Globe Calls for Repeal of Human Rights Thought Control Laws

Dear Free Speech Supporter:

 

The proponents of thought control in Canada are in a panic. The League For Human Rights of B’nai Brith, one of the fiercest friends of censorship recently appeared to jump ship and call for “reforms” and “tweaking” of Canada’s wildly misnamed “human rights” laws. Their reforms would mean little, Significantly, they have not reversed their position on the constitutionality of Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – the Internet censorship provision. They continue to intervene against censorship victim Marc Lemire and to oppose his constitutional challenge to this ham handed piece of thought control.

 

Today, the Globe and Mail (August 9, 2008) weighed in and again demanded that legislation silencing words, not discriminatory actions, should be repealed.

 

 

Paul Fromm

Director

CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR FREE EXPRESSION

 

HUMAN-RIGHTS COMMISSIONS

Beyond dismissal, repeal

The dismissal of a human-rights complaint by a Muslim group against the Western Standard magazine is a good development in the series of such proceedings across the country. Even so, human-rights commissions should not be in a position to pass judgment on whether media reports and commentary are "likely to expose a class of persons to hatred or contempt," as the Alberta statute in question puts it, much as its several equivalents do elsewhere in Canada.

Controversy over the role of Islam in world politics is looming over the age-old debate on freedom of speech and its limits. In this case, the Western Standard had republished the Danish cartoons of 2005 depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a symbol of militant Islamism.

The complaint was made in May, 2006, and dragged on far too long. But Alberta is rather better off with its human-rights legislation than some other provinces; an ambiguous nod to freedom of expression has been fairly interpreted as an "admonition to balance."

The Alberta Human Rights Commission's investigator, who recommended against sending the complaint on to a panel for a hearing, took into account that admonition, observing that the Danish cartoons were newsworthy and a matter of public concern, and that the Western Standard had published them with commentary, and then showed some balance by publishing letters of varied opinions on this subject.

These considerations are healthy, since other human-rights statutes in Canada are lacking in protections for news reporting and fair comment, a point that was vigorously raised in the defence against a similar complaint against Maclean's magazine at the B.C. Human Rights Commission - a case in which judgment has been reserved since June.

Both the Alberta and the federal commissions in the recent sequence of complaints have rightly cited a Supreme Court of Canada judgment which held that, to comply with the Charter, the hate-speech sections of human-rights would have to aim only at genuinely virulent hatred.

In the end, though, human-rights commissions should advise their respective legislatures to repeal these dangerously vague sections, so that those who exercise the freedom of speech and press are no longer harassed by such complaints.