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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Intellectual Freedom in Canada: Fire. Them. All. News Roundup

- "This system is not just ludicrous, but profoundly wicked," writes Mark Steyn today, noting the case of a St. Catharines fitness club owner who wouldn't let a pre-op transsexual shower with the ladies because, well, because he still had a full set of "meat and two veg." Steyn notes that it's one thing for the "human rights" commission to persecute him; he is a popular columnist, but
Gator Ted in Burlington isn't, and nor is Dr Stubbs at his cosmetic surgery clinic, nor the owner of that strip joint in Mississauga, nor Mr Fulton at Fulton Fitness. They're just regular guys trying to make a living. They're not professional haters, or even mildly "right-wing". Most of these fellows are just the usual go-along-to-get-along squishy Canadians. Apparently, John Fulton has co-sponsored the annual St Catharines Aids walk for years. Does that sound like some foaming Steynian homophobe? Well, a fat lot of good it did him come the day the Ontario "human rights" enforcers showed up to ruin his life.
(Steyn is here referencing people victimized by "human rights" complaints that most people would not consider serious complaints, but will likely net the complainant thousands of dollars, and the commissioners a good living. Increasing numbers of Canadians see it as a form of extortion.)

- Last night was the kickoff party at the Gladstone Hotel for Freedom to Read week, and Derek Finkle, the 2008 Freedom to Read award recipient, talked about an aspect of the intellectual freedom issue that is often neglected - because it is principally of interest to journalists: Police efforts to seize the journalist's research.

Finkle's own story concerned an Ontario man imprisoned for a murder - of which he was declared innocent on appeal - thanks in no small part to Finkle, I am sure:
On October 17, 2006, I was served with a subpoena that demanded I turn over to Crown prosecutors all of the research I had used to write my book, No Claim to Mercy. No Claim to Mercy was a detailed investigation and retelling of the Robert Baltovich case, a project that had taken three years to research and more than a year to write.

When the book was first released in 1998, Baltovich was still in prison, where he had been for the better part of a decade after being convicted in 1992 for the murder of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain. It was a controversial decision. Not only was the case against Baltovich completely circumstantial – Bain's body still hasn't been found – the alternate suspect presented by the defence was the then-unidentified Scarborough rapist.

The subpoena didn't come as a complete surprise. Baltovich's conviction had been overturned in 2004 by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which had opted for a new trial. The Crown was gearing up for that second trial in 2006, and the two Toronto detectives who'd been assigned to the case had dropped by my office unannounced that summer seeking an interview. I wasn't in that day, but it became clear through subsequent telephone conversations what they were after.

I had conducted many hours' worth of interviews with Baltovich while he was incarcerated and had access to his prison diary and other documents. The detectives, faced with an increasingly tenuous case, were obviously interested in combing through all of that material on the lookout for any inconsistencies that could bolster the prosecution.
In short, police wanted to rip off work done by a private journalist - who suspected Baltovich was innocent - work that they should have done themselves.

I'm as thumbs down on violent crime as anyone you'll ever meet, but police must play by the rules, like anyone else. So kudos to Derek Finkle for standing firm on this stuff. In the age of the "big hair" celebrity journalist - in the tank for popular politicians - it's nice to see good, old-fashioned investigative journalism at work.

- Ezra Levant notes that Member of Parliament Lois Brown has called on Liberal Party leader Ignatieff to fire an aide:

Her point is that the aide, guilty of much interference with intellectual freedom in Canada and also of the utterly ridiculous Catscam scandal (at the same time, no less!) is the Canadian Liberal Party leader's top "war room" aide.

A friend whose opinion I respect says that Ignatieff - who has spent many years outside of Canada - simply does not realize that local people have pretty much got the picture (that Ignatieff hasn't yet got) that many of us know what is going on and do not like what we are seeing.

Will that aide sue Brown? If so, it will be doubleplusungood (= not at all good) for taxpayers? (In the Newspeak they will surely try to force on all of us, not that they will succeed, "doubleplusungood" means thought crime. )

Levant notes:
... would he sue Brown for $50-million? Why not a cool billion?) is more pathetic than usual. Defamation suits against MPs, for comments made in the conduct of their business, are paid for by Parliament's Board of Internal Economy. In other words, MPs don't have to pay a dime for lawyers, and there isn't an insurance company pressing them to settle. An MP is about the toughest defamation defendant one could imagine.

I wouldn't wish a lawsuit on Brown, but it would be delicious to see Kinsella spend his time and money suing the impenetrable fortress that is Parliament's Legislative Counsel.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post genuinely expressing my hope that Kinsella starts coming back to normal, and leaves some of the rage behind him. I guess he's not ready to do that yet. Plenty of folks have said I was being inappropriately generous to such a bully. Perhaps they're right. But I ask you, dear reader, who do you think was hurt more by Kinsella's latest threat against Brown -- hurt politically, and hurt emotionally -- Brown, or Kinsella himself?
Yes, Levant also wrote a lovely post about this same person, "Prayer for a Bully," expressing his hope that the man just sees reason and leaves public life. Levant is Jewish, but his comments reflect a point of view I have always associated with the Christian tradition as well: The realization that, in the grand scheme of things, it is a greater misfortune to be such a person than to be one of his victims:
... to be very frank, I’m not that gleeful – I actually feel sad for him. I’m not saying that condescendingly – it really is sad to see a man with so much energy and talent get so consumed with personal vendettas and petty squabbles that it starts to cost him in his professional and public life.
- Unfortunately, Canadian academics are living down - and downer - to their already low reputation as part of the problem for intellectual freedom instead of part of the solution. Mark Steyn has the story. The Canadian Political Science Association is deciding whether to censure some prof for hate speech because she questioned the value of our scandalous "reserve system" for Aboriginal Canadians:
The CPSA is "investigating the matter, and a committee will be formed to look at hate speech" — in effect, to self-censor pre-emptively in order to avoid the possibility of "human rights" complaints. Once a government gets comfortable with regulating opinions, even institutions that exist for the very purpose of examining ideas learn to get with the program. The difference between APSA and its northern cousin is instructive, and the professors should make their conference plans accordingly.
- One of Canada's former justice ministers, Irwin Cotler, has some useful comments on current anti-Semitism. Personally, I am completely disgusted with the way that people who should be doing something useful about anti-Semitism in Canada are preoccupied with persecuting an anti-Semitic retired Indian chief somewhere in Saskatchewan, but claim that they can't do anything about "death to the Jews" marches in our biggest city, Toronto, because (according to one "human rights" spokesperson) they are only a small commission. (This story is a must read due to Commissioner Hall's astounding comments to Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun).

(No, I am not making any of this up. Check the links.)

The obvious story is that all the commissions, including "Barbara's 'Hall of Shame'" here in Ontario, should not only be small but should vanish. They would do Canadians a favour by just not existing any more. We need civil rights, not the ever-morphing "human rights" of the Commissioners' imaginations.

- In British Columbia, the Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a complaint against the Koran:
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Barbara Humphreys says Simpson didn't explain how the Koran, the central religious text of Islam that has existed for more than 1,300 years, had a negative impact on him.
After all, no one is making Simpson read the Koran (= as a private person, apart from a course he might be taking). No one demands that he profess to believe it. If only all the wacky B.C. Commission's decisions were as sensible as this one. I wonder if they'll take the same attitude to the Bible, for example ...

Let's not forget what happened when some fellow in Saskatchewan tried putting merely the numbers of certain Bible verses in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Not the text, just the verse numbers! (The conviction was later overturned on appeal, but the fact is that few would dare to post the numbers of verses of the Bible again, in case anyone takes exception. Who can afford the extortion?)

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