What can be done?
I'm fighting the human rights commissions from inside the belly of the beast. I appreciate the generous help I have received towards my legal bills. (Thank you.) But what can people do besides help with my case?
I can think of two things:
1. Denormalize the commissions; and
2. Press legislators to act.
The first makes the second possible.
By "denormalizing", I mean bringing the public's perception of these commissions in line with the awful facts about them. Denormalizing the commissions means demonstrating how they disrespect Canadian values, showing how they have become a sword, attacking human rights, rather than a shield protecting them.
These commissions aren't normal. It's not normal to haul publishers before the government to ask them about their political thoughts. It's not normal for a secular state to enforce a radical Muslim fatwa against cartoons. These human rights commissions are counterfeits; they improperly benefit from the reputation of real courts, but they also destroy respect for the whole legal system -- that's just what counterfeit currency does amidst real currency.
Denormalizing the commissions is important, especially since most people have never heard of them, and when they do, they hear three positive words: "human rights commissions". It's sort of like the old Communist countries, like the "German Democratic Republic", which was neither Democratic nor a Republic, but it sounded good. Same thing here.
Denormalizing the commissions is something the blogosphere can be particularly good at, by spreading information widely and inexpensively. I think the reason my YouTube videos were so popular (320,000 views so far) is because they contained information the public has never seen before about how a commission actually works, and it was startling. Of the eight videos I've uploaded so far, the most popular has been the one where Officer McGovern asks me about my intentions -- what Orwell called a "thought crime". We should all be encouraged by the public reaction to these videos. Now let's just change that number from 320,000 people to 3 million or more.
Denormalizing the commissions can best be done by highlighting the two central qualities of the commissions:
1. They erode Canadian values such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and diversity of opinion. I'd call this the substance of the commission -- what they're trying to achieve; their mission or purpose. It's unCanadian.
2. They erode Canadian values such as fairness from a government agency. This is not about the purpose of the commissions; it's how the commissions achieve their purpose. It's the means to the end; their internal procedures and rules. Those are unfair -- they reward nuisance suits, violate normal Canadian rules of procedure and evidence, etc.
Over the past few days, I have posted a great deal of evidence demonstrating both the foul substance and foul procedures of these commissions. Other than the videos, I think the best resource is to actually read the crazy decisions these commissions make. Here is a list of the Alberta decisions. This is where you'll find cases like the restaurant that was fined $4,900 for firing a kitchen manager who had Hepatitis-C. Tour through them -- they are bizarrely inconsistent. To me, the worst decision was the one I mentioned in several of the videos, the Boissoin case. That's the case where panellist Lori Andreachuk ruled that the right of busy-body activists not to be offended trumped a Christian pastor's right to write a letter about his religious views. (It's also the first time I have ever encountered the word "trisexual" -- see paragraph 44.)
Here is a list of the federal decisions. Click on the complaints by alphabet; you'll find that nearly 50% of all complaints under the "hate" section of the federal act are filed by one individual complainant, a former staffer of the human rights commission, Richard Warman.
My YouTube videos, and these primary documents, are a good starting point to illustrate the unCanadian purposes of the commissions, and their unfair processes. A great place to get current commentary on these matters is here.
The goal of denormalization is to build a public demand for change -- to make the commissions unacceptable to Canadians.
That's where legislators come in.
There are human rights commissions in every province and federally, so any legislature in Canada could start making changes. B.C.'s Gordon Campbell should get credit for dismantling that province's commission. The tribunal still exists (that's the panel that hears cases) but the commission (the officers, like Officer McGovern, who go out and hunt for cases) has been disbanded. It's a good start. If I had to guess the governments most open-minded to change, I'd list B.C., Saskatchewan and the federal government.
B.C. has already done something bold by eliminating the commission, and B.C.'s civil liberties association -- true libertarians, not leftist censors like the U.S. ACLU -- is the most principled in the country. Saskatchewan would probably be next; they just elected a new, freedom-oriented provincial government, and their commission has made some appalling decisions recently that have hurt their reputation (call it self-denormalization). Finally, the federal Conservatives despise the commissions -- Stephen Harper himself called them totalitarian, before he was Prime Minister -- and they might be open to whatever changes are possible, given their minority government. (Here's a good barometer of the cabinet's feelings on the commissions' recent adventures in censorship.)
I'd list the following items on a legislator's to-do list, starting with the easiest, moving to the hardest to achieve:
1. Appoint true civil libertarians to the commissions.
These commissions are staffed by commissioners appointed by their respective governments. To date, they have made appointments from the same stale pool of leftist activists -- people who view the commissions as political weapons. Since filling appointments is a regular and natural occurence, why not choose libertarian commissioners, rather than mindless bureaucrats or outright censors?
2. Send lawyers to intervene in cases.
In the Boissoin case I mentioned above, the government of Alberta sent a lawyer to intervene against Boissoin's freedom of speech. It was truly appalling. Why doesn't the federal government send a lawyer to intervene on behalf of Maclean's magazine and Mark Steyn in their upcoming hearings -- on the side of freedom?
3. Introduce an amendment to the human rights acts to protect freedom of speech and thought.
If it were precisely worded, such an amendment to these commissions' governing statutes would be difficult for detractors to characterize it as an assault on "human rights". In fact, the amendment could be called The Human Rights Expansion Act or something like that -- and it would be worded clearly, to enshrine and protect freedom of speech and thought as fundamental human rights. It would be hard to imagine anyone but the far left wing of the NDP opposing such an amendment -- but I think the public (and the media, who would be amongst the chief beneficiaries of the amendment) would love it.
4. Abolish the commissions, but keep the tribunals.
This is what B.C. did. The tribunal -- the quasi-court that hears cases -- still exists. But the commissioners -- the trouble-making, problem-hunting recruiters of complaints, like Officer McGovern who interrogated me, were all fired in B.C. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a giant step forward. And it's not just "pruning" the commission, like adding sympathetic commissioners would do -- it's digging it out by its roots.
5. Abolish both the commission and the tribunal.
That's the only permanent solution. There is no need for government censors in Canada. Nor is there any need for the other jobs of the commissions, which were meant as solutions to problems that are now largely obsolete. We already have labour law and employment law to deal with people fired for improper reasons. We already have landlord and tenant law to govern housing. These might have been issues forty years ago, but they're largely solved now, which is why the commissions have moved on to other, ignoble tasks, like persecuting pastors or censoring cartoons.
Far better for a government to abolish those commissions, and take those budgets and invest them in civics programs -- teaching Canadians, especially new immigrants, about the most precious and valuable human rights around, the ones we have inherited from 800 years of tradition in the free west. It is not a coincidence that the two recent complaints against free speech were filed by radical Muslim immigrants from Egypt and Pakistan. Basic civics classes -- not partisan political indoctrination, but a basic primer in the rule of law; fundamental freedoms; the equality of men and women; non-violent solutions to problems, etc.
A week ago, I would have thought that this last option would have been politically impossible. But, given the overwhelming support I have received from the general public -- and the positive reception from even liberal and many left-wing commenters -- I think that an abolition of the commissions and their tribunals would be well-received.
I'd invite people to help with this process. Denormalize these commissions to build a demand for change, and then press politicians to deliver that change. In the meantime, I promise to keep fighting like hell in my own case before Alberta's commission.
(I'm going to refine this post over the next day; feel free to send me your advice in the comments section.)