut up, the Vancouver Olympics is looking likely to become an exercise in exactly how totalitarian can we get while everyone is distracted watching scantily clad people figure skating. How about... only "celebratory" signs or a $10,000 fine and 6 months in jail?

Official word is that only has to do with "ambush marketing" not speech critical of the Olympics. Except that....the bylaw doesn't specify that. It seems the B.C. Civil Liberties Union, amongst others, is not amused.

Good news is that the Prime Minister has come in on the side of free speech, saying that freedom of speech " what our country is all about". News flash Mr. Harper, Sir. Unless you want to have the press howling the word hypocrite at you, you might want to consider the connection between that statement and Section 13. Why shouldn't Vancouver expect to get away with it if YOUR people in Ottawa can?

There will however be "free speech zones" which in the mind of some people should be enough to satisfy everyone. If I may be so bold as to reprint a letter to the editor written by someone on a similar occasion,

"In light of SUU officials plan to designate "Free Speech Zones" on campus, I thought I'd offer my assistance. Grab a map. OK, ready?

All right, you see that big area between Canada and Mexico, surrounded by lots of blue ink on the East and West? You see it?

There's your (my edit) Free Speech Zone.

Jeffrey Wilbur

Senior communication major from Bountiful"

If I could venture a criticism Mr Wilbur I would change it to, "...see that big area above Mexico surrounded by lots of blue ink on the East and West and white paint along the top?"

For the record, if anyone can find me a "I am critical of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics" button for my sidebar, I'll put it up. I don't think Vancouver has jurisdiction in Ontario. Hope not anyway.

Britain's "The Guardian" has decided to play a 1984. History we don't like, doesn't exist. And since we don't like the idea that Israelis could achieve anything worthy of recognition, they haven't.

By the way, you should notice that the Israelis who won, Shimon Perez, Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin, won for their peace treaties with the Arabs. The Arabs who took part in the treaties and shared the Nobel prizes, Yasser Arafat and Anwar Sadat, weren't edited out. So here is our lesson for the day, why should Israel attempt peace when the world is going to hate and censor them if they try?

I know. The Guardian is sick. Actually worse than sick.

Gotta love this passage: "Parent, if you have a young son and you want him to grow up to be a man, then you need to keep him away from pop culture, public school and a lot of Nancy Boy churches. If metrosexual pop culture, feminized public schools and the effeminate branches of evanjellycalism lay their sissy hands on him, you can kiss his masculinity good-bye—because they will morph him into a dandy." Doug Giles (Apparently his girls don't rate very high on the sissy list either. Not while taking down ACORN in their spare time anyway)

Quote of the Month

"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion." Harvey Weinstein with reference to why they are supporting Roman Polanski.

Hey keep it down back there, don't you know that you can choke to death if you laugh too hard?

P.S. Double points to anyone who can identify the compass picture and why it is significant.

" school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make."

Because NO ONE does impartial and common sense like the government....Oh wait, school boards are the government, right? My head hurts.