The CHRC announces a Potemkin review
Yesterday, Jennifer Lynch, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, announced that she had retained a professor from the University of Windsor, Dr. Richard Moon, to review the CHRC's role in policing "hate speech" on the Internet.
There are three problems with this review.
First, it is the CHRC hand-picking its own reviewer. Nice trick, that. "Officer, I know you pulled me over for speeding. Well, good news! I've hired my own traffic safety expert to study my driving, and make recommendations. You can go home now -- I've got it under control."
It's a conflict of interest.
Second, the mandate of the review is inappropriate. Here is the official terms of Moon's review:
Professor Moon will conduct legal and policy research and analysis and make recommendations on the most appropriate mechanisms for addressing hate messages (and more particularly those on the Internet), with specific emphasis on section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the role of the Commission.
In conducting his study, Professor Moon will take into consideration:
- existing statutory and regulatory mechanisms - whether they are appropriate and/or whether they require change;
- the mandates of human rights commissions and tribunals, as well as other government institutions presently engaged in addressing hate messages on the Internet;
- whether other governmental or non-governmental organizations might have a role to play and if so, what that role might be;
- Canadian human rights principles, including but not limited to, those contained in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
- mechanisms used in other countries; and,
- Canada's international human rights obligations.
So it is not a review of the CHRC's corrupt conduct -- their hiring of corrupt staff, drummed out of real police forces; their tampering with evidence; their tampering with official transcripts; their lying under oath; corruption and interference with investigations; their rejection of complaints that would embarrass them; their own serial commission of Internet hate speech offences, etc., etc. And it certainly doesn't deal with the current elephant in the room: the RCMP and Privacy Commissioner's investigations of the CHRC for hacking into a private citizen's Internet account.
None of that is covered in Moon's mandate. All of that is being ignored. That's no coincidence.
(No, officer, my own traffic expert will not ask me if I've been drinking. He will do a "big picture" review of the wisdom of traffic laws themselves.)
But look at what Moon will review: existing laws; what other government agencies do; Canada's obligations under treaties, etc.
Good idea -- for Parliament to do. The CHRC has been given a job -- a job they've been doing awfully. But instead of Moon looking at the corrupt manner in which they've been doing that job, he's been given the job of brainstorming what their dream job should be. Thanks, but we've got an elected Parliament to do that.
(Boss, I've been thinking. I know I haven't been doing a good job lately, and the police keep coming around. So I thought I'd do you a favour and review my job description for you. I'm also reviewing your job description, too, boss. When I'm done, I'll let you know what you think.)
The third problem is that Moon's review will happen in a bubble. It is not a judicial inquiry; he cannot compel people, such as Richard Warman, the CHRC's former investigator, current chief complainant, and prolific author of online posts on neo-Nazi websites, to answer questions. He can't subpoena recalcitrant witnesses, like the CHRC's Ian Fine or Dean Steacy, or their documents. He has no powers to actually investigate -- but, as I mentioned above, he hasn't even been authorized to investigate anything, other than what Lynch's dream job would be.
Moon will not travel; he'll work in his office, with a visit or two to CHRC headquarters. He'll have no staff of lawyers or other investigators. But, again, it's not an investigation; it's a brainstorming session by a professor.
Other conservative bloggers have focussed on Moon himself, looking for bias. I don't even think that's the point. I think the point is that Moon is not conducting an inquiry or investigation at all. He's been asked to write a position paper for Parliament. He's been asked to write an abstract essay about regulating the Internet in the 21st century.
I'm sure it will be interesting. But we already have 308 people who are paid to come up with policies -- and they happen to have the democratic legitimacy of being MPs. They're the ones who are charged with those high level reviews; for her to announce this, after learning that the government itself is planning a genuine inquiry not just into high level questions such as censorship, but also operational matters like the corruption I've outlined above, isn't just disingenuous, it is interference.
Canada's Parliament will review the CHRC's bad behaviour. For the CHRC to announce, in a showy manner, that it will review itself -- but to exempt its corruption from that review -- must be seen for what it really is: a PR exercise, undertaken under duress.
I plan to participate in Moon's review. Not to legitimize it -- but rather to prove it is a Potemkin review. I have already written to Moon, who was quite courteous in his reply, and even invited my submissions.
I will make those submissions, and post them on this blog, of course. I will send him questions -- real questions, pressing questions -- about the CHRC's conduct, its operations, its corruption. And he can do one of two things: address those questions, or tell me that he isn't allowed to do so given that he's really been asked to write a political science essay, rather than do a meaty investigation like the RCMP and Privacy Commissioner and Parliament are doing.
I don't plan to pick on the guy, because that's clearly his purpose -- to be window dressing, to be a distraction, even to be a fall guy for Jennifer Lynch. At the end of the day, she's the one who is politically responsible to Parliament for the corrupt and abusive mess over which she presides.
Hiring some professor to write a political position paper is not just irrelevant, it's deeply insulting to Canadians who are demanding an end to her corruption, and it's just as insulting to Parliament, which has already announced its intentions to begin a democratically legitimate, and (hopefully) properly staffed and resourced investigation into all relevant matters, not just the ones Lynch will permit.