Medieval human rights commissions
I've been reading about the medieval prototypes of today's human rights commissions. Earlier this month, I cited the fascinating case of Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed Witch Finder Generall of Britain. If he was born a few centuries later, I'm sure he'd work for a Canadian HRC.
Today I read about auto-da-fe, literally "act of faith". It was the penultimate step in a trial of the Spanish Inquisition. After conviction, the guilty infidel would declare his faith, as a sort of penance. And then he'd be killed.
Which, other than the gravity of the sentence that followed, is exactly what Lori Andreachuk of the Alberta Human Rights Commission ordered Rev. Stephen Boissoin to do. The Spanish auto-da-fe was an act of Christianity; Andreachuk's order is an anti-Christian auto-da-fe, in which Rev. Boissoin must renounce his faith. That's a 21st century twist.
And then there's the Star Chamber. I was fascinated to learn that, among its other victims, entire juries were tried in the Star Chamber if they didn't render the politically appropriate verdict.
But the most striking analogy was a Star Chamber order of 1632, which is a template for the show trial of Maclean's magazine of 2008.
According to Wikipedia, 1632 is when the Star Chamber:
...banned all "news books" because of complaints from Spanish and Austrian diplomats that coverage of the Thirty Years' War in England was unfair. As a result, newsbooks pertaining to this matter were often printed in Amsterdam and then smuggled into the country, until the ban was lifted six years later.
So foreign trouble-makers who objected to free speech and who insisted on politically correct versions of current events managed to censor the news. Plus ca change.
It's fascinating to me that Canada's human rights commissions defend themselves as progressive and modern and evolved. In fact, they're medieval throw-backs to an age when political and religious terror, censorship, and abuse of process still coloured political life. Those were the dark days; how terrfying that they are being revived now, by those claiming to be angels of light.