March 2010 Archives
The official transcript of yesterday's Senate proceedings is now online. Here is a link to the four Senators who gave their stirring remarks (and the cheers, heckles and questions that they elicited).
Tonight I will try to excerpt a half-dozen highlights.
I've never been busier in my "real life", so please forgive me for not blogging as much as I'd like to.
Ann Coulter's tour was a huge success. For a day or so, whatever media discussion there was centred on Coulter's own views. But the moment that Francois Houle, the vice-president of the University of Ottawa, sent Coulter a threatening letter, the story changed. It wasn't about Coulter and her views anymore -- it was about Canada, and whether we were a free enough country to let her express her views. The University of Western Ontario and University of Calgary passed that test; Houle and his street thugs failed it. But the result was the most intense week of free speech discussions in Canada since the Western Standard published the Danish cartoons.
If you thought nothing could top last week in terms of free speech news, then you simply don't know Canada's human rights commissions well enough. There is nothing too bizarre, too fascistic, too embarrassing for them. And thus this week the trial of Guy Earle, comedian, began in Vancouver. You can read my original discussion of Earle's crime here -- the crime of heckling back at a heckler.
Seriously: now we have the government giving us judicial rulings on the funny-ness of jokes.
And then today, the Canadian Senate took up the cause of free speech in the form of a Senate Inquiry. I understand that at least four senators spoke to the subject today; as soon as their speeches are up on the Hansard, I'll link to them. (Blazing Catfur has the text of Senator Doug Finley's opening remarks here, Senator Mike Duffy's remarks here and Sen. David Tkachuk's here. I think the only one I'm missing is Sen. Pamela Wallin.)
Here's David Akin's great report on the debate.
I think Akin is right to point out the political pedigree of the speakers, especially Sen. Finley's role as Harper's two-time successful campaign chairman, and Sen. Duffy, who has clearly been a Harper favourite in terms of political work on the hustings. For those and other senior senators to speak so forcefully on this issue is very encouraging, in terms of reflecting the will of the government, and perhaps a renewed interest in tackling the issue.
Tonight is the last stop on Ann Coulter's free speech tour of Canada, co-sponsored by the International Free Press Society and the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation.
Due to huge demand, the venue has been moved to the Red and White Club, at McMahon Stadium at the University of Calgary. Doors open at 7 p.m. It's a much larger venue than the science theatre that had been previously booked.
It's been an exciting week. I'll probably blog more about it later, but for now let me share with you my Op-Ed in today's Ottawa Citizen, where I discuss the near-riot at the University of Ottawa last night:
The real threat to civil discourse
The University of Ottawa disgraced itself on Tuesday night with its treatment of Ann Coulter, the U.S. conservative pundit. In a spectacle that earned international attention, hundreds of shouting protesters stopped Coulter's speech from proceeding through pure physical intimidation.
The protesters had bigger plans than mere heckling. Just look at their venomous Facebook page dedicated to disrupting the event: Vanessa Alexandra Peterson wrote "I wonder what the security would be like. I want to throw rotten veggies and eggs at her evil Barbie mask." Saif Latif wrote "somebody needs to throw a pie at her during her speech like they did at the University of Arizona," to which Guillaume Pelegrin replied "I hope someone will get arrested." More than 500 people on that group whipped each other up into a hateful frenzy, publicly spelling out their fantasies.
It was not anti-Coulter hate that shut down her speech at U of O. Hate is a human emotion, not an action. Nor was it mere hateful words. Words can be noisy, but they can only hurt feelings. Rather, it was the assessment of police, campus security and Coulter's own bodyguard that there was too much physical danger to Coulter and the audience to proceed. As Ottawa Police Sgt. Dan Beauchamp said, "it's a public safety issue."
Where did this abusive student culture come from? What explains the complete lack of tolerance for different opinions? Some of the blame must surely lie at the feet of U of O's administration. Last week, François Houle, the university's vice-president, sent a letter to Coulter saying she should "educate" herself about "what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before (her) planned visit." He warned that her comments could "lead to criminal charges."
The students got the message: Coulter was unwelcome, and the university itself was actively trying to scare her off, or get her to change her speech. No one less than the vice-president had signalled that the ancient academic ideals of free discourse had been replaced with conformity, political correctness, censorship -- and even the threat of criminal prosecution.
Houle's letter was like a starter pistol for radical students, who went from tearing down Coulter posters to organizing their rampage. Really, other than tactics, how different was their approach to censorship than Houle's?
It is now two days since the near-riot at U of O, and Houle has not seen fit to utter a word against those who truly violated "what is acceptable in Canada" -- his student disrupters. He had threatened Coulter before she even said a word; yet after his students' conduct, he remains silent. He had warned Coulter to "weigh (her) words with respect and civility," to show "restraint, respect and consideration" and to have a "more civilized discussion." No such comments have come from him to the disrupters, even after the fact.
Which is not surprising.
The U of O indulges some of most offensive conduct in the country on their campus. Each year, for example, they happily host an anti-Semitic festival called Israel Apartheid Week. Never has Houle seen fit to issue a warning to his campus's steady stream of Jew-baiters to govern their tongues. In fact, to my knowledge, no left-wing activist has ever received a threat of criminal prosecution. Only Ann Coulter did.
This is the sham of political correctness. It's not about civility. It's not about protecting groups from hate, or even violence. It's about politics and power.
Houle essentially accused Coulter of planning to commit illegal acts. But when actual illegal plans were hatched -- in public for the world to see -- and then carried out, Houle was silent. So much for his "restraint, respect and consideration."
Coulter's speaking tour is co-sponsored by the International Free Press Society, a group whose mission is to oppose censorship. Coulter's speech would have tried to make the case that U of O needed more respect for freedom and a diversity of ideas.
Houle's threats, and his students' actions, were less eloquent than Coulter's speech would have been, but they've made her point even more powerfully than she could have.
Canada has a free speech problem, and it's particularly bad on some campuses.
It's strange that it took a visit from an American to see that. But now that we've seen it, who will fix it?
The trial in the matter of Giacomo Vigna v. Ezra Levant began today in the Ottawa court house on Elgin Street.
As I noted here, the trial had originally been scheduled for February, but was postponed until today.
If you're in town and want to come by, feel free -- it's in room 35, and runs from about 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a break for lunch. The trial is set to run all week, but there's a chance it might end early.
I've been writing about freedom of speech, the need to reform Canada's human rights commissions, and Mr. Vigna's lawsuit for over two years, and I've shared plenty of opinions on the subject.
Now's the time for a judge to hear the facts of the case and render his verdict.
Thanks to all of my supporters, both those who have given me moral support and the financial support to be able to sustain my legal bills.
Here's a story in today's National Post about Richard Warman's nuisance lawsuits against me -- part of the larger lawfare campaign waged against me by radical Muslim activists, their Canadian Human Rights Commission collaborators, and even some Official Jews like Bernie "Burny" Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress:
Free-speech blogger Ezra Levant has accused anti-hate activist Richard Warman of exploiting court processes to publicly "scandalize" him with "wholly irrelevant" allegations, and to discourage his "public service journalism" against human rights commissions.
The claim is in an affidavit, obtained by the National Post, that is part of Mr. Levant's defence against a libel suit brought by Mr. Warman.
A judge is to rule later this month whether Mr. Levant can examine files gathered by Mr. Warman over his decade of activism against those who post hate messages on the Internet, which includes 16 cases at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
In an affidavit supporting his request for disclosure, Mr. Levant said Mr. Warman's "focus on my political views, and [his] express concern for the political reputation of non-parties to this lawsuit, such as Mr. Warman's former employer, the [Canadian Human Rights Commission], demonstrates my contention that his lawsuit is indeed a 'SLAPP' suit -- Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation -- designed to 'chill' public discussion of these issues."
Mr. Levant's writing, including the 2009 book Shakedown, has focused on the controversies of human rights law, especially Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits online messages that are "likely to expose" identifiable groups to "hatred or contempt."
"That a single citizen [Mr. Warman] is the largest sole user of a legal procedure for 10 years is newsworthy in itself. It also makes it impossible to scrutinize the CHRC's conduct without scrutinizing Mr. Warman's conduct, as they are largely one and the same on this issue," the affidavit reads.
In a recent court appearance, Mr. Warman's lawyer Brian Shiller called the request for disclosure a "fishing expedition" that would unfairly expose personal information, and Mr. Warman states in an affidavit that Mr. Levant is seeking "mountains of documents that clearly have no arguable relevancy to the matters in question."
Mr. Levant's affidavit states that he has no interest in personal information, and that Mr. Warman "has disclosed only a limited number of records relating to his own statement of claim, and almost no records relating to other matters pleaded in my statement of defence."
Those other matters relate to Mr. Warman's use of false personas as part of his hate-speech investigations. Mr. Levant said his own "public-interest journalism about this controversial conduct" is "a central issue" of the case.
Mr. Levant calls this libel suit against him and other bloggers "highly political," and describes federal Liberal party strategist Warren Kinsella as Mr. Warman's "spokesperson," which Mr. Warman denies.
...In his emailed response to questions, Mr. Warman also alleged that the accusation at the core of this libel suit -- that he was the author of a racist and sexist message posted on the far-right freedomsite.org-- was "invented" by that site's owner, Marc Lemire, as part of an effort to "derail" the hate speech case against him. That case, brought by Mr. Warman in 2003, concluded last year when the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal judged Section 13 to be an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of expression. An appeal is soon to be heard in federal court.
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh just can't help himself when it comes to smearing our Canadian Forces.
Yesterday he went on the CBC to imply that our soldiers "ordered the torture" of Taliban terrorists and "sent people to torture" -- or at the very least consented to that happening. It's all very vague -- Dosanjh is building accusations on rumours, so it's all a product of his own fervid imagination -- but the point is clear. Watch the clip for yourself:
This has become a recurring theme for Dosanjh. Last fall, he called our generals' explanation of our troops' conduct in Afghanistan "morally weak":
This would be bad enough if Dosanjh were a back-bench MP. But he is Ignatieff's hand-picked defence critic -- in other words, were the Liberals to be returned to power, Dosanjh, a former Communist organizer and NDP premier, would be the defence minister. Could you imagine if such a smearer of our troops became the boss of our troops?
Dosanjh's comments are not gaffes or errors. They represent the considered position of the Liberal Party. Here's his colleague, John McCallum, a former defence minister, outright using the phrase "war crimes" (and the CBC's crack investigative reporter Suhana Meharchand bravely declines to ask him about it):
Ignatieff himself has fingered our own troops -- again, based on nothing but speculation and innuendo. Here's what he told Joan Bryden last fall:
Ignatieff said the documents would shed light on such crucial matters as whether Canada has respected international law and human rights, "the conduct of our troops in the field" and the conduct of the government which appears to have ignored warnings about torture.
"This is really serious stuff," he said, adding that Liberals "will not let up about this."
Without seeing any documents, without seeing the facts, Ignatieff was smearing "our troops in the field" -- not bureaucrats in the Department of Defence, not political leaders or even generals, but our troops in the field.
It is remarkable to me how sensitive the Liberals, and their chorus in the mainstream press, are to charges of being unpatriotic or anti-military. How they bristle at that accusation. And for good reason: they are anti-troops, and as the video clips above, and Ignatieff's quote, show, they don't hesitate to say so.
They just hate being called on it.
Being accused of being anti-soldier wouldn't cause such a reaction in, say, Stephen Harper or Peter MacKay -- they would laugh it off, or give a puzzled look, or simply rattle off the dozen things they've done to revitalize our military, both physically and morally. Such an accusation wouldn't hurt their feelings or lead them to sputter in righteous indignation, because it would be so obviously baseless.
The shrieks of horror when the Liberals are accused of being anti-military are precisely because they are anti-military, but they think they can get away with it.
I agreed with Tom Flanagan, when he wrote that the Tories should not be afraid, politically, of the Afghan detainee issue. The opposition parties are united against our troops; and on the related issues of Omar Khadr, Maher Arar and other underminers, the opposition parties are united in support of our enemies. That goes over well with much of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Canadian Bar Association, but ordinary Canadians find it appalling, and even traitorous.
Let's have an election on this issue. Let's stack the moral character of our Canadian Forces against the moral character of those who are trying to assassinate their reputation for political gain. Let's get Maher Arar on the campaign trail -- hell, let's run him as a star Liberal candidate, and even put Omar Khadr's name on the ballot as a Liberal candidate, in absentia. The media cheerleading will make it an unbearable five weeks, but the rebuke our unpatriotic opposition and the MSM will receive from Canadians after such a spectacle will make it worthwhile.