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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Updates

On February 11, 2009, I received a reply from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada, regarding a letter I had written in protest of the arrogant and possibly illegal conduct of various "human rights" commissions in Canada. The reply merely begged off any responsibility.
So I responded

Thank you very much for your kind reply, Mr. Nicholson. You wrote, “As you may be aware, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are independent agencies that administer the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), according to procedures specified by law, without interference from the Government. ”

From what I can see, hear, and smell, I respectfully suggest, Mr. Minister, it is time you started interfering.


Denyse O’Leary
PS: It is conceivable that you would find this of interest.
My sense is, he had better listen. And so had legacy media (though they may go under first, and that may be just as well).

In the continuing meltdown of media that - for example - do not take the current Canadian civil rights crisis seriously (John Robson, "Stop the Presses", MercatorNet, April 11, 2009), here's an article of interest:

... the typical elite newspaper deserve exactly the reproach my distinctly unconventional colleague David Warren delivered last May. “In my view... The idea of the news sheet remains essentially sound... People still want something to read that is portable and companionable and requires no technological savvy whatever. But those who can read want something ... intrinsically lively, informative, interesting, and even reliable and trustworthy and aesthetically satisfying.” Instead of which, especially as they came to recruit mostly from journalism schools, newspapers became the preserve of a narrow liberal elite “who think and sound like sociology majors, and express themselves in a jargon stream of pompous, preachy, preening, vaguely leftist and reptilian drivel.”
And - it must be said - such journalists are often people with little interest in promoting civil rights. All too often, what they are attracted to is the idea that crackpots have a right to be heard. Fair enough, to be sure, with certain cautions about not advocating crimes. But they seldom care much about the citizen's right to speak to or about government on issues that the citizen thinks is important - which is the right most citizens value, as opposed to a right to listen to crackpots. (I agree that the right to listen to crackpots exists, but am not sure how many people would go to the wall for it.)

Also: Why newspapers are dying? The Chicago Sun-Times is the latest to go under the water, and I do not mean a Southern Baptist baptism. I mean "Early motions approved in Sun-Times bankruptcy"

In the Washington Post, Jonathan Turley comments on the erosion of free speech in the Western world. He mentions Canada in his article but doesn't focus on our situation, which is just as well. It is not a local problem.

In the Edmonton Sun, however, political science prof Salim Mansur fills in the gap by reviewing Ezra Levant's book Shakedown:

Ezra Levant's book Shakedown released last month might be the most important publication of the year. It documents the state of free speech in Canada.

Canadians, well informed about current news and public affairs, have heard of Levant and his experience with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC).

Levant's troubles began when he was publisher of the now defunct newsmagazine, the Western Standard, publishing in February 2006 the hugely controversial Danish cartoons of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. These cartoons, first published in Denmark in September 2005, unleashed an orgy of Muslim demonstrations and violence across the Arab-Muslim world, and apprehension in Europe.

The fear of inflaming further violence brought the western media to decide against publishing or showing on television these cartoons. Levant saw the cartoons, however, as news and that the news story could not be told without them.
Indeed, most of the cartoons were not particularly "offensive", in the way the term is normally used. Some were on target, some were off, some were merely anodyne. The image of Mohammed leading a donkey was just the usual, boring illustration for a children's book. And the cartoons that were genuinely offensive had been added by agitators, seeking to stir up riots.

In the National Post, George Jonas also offers a critical review of Shakedown:

Paradoxically, Levant's book is all the more convincing and effective because he isn't basically opposed to the institutions whose demise -- if it happens -- he will have contributed to so much. He's against the commissions' excesses, their extra-legal methods, thuggish associates, bureaucratic arrogance, cloak-and-dagger gambits and their encroachments into areas that he feels were never meant to be any of their business. He would certainly reform the "rights" commissars, make them obey the law and bar them from the nation's newsrooms. Levant might even say that the HRCs have outlived their usefulness and should now be retired. But -- and it's a big but -- he seems to have no philosophical dispute with the impulses that gave birth to the "human rights" industry in the first place.

The author of Shakedown has no quarrel with the idea of extending the concept of human rights from those set out in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- conscience, expression, association and the rest -- to such post-liberal notions as a person's "right" to be considered for a promotion or to be served in a restaurant. He doesn't even insist that when a Charter right conflicts with a so-called human "right" the fundamental Charter right should prevail. When he recounts the tale of one HRC's support for a transsexual's "right" to a job as a rape counsellor, he appeals to no principle beyond the reader's own common sense.
Also, from the excellent Franklin Carter of Freedom to Read:

Finally, Adbusters has won a battle in its campaign to get its anti-consumerist
ads onto the Canadian airwaves. Garrett Zehr of The Tyee reports here.
(Myself, I would have thought that in today's economy, anti-consumerism would be a faded dream.)

He also advises that copies of Ezra Levant's Shakedown are so brisk that McClelland & Stewart ordered a reprint before the end of March.

Hey, if I were a "human rights" gauleiter, I would be polishing up my resume right now. Maybe there is a career in a max security prison somewhere in Canada. Ideally, they will all be spying and snitching on each other.

Update: Franklin also notes Martin Levin's comments on the fact that Brit MP George Galloway was denied entry to Canada recently on the grounds of Galloway's advocacy of the Palestinian cause. It may have been unjust, in which case, the Government of Canada owes him an apology.

However: Civil rights are the rights of citizens, and especially their right to speak freely to and about government (whether they are making any sense or not - that may be a matter for wiser heads to determine).

People from anywhere across the globe do not necessarily have the right to fly into Canada and raise any kind of trouble they would like to raise.So, I really must insist that the federal government has the right to refuse entry to a person who genuinely represents a national security issue. (I do not know if this person did or not.)

I think it would be useful to distinguish between the right of Canadians to speak about what concerns them (under siege, of late) vs. the rights of someone who is not a Canadian, who is only visiting.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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