Free speech updates
Here are some quick snappers about human rights commissions vs. freedom of speech.
Fundraising dinners for Rev. Stephen Boissoin
If you're as mad as I am about the bullying and censorship of HRCs, then why not do something about it? I am: I'm speaking at three fundraising dinners for Rev. Stephen Boissoin, the Christian pastor who was hit with a gag order by Ed Stelmach's HRC, banning him from talking about gay marriage for the rest of his life -- in public sermons, or even in private e-mails. Even Egale, the national gay rights lobby, vigorously opposed his prosecution.
The dinners are in Calgary on Thursday, Red Deer on Friday and Edmonton on Saturday. You can get info about tickets here -- they probably have made their catering orders already, but I bet they could squeeze in a few more chairs.
Op-Ed by Sheldon Chumir Foundation
I've written about the Sheldon Chumir Foundation before. They're my favourite kind of liberals -- they truly believe in freedom. They, too, must be deeply disappointed in Stelmach's veto for reforms. Here's an Op-Ed written by their Dan Shapiro, published in New Brunswick's Tribune:
Ezra Levant, accused of violating human rights law for publishing the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, has written a book (Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights) which tells of his experiences in the maw of the Alberta Human Rights Commission and makes a principled case for better protecting freedom of speech in Canada.
Using rulings from several jurisdictions, Shakedown depicts Canada's Human Rights Commissions (HRC) as a "grievance industry," — a weed, you might say — soaking up taxpayer dollars to combat fictitious discrimination.
And Levant yields his weed wacker with abandon: rather than pruning out only some of the Commissions' powers, he indiscriminately razes the flower bed itself.
If you are a "pruner," you will be convinced — as I am — that the hate speech provisions in federal and provincial human rights acts should be repealed. If you are a "weeder," you'll favour abolition of all HRCs. Levant's case for the former is sound, but he fails on the second front.
It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that, in a democratic society, a right to "not be offended" cannot exist, and no one's religious beliefs should be insulated from criticism. It also should go without saying that HRCs should not have the power to oversee the editorial decisions of newsmagazines.
Whether or not Levant needed to publish the cartoons in order to comment on a major news story - the riots in response to the cartoons — is beside the point. What was at issue was his right to publish free from government interference. The fact that Levant faced two complaints before Alberta's HRC for publishing a news story is outrageous.
...Even the threat of a nuisance complaint is enough to chill legitimate speech on controversial issues and is thus an unconscionable restriction on freedom of speech. Levant is right: the speech provisions have to go.
As he correctly writes, free speech is a powerful weapon in the hands of the weak. For example, civil rights movements would have been impossible without the power of speech to offend the moral and legal status quo.
...He and other HRC critics' exposure of corrupt practices at the federal level, which include bureaucrats hacking a private citizen's Internet connection and posting illegal hate speech online to entrap racists, are shocking examples of the need for closer scrutiny of Commission practices.
...The book is also testament to how much a motivated — and rightly angry —citizen can move public opinion in the Internet age when he feels his rights to free speech and natural justice have been violated. Shakedown is proof of the power and importance of free speech.
Terry O'Neill in the Tri-City News
I sat next to Terry O'Neill for three days at the Vancouer show trial of Mark Steyn and Maclean's. He's a great reporter, and a great advocate for liberty. Here's his side of a newspaper debate about HRCs:
Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? If the old dog is me, then the saying is definitely wrong, for I’ve recently changed my mind about an important subject: human rights commissions.
I used to believe that the federal and provincial governments should merely amend their human-rights laws to get rid of censorious provisions, which, by their very existence, stifle free speech. B.C.’s act has just such a section, under which a farcical kangaroo court of three commissioners play-acted a pantomime of justice last year in response to a complaint about an article in Maclean’s.
...It’s time to throw the whole works out the window and start from scratch. My debating opponent thinks the commissions play a valuable role but I believe they are far more destructive than constructive because the system is rife with injustice.
As Ezra Levant points out in his new stranger-than-fiction-but-entirely-true bestseller Shakedown, human-rights commissions from coast to coast have been used for the settlement of personal grievances of the sort in which the state should have absolutely no involvement.
Among the many outrages revealed in the book is the fact that commissions have more power to seize material and enter premises than even the police — and they don’t even need warrants.
Levant calls for a grassroots uprising against the commissions and the laws that keep them in power. Add me to the growing number of Canadians who believe human-rights commissions are unnecessary, unjust, undemocratic and unfair. Let people with real conflicts use real courts to settle them.
Terry's sparring partner is the former boss of B.C.'s human rights commission. That's not unusual -- I can count on one hand the number of Canadians who support HRCs who don't actually work for them. That's quite something in itself. Her reply is so lame I'm embarrassed to link to it, but I will. If I have more time and motivation, I'll come back and reply to it line by line, but I really couldn't be bothered right now.
Another clip from CFRA radio
Here's another video clip from my appearance on CFRA radio last weekend. I talk about how HRCs try to denormalize or stigmatize their targets -- and how I decided that I wasn't the abnormal one, the unCanadian one, the illegal one, the immoral one. The human rights commissions were! And once I realized that, everything else came naturally.