By Mark Steyn - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
As I have said, section 13 is not a right-left thing
“Coloured people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it.”
Thus, Ray Bradbury in his prescient 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. On June 6, the day after Bradbury’s death at the age of 91, the House of Commons passed Brian Storseth’s private member’s bill repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Fahrenheit 451 draws its name from the temperature at which books burn; Canada’s Fahrenheit 13 is its frosty northern inverse—the temperature at which the state chills freedom of expression. Free speech is the lifeblood of free societies, and, as this magazine has learned over the last half-decade, our decayed Dominion was getting a bad case of hypothermia.
We’re not alone in this. In Britain, Australia, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and many other places, democratic societies have become far too comfortable in policing the opinions of the citizenry. But even by comparison with our Commonwealth cousins and Western Europe, Section 13 and its provincial equivalents are repugnant—practically, philosophically, and operationally.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Five years, two tribunals, secret hearings, a court challenge and a turning point
For all the passion it stirred, you’d think it would get a noisier send-off. An ovation, maybe. Or tears. Instead, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act slipped quietly beneath the waves last week during a night-time sitting of the House of Commons—victim of a private member’s bill and a trailer load of toxic publicity. Brian Storseth, Conservative MP for Westlock-St. Paul, had glanced anxiously around the chamber as his kill bill went through its third reading. “The benches weren’t full,” he recalls. “That always makes for a bit of extra heart pumping.”
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson had voiced support for the legislation. So had the Prime Minister. The result, then, was never in doubt: at 9:35 p.m. on June 6, by a vote of 153-136, Parliament got Canada’s human rights bureaucrats out of the business of policing speech on the Internet. There was a scattering of applause, and handshakes for Storseth (the bill requires the rubber stamp of Senate approval). “To be honest, it’s all a blur,” says the three-term MP, laughing. But if the passage of Bill C-304 represents a fundamental shift in Canadian culture, you’d never have known it that night. Members dealt with a few housekeeping matters, then waded through a supply bill. Finally, one by one, they trickled out into the cool Ottawa night.
The effect of killing Section 13 will be debated for years among anti-racist groups and civil libertarians. But it is undoubtedly a turning point. Since 1999, Canadians who felt aggrieved by material transmitted online have been encouraged to seek redress under federal human rights law, which targeted material “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” based on grounds of discrimination like race, religion or sexual orientation. Storseth’s bill repeals the provision outright, leaving the Criminal Code as the primary bulwark against the dissemination of hate propaganda by electronic means.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
There are many reasons to be glad Section 13 of our Human Rights Act is all but dead. For one, we already have hate speech laws, if you’re into that sort of thing. Section 319 of The Criminal Code of Canada bans the “wilful promotion of hatred” toward “an identifiable group.” It’s weird to me that the promotion of an emotion is against the law, but I get what the law is going for, and at least it’s enforced like any other law—by the police, selectively. If the identifiable group you promote hatred toward is Nickelback, the cops will probably leave you alone.
Human Rights Code violations on the other hand are investigated by the Code’s own little bureaucracy, the Human Rights Commission, and offences are judged by their own kangaroo court, the Human Rights Tribunal. Cases arise whenever a citizen makes a claim. If you make a successful hate speech claim, you can be awarded money in fines collected from the guilty party, even if you weren’t the target of their hate speech. And there’s nothing to stop an employee of the Human Rights Commission itself, say a lawyer who knows exactly how the process works, from making a claim.
We know this because that’s what happened. A former employee of the commission launched the vast majority of Section 13 cases during the past 12 years, winning all but one of them and collecting thousands of dollars. His name is Richard Warman, and you might call Section 13 “Richard’s Law.”
As I said, there are lots of reasons to applaud the scrapping of this ridiculous bit of legislation. But there’s one reason in particular that has me celebrating its pending demise: Section 13 was an anti-Internet law. Seriously, either it had to go, or the Internet did.
Richard Warman’s final Section 13 complaint was against “white nationalist” Marc Lemire, who hosts the Freedom Site web forum, where fellow “white nationalists” hang out and discuss “white
supremacynationalism.” But it wasn’t Lemire’s speech that Warman found hateful. It was Craig Harrison, a contributor to Freedom Site, who allegedly violated our hate speech laws by allegedly subjecting a group to hate. But Lemire ran the site, so he was the one Warman targeted. And by the vague, anachronistic language of Section 13, he was the right target.
That’s why Section 13 hates the Internet: it makes no distinction between the publisher of a comment and the publisher of a website. If Section 13 were to remain a law, and one that’s actually enforced by Canadians other than Richard Warman, then you simply couldn’t host any kind of interactive website. Youtube would go, Wikipedia would go, Macleans.ca and every other site with a comment section would go. It gets sillier the more you think about it. Warman has admitted to posing as a white supremacist and joining Freedom Site to help his “investigations.” If Section 13 were to stand, and website publishers were held liable for what their users post, then someone could theoretically join a site, leave hateful messages, file a complaint against the site’s owner, and then collect a cash prize, profiting from their own hate speech.
The Human Rights Commission came to their senses in 2009 when Warman’s complaint against Lemire reached their tribunal. Rather than rule that Lemire violated Section 13, tribunal member Athanasios Hadjis ruled that Section 13 violated our Charter, setting into motion a process that led directly to last week’s private member’s bill repealing the law itself. It’ll be off the books in a year, and not a moment too soon.
By Charlie Gillis - Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The courts are limiting the powers of Canada’s human rights tribunals one case at a time
Over the last couple of years, dozens of school boards across the country have introduced anti-discrimination policies aimed at protecting gay, lesbian and transgendered students from bullying. In most places, the initiatives have passed unopposed. But when the public board in Burnaby, B.C., tried to do so last spring, battle lines quickly formed.
Conservative parents demanded to know what the policy would mean for students who objected to homosexuality on religious grounds. Would they be told their views are discriminatory? Would they be “re-educated” if they spoke their minds? Supporters, in turn, accused the group of perpetuating homophobia and in short order things got ugly. Epithets flew on the comments sections of news sites, including racial slurs singling out Asian and Muslim parents opposed to the proposal (one comment on a story on Xtra.ca, the website of Canada’s gay and lesbian newspaper, featured a slur directed at Asian businesses, with the threat, “You will be run out of town”). Competing protests turned board meetings on the issue into media circuses. Demonstrators hoisted signs bearing slogans like “All love is the same,” or “Leave our children alone.”
It’s a controversy, in short, that seems sure to spawn a profusion of human rights complaints—the sort that commissions and tribunals have been eager to weigh in on in the past (a hate-speech complaint over the insult on Xtra.ca is already in the works). But if the protagonists go down this road, they’re bound to find a changed landscape at the other end. Over the past few weeks, Canada’s highest court has issued decisions curbing the powers of human rights tribunals, or making it harder for certain complainants to get a hearing, while government MPs have thrown their support behind a private member’s bill that would get the federal commission out of policing speech altogether.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Oprah Winfrey, Apple and others.
Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb
The founders of Livent Inc. were convicted of fraud in Ontario Superior Court. The conviction came 11 years after Livent collapsed and the partners were accused of cooking the books. Their sentencing in August brought an end to a saga that seemed as long as Livent’s Ragtime, though less boring.
More than 30 years after he fled the U.S. to escape sentencing for sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl, Polanski was arrested in Zurich. Many of the director’s industry friends signed a petition protesting the arrest, saying if Polanski is extradited and sentenced, it will “take away his freedom.” Well, yeah, that’s the idea.
When the singer-songwriter (Turn, Turn, Turn) performed at a San Diego school in 1960, the school board tried unsuccessfully to cancel the concert after he wouldn’t sign an anti-Communist loyalty oath. This year, the board sent a letter of apology to Seeger for its past Red-baiting. He replied that the controversy helped his career. Even left-wing folk singers need publicity.
America’s sympathizer-in-chief announced she’s leaving her syndicated daytime show at the end of next year’s season, her 25th. The billionaire isn’t abandoning her millions of loyal followers to the harsh world of cable news. She hopes to take them to her own network, where they can watch Oprah-approved shows around the clock.
The so-called hate speech section of the Canadian Human Rights Act allows government to regulate messages of “hatred or contempt.” After many challenges, a tribunal ruled it violates constitutional rights. The ruling doesn’t actually overturn the law, but it’s the thought that counts.
For 173 years, the venerable volume has told us who’s who in the families of British aristocrats. This year it included out-of-wedlock children for the first time ever. Editor William Bortrick ordered the change to reflect the reality that “many people, even from titled families, do not marry.” This may be the biggest blow to the sanctity of aristocratic marriage since Charles and Diana broke up.
Kelly Marie Ellard
Part of a group that murdered Vancouver teen Reena Virk in 1997, Ellard has been keeping lawyers busy since her 2000 conviction was overturned. (It was followed by a mistrial and another conviction.) This year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that her last conviction would stand, with no more do-overs.
The confusingly named town, best known as the site of the murder of three civil-rights workers in 1964, elected its first African-American mayor this year. James Young defeated the white incumbent by 46 votes. As with Obama’s election, this presumably proves that racism no longer exists.
The U.S.’s biggest music retailer (thanks to iTunes) sold most files with “digital locks” that prevented them from being copied to non-Apple devices. In January Apple announced it would remove the locks. This may be bad news for music producers, since it will encourage piracy. But it’s good news for that pathetic PC from those commercials, who can finally get access to some of the Mac’s tunes on his Zune.
They are pundits, hear them roar! – Liveblogging Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant at the Justice committee
By kadyomalley - Monday, October 5, 2009 at 3:15 PM - 57 Comments
Join ITQ for full coverage of what is likely to be a standing-room only affair as the Mark Steyn/Ezra Levant Travelling Freedom of Speech Roadshow pops by Parliament Hill for a special hearing on Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Code. The antics get underway at 3:30 pm, so check back for all the liveblogging action.
Greetings, fans of liberty! Or foes, for that matter, or those who haven’t quite made up their mind on the issue — really, the welcome mat is out for all. We’re all about the diversity of opinions here at ITQ, right?
ITQ can report that the room is filling up slowly but surely — a litle bit more slowly than she expected, to be honest, but there’s a good turnout of media types — particularly from her fellow Maclean’s colleagues — and the witnesses are both present and accounted for.
As for the MPs on deck for today, we have Brian Murphy, Ujjal Dosanjh and Dominic LeBlanc for Team Liberal; Serge Menard and Marc LeMay for the Bloc Quebecois, and Joe Comartin rounding the bench off for the opposition; over on the government side, it’s Brent Rathgerber, Stephen Woodworth, Rob Moore, Rick Norlock and Daniel Petit, with Ed Fast in the chair.
Gosh, this is going to be interesting, isn’t it?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a witness so rosy-cheeked with ebullience and excitement as Ezra Levant since — actually, possibly ever.
And with that, Ed Fast gavels the committee into business — apparently this is the first of an unknown number of hearings slated to be held on the subject of Section 13 — and warns us all to turn off all cell phones and basically behave like good little audience members.
With that, he hands the microphone over to Ezra Levant, who can’t grab it fast enough — he’s just so pleased to be here, you guys. Especially at a multipartisan committee, because, as he notes, free speech is not a partisan issue.
Onto the prepared remarks — somehow, ITQ suspects that the full text will be available within minutes, so she’s just going to cover the highlights before we get to the good part — the Q&A session.
By The Editors - Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 4:24 PM - 118 Comments
The Prime Minister admits there’s a problem. And he says he doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.
Stephen Harper used to have very clear—and colourful—ideas on human rights commissions and what should be done about them.
“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society,” he said in a 1999 interview with Terry O’Neill of BC Report newsmagazine.“ It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” He went on to complain about the “bastardization” of the entire concept of rights in modern society.
Of course, that was back when Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. Today he’s Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. And he appears to have lost his fear of totalitarianism.
In an interview this past January with Maclean’s, the Prime Minister was asked what, if anything, he intended to do to halt the encroachment on individual freedom by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the name of regulating hate speech.
It is an issue of crucial importance to this country and our strongly held traditions of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 7:40 AM - 161 Comments
This month, with Judge Hadjis’s Marc Lemire decision, the wheels fell off the CHRC racket
“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.”