Sunday, December 09, 2007


The Canadian Human Rights Commissions were established in 1978 to address so-called human right violations against Canadians who would otherwise not be able to address their grievances in a court of law. They are, essentially, extra-judicial courts that are not obliged to follow legal procedures or govern their decisions according to any written laws. They are, in short, a law unto themselves.

The Tribunals are empowered to suspend the laws protecting citizens, ignore due process and the rules of evidence. They are adjudicated by non-elected lay people with no legal experience, chosen according to an unaccountable process in which insiders recommend their friends from various activist organisations on the extreme left.

A person denounced to the HRC must pay for the legal costs of his defence whereas the person making the complaint has his expenses paid by the state. If the "defendant" is found guilty, he must pay the costs of the entire process. The Tribunal may impose fines and "re-education" and if the defendant wants to appeal, again, he must shoulder the costs himself.

It is time to put a stop to it. (Before other countries get the same ideas.)

Click here:

Jackbooting Us

Sunday Spectator,
Ottawa Citizen
December 9, 2007

Suing for silence
The right to free expression of opinion and belief -- though constrained in its extremes during wartime -- is not something that can be negotiated in a free country. For it is the most fundamental right -- the queen bee in the hive, as it were. Every other freedom depends on this freedom. Take it away, and we no longer have a free country.

A misunderstanding about this is at the root of much conflict between East and West. When cartoonists were invited by a Danish provincial newspaper to present their graphic notions of the Prophet Mohammad, there were riots right across the Muslim world. Danish, or what were believed to be Danish, targets were struck. (The right to riot, with the attendant rights to assault, vandalism, pillage, arson and so forth, are not among our fundamental rights.) Boycotts were placed on Danish products, and diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Muslim countries pressured both the Danish government and the European Union of which it is a member, to punish the cartoonists. They demanded new legislation across Europe that would criminalize any future blasphemy against Islam.

The Danes, and the few allies who would stand with them in the heat, found themselves hopelessly explaining that in Denmark the government does not tell journalists what to write, or cartoonists what to draw. It is not in the power of a government to do that -- the courts are there to prevent a government from trying -- and the system can't be changed without overthrowing everything. You might not like what is expressed -- and you have the freedom to express your revulsion, even ignorantly -- but you have, and ought to have, no power to silence the people with whom you disagree.

This is an idea quite incomprehensible in Saudi Arabia, and nearly incomprehensible in Egypt. Their representatives were sincerely outraged by the failure of the Danish government to “take decisive action.” In their own countries, decisive action would have been taken.

We, in the West, do not legislate for the Dar al-Islam (the Muslim realm). On the contrary, we endure the fallout from countries in which, because the right to free speech is not secure, opposition to authority must be expressed through violence.

I make this hard point because it is necessary to understand. “Freedom of expression” did not develop in the West from purely idealistic motives. Nor is it necessarily a pretty thing. Like so much in civil society, we put up with it because the alternative is worse, and we'd rather cope with free speech, than with the free intimidation that results from its suppression.

And I make this point in light of the case that has been brought against Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine, before Human Rights Commissions for Canada, British Columbia, and Ontario, by the Canadian Islamic Congress, led by Mohamed Elmasry. The first two commissions have already agreed to hear the case, and thus rule on whether Mark Steyn had the right to express the opinions and beliefs in his bestselling book, America Alone, and specifically in the excerpt entitled, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” which ran in Maclean's last year. According to the complaint, by expressing his opinions and beliefs, Mark Steyn “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia.”

That not all Muslims agree, has been made clear by members of the Muslim Canadian Congress, who have entered the fray in defence of Steyn and Maclean's. But that is a tactical side issue.

For more than twenty years, in this column and elsewhere, I have been writing against the human rights commissions, which have quasi-legal powers that should be offensive to the citizens of any free country. They are kangaroo courts, in which the defendant's right to due process is withdrawn. They reach judgements on the basis of no fixed law. Moreover, “the process is the punishment” in these star chambers -- for simply by agreeing to hear a case, they tie up the defendant in bureaucracy and paperwork, and bleed him for the cost of lawyers, while the person who brings the complaint, however frivolous, stands to lose nothing.

My hope is that this case against Mark Steyn and Maclean's will be fruitful. It will be, if it inspires enough people -- especially journalists, of all political persuasions -- to express outrage at what has been done; and inspires Canada's free citizens into the necessary political action to put an end to the human rights commissions themselves. The worst possible result, is if the case fails to produce this response.

David Warren
© Ottawa Citizen

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