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Friday, September 26, 2008

Shoot Borovoy's Monster now: Why civil rights needs a newer, younger vision in Canada

Scaramouche, a blogger who was at the "Human Rights Commissions: Censorship or Protection?" meeting (September 25, 2008), along with Five Feet of Fury and me, knows the participants pretty well and offers an excellent account here.

About the meeting, organized by Speakers Action Group and the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association, she comments,
Food for thought: If one has been immersed for some time in the issues pertaining to censorship and Canada’s parallel totalitarian “justice” system, listening to three gentlemen pontificate on the subject while trying to eat is perhaps not the best idea. Not if you hope to digest both discussion and your grilled veggie wrap. Yesterday, I endeavoured to do both, as three men, attorneys, with a direct connection to the HRC system—Leo Adler, of the Canadian branch of the Wiesenthal Center; Alan Borovoy, head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and David Matas, counsel for B’nai Brith Canada—spoke to a group of about 75-80 in the board room (and a mighty roomy room it was) of one of the city’s pish tosh downtown law firms. The topic being tackled: How do we here in Canada “balance” free speech and “human rights”. A weighty and often indigestible subject, indeed, one which, on its own, has been known to induce dyspepsia.
Actually, Mo, the smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps were, in my opinion, great! I was tempted to also sneak one out (but didn't). One thing about big downtown law firms like Cassells Brock, they sure do know how to eat.

Now, I am not Jewish, but I got the impression that here - as at a previous meeting on this topic - the audience largely was. So it might be useful for me to offer an outsider's perspective, to complement hers.

There are advantages in a close-up view, a middle distant view, and a distant one. Ideally, we get all of them.

Leo Adler, Director of National Affairs of the Friends of Simon Weisenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Canada was there to defend the current "human rights" situation in Canada.

I confess, that listening to him, I experienced a sense of the surreal. The infamous Section 13 of our Canadian human rights act was working, he told us.

Well, yes, it's "working," all right - that is why there is a Web site called Free Mark Steyn (a popular Canadian commentator who got trapped in the federal commission's toils, along with historic Maclean's Magazine for writing an article about the growth of Islamism*).

On the whole, it did not sound to me as though Mr. Adler grasped what has happened: Starting in the 1960s, human rights organizations put in place an extra-judicial agency with legal powers to persecute active neo-Nazis, of whom there were actually few in Canada.

These agencies have now been co-opted by

- Islamists seeking to enforce "respect" for (their version of) Islam,

- gay activists - opposed by other gay activists - seeking to prevent traditional Christian clergy from instructing the faithful that the gay lifestyle is not an option in that tradition,

- people who get into a squabble with a late nite comic in a venue where it is reasonable to suspect that most attendees have had a lot to drink, and

- ... well, maybe, anyone who feels grievously dissed.

Alan Borovoy, General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, is - as Scaramouche points out - the Frankenstein who created this Monster. That fact is in itself amazing.

I wish he were clearer about what he would like to do about the Monster. Shooting it through the head strikes me as the right solution.

David Matas, Senior Counsel at B'nai Brith Canada, seemed to want some kind of reform, but it wasn't clear to me that his "reforms" would check any important abuses. The main problem right now is that anyone who feels dissed can be a "human rights" commission client.

None of the speakers seemed to grasp what my father so swiftly concluded in a memorable recent conversation - if we just SHUT DOWN all the "human rights" commissions, the radical Islamists, gay lifestyle fanatics, and asserted grievance mongers would not have a forum apart from the regular courts. Which means, in turn, that only grievances that have some basis in normal law could be heard.

"I feel bad about how that guy feels about me" does NOT equal "That guy owes me thousands."

My father called that "living by extortion." And Borovoy's Monster has enabled living by extortion.

I say: Shoot. It. Now. Aim for brain stem.

Further thoughts:

1. All the speakers were old men, near my father's age. I got the impression that they were stuck in the past (unlike Dad).

I heard from them about "Nazis" but not "Ahmadinejad," Iran's Prime Minister, who apparently denies the Holocaust and is acquiring nuclear arms (which the Nazis, as it happens, were never able to do, though they certainly tried).

Surely, what the Canadian Jewish community needs right now is young men like Ezra Levant, who are prepared to take on its real, present enemies in a way that respects our traditional freedoms. Like Levant and my father, I believe that can be done.

In fact, the overwhelming irony - for me at least - is that Levant suffered from the legal regime shaped by these very old men. He was charged when his magazine had published the Danish "Mohammed" cartoons, in an effort to begin the process of a real dialogue with Muslims - apart from the power-seeking Islamists. One outcome would be a chance to confront and defuse one possible real source of anti-Semitism in Canada. How many Muslims really want to cloud their new lives in Canada with the ancient hatreds of other parts of the world?

2. What has happened in Canada is appalling. As a Canadian, I am embarrassed. We put in place a justice system not governed by rules that protect the accused - and we are paying for it now, both in people's lives and in international disrespect.

The old men in that room were - understandably - trying to talk around the evil they have played a large role in creating. But it must be undone.

Shoot Borovoy's Monster now.

* Note: He was making, essentially, the same argument as Phillip Longman made about evangelical Christians and Mormons in the United States - but Longman faced no charges, only opposing views from other commentators.

Further note: More on comedian Guy Earle here.

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