Media Lawyers Association conference on HRCs vs. free speech
I've received friendly feedback from readers who are interested in attending the conference at University of King's College about the media's "right to offend". It's open to the public, so if you're in Halifax on Nov. 1, please come by -- details are here. It's free to attend, and they actually serve a free lunch, too. You can't beat that!
I've also been invited by the prestigious Canadian Media Lawyers Association to speak on a panel at their conference in Ottawa, on November 8. It's a pretty august conference, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada giving opening remarks -- according to this agenda, it looks like she'll be talking about libel law. As I mentioned here, this summer the SCC significantly enhanced the defence of fair comment in defamation law, strengthening Canadians' freedom of speech. It will be interesting to hear Justice McLachlin expand on that decision.
For anyone interested in media law -- from defamation to human rights censorship -- this conference has national-class experts ranging from Richard Dearden, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lawyer in his defamation suit against the Liberal Party, to Michael Geist, Canada's Internet law guru, to name just two speakers.
I've been invited on a panel, too, entitled "Impact of Human Rights Commission on Freedom of Speech" -- a very real threat to Canadian media, and one against which the defences in defamation law (truth, fair comment, etc.) do not apply. I'm on the panel with some pretty heavy hitters: Julian Porter, Q.C., Maclean's lead lawyer in their B.C. Human Rights Tribunal show trial, and Mark Freiman, chief counsel to the Air India Public Inquiry.
It's an honour to be invited to serious discussions like this one and the one in Halifax. It is a sign that there is growing concern about the threat to our civil rights posed by the preposterously named "human rights commissions" and that concern is non-partisan, and that concern has spread from politics into law and civil society. It's a sign of how wide and deep opposition to HRCs has become and how far the national discussion has moved in the past year.
Think back a year -- not even a year! In 2007, the idea that the threat of HRCs would be discussed at such a mainstream and prestigious gathering was unthinkable. And the idea that my point of view -- repealing the hate speech provision of HRCs, and even abolishing HRCs altogether -- would be given a seat at the table in such high company is startling evidence of how far our campaign to denormalize these rogue and abusive commissions has come. Who knows? Perhaps in a future conference, Justice McLachlin won't be talking about how she expanded freedom of speech in defamation law -- maybe she'll be talking about how she struck down the HRCs' political censorship provisions, ending a thirty-year blemish on Canadian law.