Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Canada's Gift Warning to the world - the Banality of the Human Rights Tribunals

And the Youtube idea was a corker. With the Canadian government directly controlling all print and broadcast media in the country, there was no other way of getting the word out. Fortunately, there was no better way either. (The one I liked best, "What was your intent?" added 3 days ago, has been viewed 70,298 times as of this writing. And Ezra's YouTube page has reached #52 - Most Viewed out of millions of Youtube videos.

No one from the outside world has ever seen what actually takes place inside a Canadian star chamber.

It is so very typically Canadian. Utterly bland. Completely non-descript and apparently non-threatening. No need for hot pokers, we suppress human rights the civilized way.

But what's notable is not what's there, but what isn't. There are no witnesses allowed. The accused does not have the right to face his accuser in person. Only one member of the defence team is allowed to be present. No evidence is brought forward.

There is media coverage. This itself is news. In the official news media of the People's Republic of Canuckistan, we don't hear about the government's systematic suppression of democratic freedoms.

Montreal Gazette
Contrition wasn't on Ezra Levant's mind yesterday. The controversial conservative commentator went into an Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission hearing in Calgary with guns blazing, using his website to republish the same cartoons that got him into trouble in the first place.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald
WATCH OUT for the thought police, better known as Canada’s human rights commissions. Saying or publishing material that "offends" somebody – even if it does not remotely meet the legal standard of libel/slander or hate speech – can still land you in front of one of these government-created tribunals, forced to defend yourself, at your expense, in a legal twilight zone where normal judicial rules of evidence don’t apply.

and the good old National Post
A controversial conservative commentator was unrepentant going into a Human Rights and Citizenship Commission hearing yesterday, using his Web site to republish the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that got him into trouble in the first place.

"Contriteness implies that you've done something wrong for which you need to apologize or atone," Ezra Levant said moments before his 90-minute meeting with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission in Calgary.

None of whom, I might add, had the balls themselves to publish the cartoons two years ago.

And the fact that all's not well above the 49th, is getting attention in the world outside the Maple Leaf Curtain.

Australia: Too many rights make a wrong
CANADA: It was one of those rare, particularly sunny days in Vancouver in September when, addressing an audience at the University of British Columbia, I suggested that multiculturalism and its partner in crime, moral relativism, were leading to the demise of Western values.

"But you must understand," implored a well-intentioned woman in the audience, "multiculturalism is Canada's gift to the world."

If Australia is set to follow Canada, then thanks, but no thanks. Call me ungrateful, but we should have returned the gift to Canada long ago. I say that as someone who has long adored Canada. Its politics may be as dripping wet as Vancouver, but the people are warm and funny, and there is something sweet about the US's insecure, slightly wimpy northern neighbour. Yet there comes a point when weakness morphs into a reckless death wish....
I'm back in Canada and the distinct chill is not just in the air. Last Friday, conservative commentator Ezra Levant was hauled before Alberta's Human Rights and Citizenship Commission for publishing the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons two years ago in the Western Standard.

Syed Soharwardy, the head of Canada's Islamic Supreme Council, complained that Levant had incited hate against Muslims.

Levant's opening statement was a tour de force as far as punchy defences of free speech go. Apparently viewed almost 200,000 times, it is one of the most-watched clips on YouTube in recent times. It's also on his website, www.ezralevant.com, where he describes the chilling process: "No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts on behalf of the Government of Alberta. And she'll write up a report about it, and recommend that the Government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see ... a limp clerk who was just punching the clock. She had done it dozens of times before and will do it dozens of times again. In a way, that's more terrifying."

It was, said Levant, the epitome of Hannah Arendt's warning against "the banality of evil".

How not to build bridges
While giving due consideration to the myriad ways in which individuals can take offence, society must be careful not to go overboard either. There is, after all, such a thing as being too thin-skinned, and there is absolutely no reason for catering to wusses. But some areas or topics are highly sensitive - religion, race, sexual orientation, etc. - and do require special protection.

One such case involves Ezra Levant, the former publisher of the now-defunct Western Standard magazine, which continues on, under changed ownership, on the Internet. Back in 2005, a Danish newspaper triggered a wave of outrage and violence by publishing cartoons about the prophet Muhammad and Islam in general. Most media in the West decided against publishing the cartoons, except for Mr. Levant, who still went ahead and published them. He cited freedom of the press and his right to express his opinions at the time as reasons for the cartoons’ publication.

Legally and technically speaking, Mr. Levant was well within his rights to green-light the publication, and it is quite certain that he was motivated by the reasons he gave. Nevertheless, Syed Soharwardy, of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, filed a human-rights complaint against the Western Standard and Mr. Levant. Just as Mr. Levant had every right to publish the cartoons, Mr. Soharwardy was equally entitled to taking the measures he took.

And of course US bloggers galore:
The State Of Free Speech In Canada Is Not Good

A case study in resistance

On Free Speech

The Belmont Club
They said inquisitions couldn't happen in North American. Certainly not in the 21st century. But they have. Whether or not Ezra Levant is declared "innocent" or "guilty" by the Canadian Human Rights Commission of publishing the "Mohammed Cartoons" is beside the point. What is at issue is whether or not a Canadian government agency has the competence to punish someone for what in saner times would be considered a routine exercise in free speech. It is the legitimacy of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that is on trial here. They themselves are in the dock and they have put themselves there.

(Also, I didn't know that Ezra had said that Justin Trudeau was Canada's Paris Hilton, making a career out of being a celebrity. For that alone he deserves the Order of Canada.)

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