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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Human Rights Commissions: A tyrannosaur - big and bad and should be dead

This morning, as I write, a very important public hearing is being held (beginning 9:30 am at 160 Elgin St in Ottawa, Canada).

Note: If you are looking for the American story about Minnesota biologist PZ Myers getting ejected from a showing of Ben Stein's Expelled movie, go here (this is the one that is regularly updated) or here.

Update March 27, 2008 re The Human rights Commissions: Read this about the unbelievable kangaroo courts that Canada's Human Rights Commission is, judging by what happened at the Tusday hearing. Also, our historic magazine Maclean's (yes, they have been charged) sent journalists and is publishing a big special on the problem.

Update: From Deborah Gyapong, blogging on the lunch break, so far - it turns out HRC employees do not "recall" what happened.

Update March 26, 2008: Mark Steyn on the hearing:
As for the CHRC, it's hard to believe their lawyer and witnesses could have got away with being so ill-prepared in any other court. For example, I spent six months under the iron fist of Judge Amy in Chicago's federal courthouse during the Conrad Black trial, and Her Honour (actually, in this case, Her Honor) wouldn't have been impressed by the succession of "I don't remembers" from the first witness Ms Rizsk; or the contradictions (often within the same answer) of Dean Steacy; or the curious oversights of Ms Blight, the CHRC's lawyer, in neglecting to bring routine files from the last session back to court with her; or even the absence yesterday of the blind Mr Steacy's assistant, which necessitated various operational adjustments. Even Ms Blight's habit of referring to Mr Lemire's lawyer as "my friend" seemed poised somewhere between open contempt and condescension toward someone too obtuse to know that "they're done".

But that's because in their kangaroo court everyone gets convicted! They don't NEED to prepare in the normal way that lawyers must prepare, where they might actually lose.

This post is about serious human rights issues, in a country - Canada, of all places - where an unaccountable "human rights" bureaucracy has slowly grown up, operating (according to a number of credible accusations) in contempt of our traditional civil rights.

Under Section XIII of the Canadian Human Rights Act, for example, every accused person is always convicted, because the crime is, essentially, that someone feels offended. It's what happens when social engineering replaces equality before the law, as I tried to explain in Canada: A message to readers.

While today's hearing was intended to be simply the usual kangaroo court, to condemn someone who is (there is good reason to believe*) falsely accused of racism. (But he is almost sure to be condemned anyway.) However, thanks to the efforts of Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, Deborah Gyapong, Ken Whyte, and other journalists, editors, and authors, Commission employees will themselves have to answer allegations. For once.

*On Mark Lemire, Jonathan Kay offers a thoughtful perspective on what is really at stake.

Including allegations that a Commission employee posts racist comments to a Web site (and then gets others charged).

No Apologies, will update through the day. Also, Canada's historic magazine, Maclean's (yes, they too have been charged), is live blogging the hearing.

You will find much information about the Commission's alleged antics at Ezra Levant, and Free Mark Steyn (yes, the famous columnist, who is a Canadian, has also been charged, for quoting a controversial imam).

Last fall, a friend despairingly said, "No one will care. Canadians only care about lottery tickets, donuts, and TV."

But Ezra Levant, an Alberta lawyer and publisher (who has also been charged by a human rights commission, for publishing the Mohammed cartoons), notes that,

Last year, 99% of Canadians hadn't even heard of human rights commissions. That number's probably still 90%, but amongst the political and media class, the issue has become commonplace. Who could have predicted both the Globe and Mail and the National Post editorializing for reform of the HRC laws? Or even the CBC pounding away again and again and again and again (and again next weekend -- I'll let you know the details soon). And that the Can-Con glitterati would join the fray, too, and the Canadian Association of Journalists? As I mentioned last week, a communications director for a federal cabinet minister told me it was the second most popular topic of constituent mail his office was receiving.

As I outlined in January, political movement doesn't usually come until public opinion moves, so it shouldn't be surprising that, so far, only bold politicians have called for reform. But, again, three months ago, who would have thought that any MP would become so well-briefed -- and so feisty! -- on the subject as Keith Martin has become?
Lottery tickets, donuts, and TV? Not so, my dear friend. We can be proud of our country once again.

I wanted to go to Ottawa for the hearing, but Deborah Gyapong (Parliamentary Press Gallery) suggested I might be more use blogging from Toronto while the hearing was in progress. So here I am, at my post.

And here is my message to the government:

1. Some human rights commission fans want the Canadian government to make telecoms start blocking Web sites - which is currently forbidden by telecommunications law.

No such action should be taken, unless the site advocates a crime (and I mean a real crime that the police, NOT the "hrc", would investigate).

As a blogger, I know that what makes the Internet such an exotic place is that it is NOT real.

Bloggers are always talking about "attacking" or "destroying" someone when they are merely ranting on a blog somewhere.

That doesn't mean that you should invite the guy to join your book discussion group .... He could be just as nasty in person as he sounds in print.

But seriously, I've been physically attacked a few times in my life. In a real attack, one has about 2 seconds to decide how to save one's life.

But Rant Boy? Truth to tell, I only occasionally bother to find out about Rant Boy's "attacks" on me.

The Internet is fun, but the people who get "killed" there don't really die. So unless real crime is involved, just let Rant Boy rant.

2. The Human Rights Commissions were encouraged because they would be a special, less accountable tribunal for dealing with "really bad" people (like racists and anti-Semites).

But that is a bad idea.

Inevitably, people will get classified as really bad precisely so that they can be attacked in a less accountable court. For example, "hate" can be a very elastic category. All sorts of ideas that mainstream or bland people don't like can be waltzed into the category for that exact purpose.

This weapon should not be left lying around for just anyone to use.

3. There IS a big problem with anti-Semitism in the world today. Anti-Semitism is supported by some governments for political reasons. The Iranian president denies that the Holocaust occurred, and Iran is credibly believed to be reaching nuclear capability.

THAT kind of thing is a serious government-to-government issue. It is not just someone's "government job," persecuting skinheads and boneheads for a living. Could that be one reason why our federal government has been silent in the face of the rising tide of concern and accusations about the HRCs' operations?

4. HRCs should go the way of the tyrannosaur. It was big and bad, and it should be dead. Only real harms should be actionable. And they should be dealt with by real police, under real laws.

Look, I'm an example, okay?

I get an amazing amount of mail from people who don't know me but seem to intensely dislike me anyway. I have little doubt that some of them would like to fix me good.

They urgently need to get a life, in my view. Couldn't they at LEAST hate someone who is actually a part of their real life - a relative, maybe, or an ex-spouse? No one can choose their relatives or change their ex-spouses but anyone can just not visit a blog that enrages them.

I don't NEED protection from Rant Boy, nor does anyone. In the unlikely event that such a person makes a credible physical threat, that WOULD be a matter for the real police, not the HRC's Keystone cops, as Ezra Levant calls them.

5. Right now, we need a Royal Commission on the current workings of Human Rights Commissions! Many people may have been harmed - delayed or denied justice or right - to use the terms of Magna Carta itself.

And many such people are not articulate. They are not Mark Steyns or Ezra Levants. They just go away broken, and unable to explain exactly what happened to them.

Precisely the beauty of Royal Commissions is that they begin the difficult and patient process of hearing from such people and piecing together their stories, forming a general picture that leads to findings of fact.

I think - from what I have heard - that the Government of Canada and its ten provinces will be shocked at what has been done in their names. But today, at least, I can be proud.


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