Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Monday, February 21, 2011

Liars Figure

I do not like to attack someone who is obviously a fellow conservative, but the truth is not served by covering up well, I might not be able to call it lies, but it isn't exactly straight forward either. Let's just be really charitable and call it sloppy writing. 
Take this chart and explanation here.

As tens of thousands of U.S. factories get shut down and as millions of our jobs get shipped overseas, the number of unemployed Americans continues to go up and up and up 

As you can see from the chart below, there has been a long-term trend of increasing unemployment in the United States.  In fact, there are about 3 and a half times as many unemployed workers in the United States today as there were when 1970 began.  These jobs losses are going to continue as long as we allow our corporations to pay slave labor wages to workers on the other side of the globe.  All of the major trends in global trade are very bad for the U.S. middle class.  For example, the U.S. trade deficit with China for 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990.  How long will our politicians stand by as our nation bleeds jobs? (Source)

What is missing from this chart? Anyone who says, "The numbers aren't controlled for population increases and thus aren't worth a plugged nickle" hits the bell and gets their choice of coconut or honey doughnut.

Obviously we have no interest in knowing whether the absolute number of unemployed people is increasing, that number can't prove anything whatsoever. What we would like to know is this, has the unemployment RATE consistently increased since 1970 as a result of overseas outsourcing?

Answer: No.

Here is the appropriate chart, compiled by yours truly, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Funny enough, until 2009-10, the unemployment rate in the United States seems to have been decreasing, not increasing since the mid 1970s. Just to confirm that, average unemployment rate per decade.

1950s: 4.51%
1960s: 4.78%
1970s: 6.21%
1980s: 7.27%
1990s: 5.75%
2000-2008: 4.61%

What we seem to see here is not a steadily increasing unemployment rate, but rather an unemployment level that increased to a peak in 1982 and has been declining, more or less steadily, ever since to lower levels than even in the 60s (pre-recession).

Is that a result of overseas outsourcing? Well one way to test that would be to look at imports as a percentage of GDP. That will tell us what percentage of goods and services that Americans consume were imported, a measure that will likely tell us something relevant about American companies moving overseas.

Doesn't really look like it declines after the 80s, in fact it seems to be pretty steep in the 2000s, while unemployment was very low.

So, combine a misleading graph with a not particularly defensible explanation...

Lesson for the day: Never believe a graph you can't prove yourself from the raw data.

Supreme Court Speech Decision

 In one of the more under commented on stories of the week:

The Supreme Court of Canada has come down 6-1 on the side of freedom of speech, and not just freedom in a disputable case, but freedom in quite an extreme case. Andre Arthur, a radio host, delivered a rant about Arab and Haitian cab drivers, saying that,
[translation]  Why is it that there are so many incompetent people and that the language of work is Creole or Arabic in a city that’s French and English?  . . .  I’m not very good at speaking “nigger”. . . .  [T]axis have really become the Third World of public transportation in Montreal. . . .  [M]y suspicion is that the exams, well, they can be bought.  You can’t have such incompetent people driving taxis, people who know so little about the city, and think that they took actual exams. . . .  Taxi drivers in Montreal are really arrogant, especially the Arabs.  They’re often rude, you can’t be sure at all that they’re competent and their cars don’t look well maintained.
The Court ruled that while the speech was racist, it was impossible to prove that it had caused personal harm to all the members of the class action lawsuit.

Apparently one of the things that Courts look for when deciding group defamation suits is the size of the group and how homogenous the group is. The smaller and more homogenous the group, the more likely a group libel action to succeed. For example, remarks about "women" or "lawyers" (or "Muslims" or "homosexuals" presumably) in general cannot constitute defamation, because the group is too large and diverse for the remarks to personally affect every member of the group.

The Court also decided that context was important (HRCs take note) and that Andre Arthur's reputation as an over the top "shock jock" meant that an "ordinary person" would be very unlikely to take the remarks as literal reputable truth (Note to self, cultivating reputation as controversial can help in defamation suits. Interesting.)

In general the Court decided that it was obvious the remarks were over the top, that no "ordinary person" would assume that they applied to each and every Arab and Haitian taxi driver in Montreal, and therefore it could not be said to personally discredit and damage every Arab and Haitian taxi driver in Montreal.

In other words, the Court soundly rejected the idea of any sort of corporate damage or group defamation. Defamation law only protects individuals, not groups.

Since the right to the protection of reputation, which is the basis for an action in defamation, is an individual right that is intrinsically attached to the person, only those who have suffered personal injury become entitled to compensation.  The requirement of proof of a personal injury contributes to maintaining the balance between freedom of expression and the right to the protection of reputation, and also applies where the defamatory comments are made about a group.  However, an individual will not be entitled to compensation solely because he or she is a member of a group about which offensive comments have been made.  The member or members of the group who bring an action must have sustained personal injury.(Bolds mine)
Whether the Supreme Court will extend this idea that rights belong to individuals, not groups, to human rights complaints I do not know. However I think it is clear from this ruling that the Supreme Court is not necessarily an enemy of freedom of speech, even in shocking cases, and thus the cases like Whatcott's that are heading towards the Supreme Court have, in my opinion, considerably better than a 50:50 chance of winning. 

Other interesting comments coming out of the ruling:

Freedom of expression is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 2(b), and the Charter of human rights and freedoms, R.S.Q., c. C‑12, s. 3 (“Quebec Charter”).  It is one of the pillars of modern democracy.  It allows individuals to become emancipated, creative and informed, it encourages the circulation of new ideas, it allows for criticism of government action and it favours the emergence of truth... Freedom of expression is essential in ensuring that social, economic and political decisions reflect the aspirations of the members of society.  It is broad in scope and protects well‑prepared speech and wrath‑provoking comments alike...  However, it is not absolute and can be limited by other rights in a democratic society, including the right to protection of reputation.
Rather well put if you ask me. Also, contrary to what might seem to be the case, the Supreme Court appears to view defamation law as evolving, towards a more full protection of freedom of speech.
What was an acceptable limit on freedom of expression in the 19th century may no longer be acceptable today.  Indeed, particularly in recent decades, the law of defamation has evolved to provide more adequate protection for freedom of expression on matters of public interest. 

All quotes from CanLII

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Iranium 2

So after the first shut down (see original story here) Iranium went on last night under the watchful eye of 17 security officers and some heavy duty police hanging around very conspicuously. It was all very boring, no protest, no teargas... but in compensation we did get to see a very interesting film. I think there were some youngsters their with disruptive intentions, they were sitting in front of me and were noticeably not applauding at the appropriate intervals. One of them was also holding a big mike on her lap. However in the end, whether due to the fact that the police were too intimidating or the movie too convicting, or both, there were no disruptions.

The crowd in general were very much on the side of the Free Thinking Film Festival, applauding at every available opportunity during the speech. There were several government officials there, MPs, Ministers, Senators. Some of them, including Heritage Minister James Moore, got up to speak (He got a standing ovation before he even said anything).

Deborah Gyapong has some pictures up of the event.

For those who missed it, I believe you can watch it free online for a limited time here. 

I got a recording of the Clare Lopez speech and Q and A which will go up just as soon as Blogger decides to cooperate with the upload.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ways to Describe a HRT Adjudicator's Words and Actions

"Patently unreasonable", "illogical", "unsupportable in law and fact", "legal errors", behaved "inexplicably", a "breach of principles of procedural fairness and natural justice", "it is simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator", "unsupported by factual findings","unfair", "failed to apply... legal principles", decision "fatally flawed", makes apparently contradictory findings, the decision "cannot be said to be rational or logical".

Who said all of that?
A) Ezra Levant
B) Mark Steyn
C) The Ontario Superior Court of Justice

The answer is, C, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a review of a HRTO decision.

Who was this patently unreasonable ruling against?  Maxcine Telfer, a Toronto immigrant businesswoman who runs an organization devoted to helping immigrant women settle in Canada.

Result of original patently unreasonable ruling? A $36,000 fine and an attempt to seize Ms. Telfer's house in payment that was only foiled by the Superior Court's ruling. 

Why? In the course of her business operations she hired Seema Saadi a legally-blind, Bengali-Canadian, Muslim social worker.  But, less than six weeks after Ms. Saadi started work Audmax, Telfer's organization, let Ms. Saadi go for cause. She sued, and the HRTO found that Ms Saadi had been discriminated against on the grounds of ancestry, ethnic origin, creed, and sex largely on the grounds of their microwave and dress codes.

You lose a house for enforcing rules about what you can put in a microwave? Apparently that is what the HRT now considers reasonable.

What happened?

Audmax had a strict environmental sensitivity that restricted the use of scented products or the heating of strong smelling food in the microwave. By even the admission of the Tribunal this microwave policy was strictly enforced on everyone, to the point that other people had just stopped using the microwave rather than risk running afoul of it. Apparently however, because Ms. Telfer couldn't provide a list of acceptable ingredients this "ambiguity leads to arbitrariness and the conditions for discriminatory enforcement." and therefore discipline resulting from violating the code was discrimination on the grounds of ancestry and ethnic origin although Ms. Saadi was not singled out for adverse treatment in this way and others were adversely affected by the rule as well. Indeed as the Superior Court pointed out, "It would appear from that factual conclusion (that she continued to use the microwave where others didn't) that the policy had less impact on Ms. Saadi than on others." Also the food was apparently not even hers, which shoots down the only remaining argument, that reheating strong-smelling food was an integral part of her ethnic identity. " I do not see how the ethnicity and ancestral rights of a Bengali-Canadian Muslim are adversely affected by being prevented from reheating somebody else’s Tunisian food."(Superior Court)

All in all the Superior Court said it best, " In short, the reasons do not disclose a rational basis for the conclusion that there was discrimination against Ms. Saadi in respect of the microwave policy. "

Dress code then? Was this a Hooters masquerading as a social work agency? 

Apparently Ms. Saadi always dressed in a "religiously appropriate" manner, and this never caused a problem indeed "Ms. Telfer often complimented the applicant on her fashion style." according to the HRT. However one day she came in wearing an outfit which, from the sandals and anklet, to the short skirt and leggings, to the weird hijab (unlike the traditional one she usually wore) Ms. Telfer considered unprofessional. This was apparently also discrimination, as a woman has the right to wear any form of headdress she wants if her religion mandates that she wears a headdress. In other words, Muslim women have the inalienable human right to show up at the office in a baseball cap or Mickey Mouse ears, and win tens of thousands of dollars if anyone suggests that is unprofessional. Gotcha. 

The Superior Court pointed this out in vivid language.

 "In my view, the adjudicator proceeded on an illogical, and legally incorrect, course of reasoning.  First, he held that what Ms. Saadi was wearing on the day in question was consistent with her religious requirements.  Second, he held that what Ms. Saadi was wearing was, at least according to the employer, inconsistent with the dress code.  He therefore concluded that the dress code violated Ms. Saadi’s religious rights.  The logical step that the adjudicator missed was a consideration of whether it was possible for Ms. Saadi to comply with the dress code without compromising her religious requirements.  There was nothing about Ms. Saadi’s religion that required her to wear the particular form of hijab she was wearing on the day in question.  If it was possible for her to wear a religiously acceptable form of hijab that was fully consistent with the dress code (as indeed she had done every day for six weeks), her religious rights were not affected.  All that was affected was her sense of style, which apparently was in conflict with that of her employer.....
If she chose, for example, to wear a battered old sweatshirt and baggy flannelette pants, the requirements of her religion would likely be met, but surely her employer could legitimately complain that this was not suitable attire for a professional office environment.
[88]           The adjudicator in this case made an irrational decision by concluding that discrimination had been established any time an item of clothing was questioned and that clothing complied with the requirements of the complainant’s religion.  He ought to have considered whether the dress code, or the employer’s enforcement or interpretation of it, conflicted with what the employee was required to wear as part of her religion."

Wow, did you see that wizzing by the left hand window? Logic! Savor the moment kids, you may not see that again for a long time.

The Superior Court has also determined that it is not de facto discrimination if a man is in the room during a discussion of  acceptable female business attire. Good to know.

There were other matters in the ruling but these were the primary ones.

One of the most grotesque errors on the part of the HRT was drawing negative inferences from the absence of a key witness, and thus working on the assumption that there was no reason to believe the accusations against Ms. Saadi which led to her termination. What the HRT left out of their ruling but the Superior Court caught and harped on, was that the key witness was going to testify until he was called away by a family emergency, tried to submit his testimony via sealed envelope which the tribunal refused to even open, and that Ms. Telfer, being unrepresented, was too ignorant of her rights to request an adjournment until he could testify. The Superior Court considered all of this horrifyingly unfair, especially as the Tribunal arguably had a duty to inform Ms. Telfer that she had the right to adjourn, and the fact that they decided that Ms. Telfer was lying about Ms. Saadi because she failed to produce testimony that Ms. Telfer had tried to produce but the Tribunal had disallowed just compounded the travesty of the entire ruling.

The National Post and The Star had a lot to say about the fact that Ms. Saadi had her lawyers paid for by the government, while Ms. Telfer was unrepresented because she couldn't afford a lawyer. That the deck was stacked against Ms. Telfer by not letting her key witness testify. And that the government is now paying Ms. Saadi's fine while Ms. Telfer would have lost her house to pay hers.

As Ms. Saadi said, presumably after the Superior Court overturn, "I am a little bit surprised and a little bit confused about how the justice system works,”.

Aren't we all.

Although I think she and I would be referring to different aspects of the "justice" system.

And yes Faisal Bhabha, I am talking about you, and all your HRTO buddies.

As I always say, when The Star and The Post agree that the Human Rights system is out of control, it must be really, really, out of control.