“Nice to see you all,” said Athanasios Hadjis, the Canadian “Human Rights” Tribunal’s vice-chair (i.e., judge), as he surveyed his courtroom in Ottawa last year. “More of an interest than there was before.”
Indeed. The packed benches that greeted him were a rare sight at a CHRT trial, and especially at the Marc Lemire trial, where the prosecutors—the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission—had demanded that everyone other than them be banned from the courtroom, including the defendant, who would be graciously permitted to watch proceedings by video. That doesn’t sound quite like the right to confront your accuser in open court. But hey, given all the other safeguards of Canada’s judicial inheritance the Dominion’s “human rights” regime trashes, what’s one more faggot on the bonfire of liberties?
Judge Hadjis was, by that stage, in the fifth year of the Canadian state’s investigation of Marc Lemire, webmaster of freedomsite.org and accused Section 13 hate-monger, and appeared from my seat in court anxious to throw the book at him. “We’re done,” he said at several points during the day, swatting aside some intervention or other. Jurisprudentially, Judge Hadjis was outta there and eager to add Mr. Lemire’s scalp to the CHRT’s trophy room. In that long ago spring of 2008, the rules were very simple: under the Canadian “Human Rights” Tribunal, to be accused of a Section 13 thought crime was to be convicted. In the entire history of Section 13, every defendant brought before the CHRT had been found guilty. It would be unfair to compare this to the justice systems of Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot, since even those eminent jurists felt obliged to let someone off once in a while just for appearances’ sake. Only in Canada was a 100 per cent conviction rate merely reassuring proof of the Dominion’s humane progressive commitment to “human rights.”
This month the wheels fell off the racket. On Sept. 2, Athanasios Hadjis in effect acquitted Marc Lemire of all charges but one. This unprecedented verdict is, as Joseph Brean reported in the National Post, “the first major failure of Section 13(i)” in its history. Was Mr. Lemire the beneficiary of a unique dispensation from the CHRT? No. Judge Hadjis pronounced the accused guilty of a Section 13 infringement on one narrow charge—an Internet post headlined “AIDS Secrets” that (in David Warren’s words) “went on rather tendentiously about blacks and homosexuals” and was written by someone other than Mr. Lemire. Nevertheless, the court declined to punish the defendant even for this infraction on the following grounds:
“I have also concluded that s. 13(1) in conjunction with ss. 54(1) and (1.1) are inconsistent with s. 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The restriction imposed by these provisions is not a reasonable limit within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter.”
When this magazine’s difficulties with Section 13 began in late 2007, received opinion took refuge in the weasel formulation that “of course we all believe in freedom of speech but it’s a question of striking a balance, drawing a line,” and other claptrap intended to appeal to Canadians’ sense of their own moderation. What a difference two years makes. As the Lemire decision demonstrates, today Section 13 has no friends other than its small band of direct beneficiaries such as serial plaintiff (and former CHRC employee) Richard Warman, Canada’s self-appointed Hatefinder-General. “Section 13 isn’t salvageable,” declared . . . well, go on, guess. Steyn? Ezra Levant? Some right-wing nut in the National Post? No, it was Canada’s biggest-selling newspaper and house organ of every moth-eaten Trudeaupian piety, the Toronto Star. This is a long campaign to restore ancient liberties that Canada gave up very carelessly. But, when statist social engineers have lost the Toronto Star, you know the wind’s blowing your way.
What explains Judge Hadjis’s belated conversion to the constitutional virtues of free speech? Less than two years ago, he thought nothing of imposing a fine and a lifetime speech ban on Jessica Beaumont, plus a $3,000 award to Richard Warman as his finder’s fee, for “hate speech” in the same general territory as Mr. Lemire’s was alleged to be. Why is Ms. Beaumont on a CHRT leash for life and Mr. Lemire free to hate again?
Er, well, um . . . As I often observed last year, under the poorly drafted and ideologically interpreted British Columbia “Human Rights” Code, Maclean’s and I were undoubtedly guilty. In fact, after the verdict Kenneth Whyte, this magazine’s head honcho, and I had a faintly surreal conversation discussing whether or not to appeal the acquittal: that’s how nutty Canadian justice is in the 21st century.
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