The CHRC prosecutes a Member of Parliament
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is prosecuting a former Member of Parliament because they feel his Parliamentary mail to constituents was offensive to Aboriginals.
Jim Pankiw, a two-term Saskatchewan MP who served from 1997 to 2004, is on trial this week for sending out flyers criticizing Indan crime in Saskatchewan, and opposing racial quotas for Indians. If convicted, Pankiw can face massive fines -- on top of even larger legal fees. He could also face almost any order, ranging from an order to apologize, to a lifetime ban on commenting about Aboriginals -- those are orders imposed on others convicted of "hate". And if Pankiw refuses to comply, he could serve time in jail. Here's the news report.
The subject of Pankiw's pamphlets was Aboriginal crime. Of course, Aboriginal crime is extremely high in Saskatchewan. Here's a Statistics Canada study that shows that while Aboriginals make up only 9% of Saskatchewan's population, they were 52% of the province's criminal accused. Here's the key chart, from page 39 of that Statcan report:
There are a lot of legitimate things one could say about this depressing chart -- a dozen different policy prescriptions for tackling the problem. Pankiw chose a particular way: he wanted to get tough on crime, he wanted to abandon Aboriginal "sentencing circles" and other alternative measures, and he wanted to end racial quotas. It sounds like his tone was particularly aggressive, but talking tough about crime isn't supposed to be a crime in itself. Whether or not his was the best approach was up to his constituents -- they relected him in 2000, but not in 2004 when he ran as an independent.
But for the CHRC to weigh and measure Pankiw's views is an outrageous incursion into the political affairs of Parliament. (The fact that it's four full years later is another disgrace -- and a delay that, in a real court, would have resulted in an automatic acquittal for a criminal accused.)
Pankiw's case was the subject of a cover story in one of the first issues of the Western Standard magazine, where journalist Terry O'Neill looked at the absurd test that the CHRC's "experts" used to classify Pankiw's conservative brochures as "hate":
Smith went on deconstructing the nuances of the Pankiwian colour palette: "One notes that the colours of the pamphlet (white of the paper, red and black inks) wittingly or unwittingly utilize colours very much associated with aboriginal people, for whom four colours have come to be associate with the four cardinal directions and have great spiritual significance," he writes. "These colours, yellow, red, black, and white, are to be found in much of the aboriginal ritual contexts and are frequently to be found in regalia and clothing." He concludes that "one can hardly claim that the symbolism in this pamphlet is not inflammatory." Smith declined the opportunity to explain his theories, on the grounds that, because his report is not meant to be public at present, it would be "unethical" for him to comment. Pankiw says that since Smith was contracted last year by the Kitselas Indian band of B.C. to help prepare its treaty and land-claim case and as a supporter of Indians' treaty rights, he's not likely to give a "fair shake" to someone who questions the legitimacy of treaties, as he does.
Oh, and by the way, who do you think was the hate crimes investigator who recommended that the CHRC prosecute Pankiw? None other than Richard Warman, the CHRC's serial complainant of fortune, library censor, online spewer of anti-Semitic and anti-gay bigotry, and libel nuisance litigator against me and other critics of the CHRC. As O'Neill reported:
On April 14, 2004, Richard Warman, an Ottawa-based lawyer who is an investigator with the Commission, filed a landmark report recommending the Commission appoint a Human Rights Tribunal to inquire into the complaints. The next day, the CHRC's director of investigations, Sherri Helgason, gave Pankiw until May 7 to respond. The Commission will then decide whether to turn to matter over to a tribunal for adjudication (the Commission itself does not confirm or deny the existence of any case until it proceeds to the tribunal stage, a Commission staffer said).
...Take Richard Warman. The man investigating Pankiw has a storied history of making human rights one of his personal causes. He is a political animal, having run for the ultra-left wing Green Party in Ontario both provincially and federally. He was personally awarded $30,000 by the tribunal in June 2003 for helping to shut down a racist website. Last summer he also personally sued the Northern Alliance, a white supremacist group, for libel after the group said on its web site that he was "a misguided witch hunter." In a speech in October 2003, discussing the fight against offensive speech on the Internet, Warman said he was looking forward to international agreements that would allow nations to arrest those it considers promoters of hate-speech if they try and enter the country.
What are the lessons here?
1. The CHRC has long ago abandoned the legal limits set out by the Supreme Court in its 1990 Taylor case, that prohibited "hate" prosecutions of political views. They are violating the constitution.
2. And why wouldn't they? Jennifer Lynch, the CHRC's chief kangaroo, hasn't fixed the problems at the CHRC. Fixed them? She doesn't even acknowledge them. The CHRC is beset by an RCMP criminal investigation of its own conduct, a Privacy Commission investigation of its conduct, and a Parliamentary review. Lynch is digging in her heels -- to the embarrassment of the Conservative government that appointed her.
3. MPs from all parties make comments that can be considered offensive, or promoting hatred or contempt of a particular group (that's the wording of the Canadian Human Rights Act). I think, for example, of Liberal Michael Ignatieff's statement that Israel commited war crimes during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Those comments were much more brutal than what Pankiw said about Aboriginal crime, at least to my ears. But the CHRC only goes after one side of the political aisle: conservatives. Just like the CHRC only prosecutes Christian clergy -- not radical Muslim clergy. Just like the CHRC only harasses conservative journalists (like me), never offensive leftist journalists, like the bigoted Heather Mallick. They have a hate-on for conservatives. Their fatwa against Pankiw -- as ordered up by Richard Warman, a three-time Green Party candidate -- should come as no surprise.
4. The public denormalization of HRCs is well underway. But that is only the first step in the solution. Now that public momentum for reform is building, it is up to legislators to act. It's no use that Lynch and the rest of the HRC mafia are disgraced in the court of public opinion, if they can continue their wrecking ball attack on natural justice through their kangaroo courts. It's time for the federal government to act -- and with the election now safely out of the way, now's the time. Legislative reform would be a bi-partisan effort, especially since Liberal free speech champion Keith Martin was re-elected.
5. The Conservatives thought that by appointing Lynch they could control the CHRC. They were wrong -- she has betrayed them by continuing their prosecutions of the hate speech laws, by continuing to bully Christians, conservatives and other political dissidents, and continuing the CHRC's sordid association with Richard Warman, who, to this day, receives CHRC payments for his costs as a witness in his own complaints. Lynch is laughing at the Conservatives -- when she's not busy jetting around the world. I mean, really, if you were Jennifer Lynch, what would you rather do? Clean up the swamp of corruption at the CHRC, and answer tough questions from the RCMP, or jet off to, oh, Africa on a $6,000 junket, Australia on a $7,500 junket, or even a quick jot down to Washington for a mere $1,500. Nothing beats a week in Geneva in June, though -- for a cool $8,300.
6. For the past year, the federal government was continuously on standby for an election, and it might have made sense to avoid starting this reform on the eve of such a vote. But now that the election is over, the Conservative mandate is stronger, and the Liberals are clearly in no position for another election for at least a year, the timing is right for reform. In fact, that delay was helpful: more and more public support has been marshalled. From the Toronto Star and Eye Weekly on the left, to the Montreal Gazette, Maclean's and the Globe and Mail in the centre, to the National Post and Calgary Herald on the right, from Rex Murphy and Neil Macdonald at the CBC to Mike Duffy and Bob Fife at CTV, from PEN Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists to EGALE, the gay rights lobby, there pretty much isn't anyone who hasn't endorsed shutting down these HRC censors. The public support is there. Now is the time for legislative action.
And you know what? I think we'll get that reform before next year is done.