Ezra in Wonderland
I attended the Canadian Race Relations Foundation conference on Friday. Other than Jason Kenney, the National Post's Kevin Libin, and me, there was only one white male in the audience of 100. I don't think I would have noticed such a thing were it not a foundation supposedly dedicated to diversity. I'll get back to that point in a moment.
More importantly, I recommend to you Libin's front page story in Saturday's Post about Kenney's speech, if you haven't read it yet. Some excerpts:
Jason Kenney, a Cabinet member and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, labelled "dangerous" the "illiberal tactics" employed by some activists in the name of tolerance.
"I think it's very important for those of us engaged in anti-racism efforts to ensure the tactics we use, the approaches that we take, are consistent with respect for the liberal values of the Charter of Rights, of the Canadian constitutional framework, of our democratic parliamentary institutions," Mr. Kenney told the crowd of about 100.
..."There is a large and growing debate about freedom of expression and the role of the human rights commission, and organizations that seek to use these commissions to deal with what they believe constitutes thoughts or opinions reflective of hatred or xenophobia," Mr. Kenney said. "I would also hope that we think long and hard about the central role, the foundational role, of such values as freedom of expression in our constitutional framework, and that we do not lightly undermine those constitutional values in our efforts to combat racism or hatred."
That's the toughest broadside yet aimed at Canada's human rights commissions. "Dangerous". "Illiberal". "Undermine those constitutional values". That's tough talk.
So far, it is still only talk -- but it shows a growing school of thought within the government: Canada's HRCs are out of control, and are paradoxically becoming a menace to real human rights, like freedom of speech.
That the cabinet minister in charge of domestic human rights and multiculturalism would call "anti-hate" activists on the carpet so publicly and pointedly is dramatic. In a way, it is as important as Keith Martin's private member's motion to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the thought crimes provision. Martin's motion is more precise. But, as a motion (as opposed to a bill), it is what lawyers might call obiter dicta -- a non-binding statement of opinion, not a change in the law. Martin's motion is a call for a Parliamentary rebuke of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Kenney didn't bother to wait for the vote!
(Have these two men even met on this subject yet? They ought to; at the very least, even if the Conservatives aren't yet willing to formally endorse Martin's motion, they should ensure that the motion actually makes it to a vote.)
The Post covered Kenney's main points well -- they were really the only news of the day. But there were a few things about the conference itself that, while not meriting the front page of a national newspaper, would surprise severely normal Canadians -- that is, the taxpayers who paid for the conference.
As Libin's article mentioned in passing, there was a question and answer session after Kenney's 45-minute speech. Not a single question was regarding his remarks about human rights commissions. Most of questions -- and both Libin and I were stunned by this -- were not really even questions, but hostile comments about the government's decision to boycott "Durban II". That's the upcoming sequel to the 2001 international "anti-racism" convention that descended into an orgy of anti-Jewish hatred that even the U.N.'s Mary Robinson, no friend of Israel or the Jews, called "horrible". I think at least three of the questions on Friday complained about Canada's decision not to attend.
Their questions to Kenney had a mild anti-Israel flavour -- two of the delegates on Friday actually complained about how much they have to hear about the Jewish Holocaust -- but it was nothing more than you'd see at a typical NDP convention these days. But then it hit me: they weren't bitching about Canada's decision not to go to Durban because they were anti-Zionist. They were grousing because the government's decision meant that their exciting, all-expenses-paid junkets to South Africa were cancelled, too.
If Canada sent a government delegation, Canada's "anti-racism" NGO's could go, too. If not, then not -- or at least not on the taxpayers' dime.
(By the way, can an NGO really be an NGO -- a non-governmental organization -- if it is organized, or paid for, by the government? Friday's conference wasn't for NGOs. It was for GONGOs -- government organized non-governmental organizations.)
The entire conference suddenly made sense to me.
Why had there been no heckles from the hard-left crowd when Kenney spoke?
Why had the foundation's directors and staff been so obsequious to Kenney?
Because they all depended on Kenney and his department for their grants and hand-outs. Did they really care about Kenney's ideological differences with them? Did they really care about his views on freedom of expression, or anything else for that matter? With a few exceptions, most of them didn't. They wanted to know why they couldn't go to their next junket, to have a week-long reunion at a five-star hotel in exotic South Africa with all of their other "anti-racism" friends from other countries.
Another question suddenly made sense: a woman of colour complaining to Kenney about how hard it was for minorities to get jobs in the federal government. (The answer, of course, is the public service's strict requirement for French-English bilingualism, especially at senior levels.) But she wasn't asking in the abstract. She was presenting herself -- and the rest of the room -- as candidates.
This wasn't a conference, in the main, of civil servants with cushy public sector union jobs. These were "anti-racism" grantrepreneurs -- people who had to hustle, every year, to liberate $50,000 or $75,000 from this government agency or that one, to keep going. They were what economists call "rent-seekers" -- or what Ayn Rand called "moochers and looters". Civil servants would have booed Kenney, because they already have secure sinecures. But these people don't.
That wasn't just my hunch. It was made crystal clear to everyone in the room -- especially Kenney himself -- by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation poobah who thanked Kenney.
Des Doran, a Jamaican-Canadian member of the CRRF's board, started off his response to Kenney... with a racist joke about how Irishmen (like Kenney) are a bunch of drunks.
I'm not sure what Kenney should have done. It was the end of the conference, everyone was smiling, and this doddering old man thought he'd tell a racist joke. If it weren't at an "anti-racism" conference, I'd probably defend the joke -- it was almost funny; and Doran is clearly from a different era, when calling Irishmen drunks was acceptable. I'm just pretty sure that if someone had made a Black joke or a Muslim joke, he would have been hounded out of that meeting, board of directors or not, different generation or not. Ask Tom Lukiwski.
Kenney chose to laugh along with it, though the rest of the CRRF's directors looked like they were going to throw up. Not because they didn't think the joke was funny, but because the whole damn point of inviting Kenney to the speech was to hit him up for a bigger endowment. Didn't Doran know that?
Well, yes he did know that. Because -- in front of the whole convention -- after his joke, Doran flat-out asked for more cash. It was so awkward, so desperate, even I felt pity for the old fool.
Kenney gave the same response that he did to the Irish joke: a courtesy laugh.
Gentle reader, I went to this "anti-racism" conference to hear Kenney talk about human rights commissions. And that's what happened.
But what I saw as well was a permanent court of race-hustlers and beggars -- and even bigots. And all of them were living off the government teat.
I had no interactions with the CRRF's executive director, Ayman Al-Yassini, whose c.v. boasts what others would hide, namely that he was
visiting professor at the University of Riyadh (King Saud University) in Saudi Arabia. He published extensively on the relationship between religion and state in Islam, religion and development and religion and foreign policy.
He was clearly the envy of the room -- an ethno-bureaucrat with a big budget, immune from Parliamentary accountability because it's already in his endowment fund. He wore the nicest suit in the room, nicer than Kenney's. I'm guessing Ermengildo Zegna.
But most of the crowd looked like they were more Moore's people, or even Tip-Top. Not because they lacked a fashion sense, but because there just ain't a hell of a lot of demand for anti-racism "consultants" in Ottawa these days. That's a lot of junkets, conferences -- and $2,000 suits -- gone missing from the "anti-racism" movement.
There are human rights zealots. And there are clock-punching bureaucrats. But on Friday, I met a different breed: a hundred low-budget racial "consultants" who care more about their perks than the anti-Semitism of a UN conference, who care more about getting money for their pet projects than about the minister's views, and who think nothing of anti-Irish bigotry because, well, that's acceptable racism to them.
I had never heard of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation until this week. I don't think most Canadians had, either. I can't think of a single reason why the Conservative government shouldn't pull the plug on them the first day of their majority government. I truly believe that race relations in Canada would be better without this horde of Jeremiah Wrights. And at least he gets his money from his churchgoers, not taxpayers.
ADDENDUM: There is one important anomaly to this group of rent-seekers that I would be remiss not to mention -- and mourn. I didn't find it on the CRRF's website; I heard about it in Kenney's speech. About half the CRRF's starting endowment came not from the government but from private donations from Japanese Canadians. I think their contribution was about $6 million, and it was made in memory of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
Japanese Canadians who were interned had real rights violated -- property rights; freedom of association, equality before the law, due process and natural justice; and the golden thread of British jurisprudence: the right to be innocent until proven guilty. Those were real human rights -- not the fake human rights of today's HRCs, such as the "right not to be offended". I admire the fact that instead of demanding cash, those Japanese Canadian donors gave cash.
They must be so appalled at what has become of their money. Instead of funding an endowment to ensure that Canadians are never again pre-judged by their race, that Japanese Canadian money is doing the exact opposite: it is funding a retinue of hyper-racialized grievance-mongers, to whom everything is about race.
There was a single Japanese Canadian in the room, a representative of those original donors. I didn't speak with him, but I wonder what he thinks about bankrolling this travelling carnival of Al Sharptons in training. I have never seen a Japanese Canadian race huckster. I'm not saying they don't exist; I just think it's beneath the dignity of the Japanese Canadian culture to muster professional complainers. They're too busy doing real things in the heart of Canadian society, not constantly separating themselves.
I think the fact that tax dollars go to the CRRF and a dozen groups like it is a scandal. But I think it is downright heartbreaking that millions of Japanese Canadian dollars, donated to further racial harmony, are being used to exacerbate differences between the races, and to fund perpetual racial tension.
Japanese Canadians were picked on because they were not treated as Canadians, full stop. They were treated differently in law because of their race. Why, that's exactly what the CRRF is all about.
Frankly, it sounds a lot like what's happened to the Canadian Jewish Congress -- a group that was set up almost a century ago to integrate Jewish immigrants into society, and to recruit Jews into the Canadian armed forces, has turned into a grievance-mongering group that would be unrecognizable to its original founders.