Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NoApologies: How We Lost Our Freedoms (Mark Fournier)



How We Lost Our Freedoms


Many have wondered how it is that Canada has become a nation whose citizens must live in fear of what they say or write. How did human rights commissions come to wield so many powers that are incompatible with a free society? The answer is that they did it incrementally and right under our noses while we were failing to do our due diligence as citizens. The quotes below are taken directly from Paragraphs 8-9 of the CHRT transcripts of the Lemire constitutional challenge to the Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Until 1998 the CHRC had few "remedies" to apply when they had determined they had found an act of discrimination.

8. Section 53(2)(a) provided at that time: "53(2) If, at the conclusion of its inquiry, a Tribunal finds that the complaint to which the inquiry relates is substantiated, it may, subject to subsection (4) and section 54, make an order against the person found to be engaging or to have engaged in the discriminatory practice and include in that order any of the following terms that it considers appropriate: (a) that the person cease the discriminatory practice and, in order to prevent the same or a similar practice from occurring in the future, take measures, including (i) adoption of a special program, plan or arrangement referred to in subsection 16(1), or (ii) the making of an application for approval and the implementing of a plan pursuant to section 17, in consultation with the Commission on the general purposes of those measures."

A reasonable application of these powers would be, as in a hypothetical case where an employer was asking the religion of job applicants in order to exclude all Catholics or Mormons, to assure that religion questions were no longer asked of applicants. This changed in 1998 when Section 54(1) of the Act was repealed and replaced.

9. In 1998 (S.C., 1998, c. 9, s. 28 ), section 54(1) of the Act was repealed and the following new provision enacted: "Orders relating to hate messages 54(1) If a member or panel finds that a complaint related to a discriminatory practice described in section 13 is substantiated, the member or panel may make only one or more of the following orders: (a) an order containing terms referred to in paragraph 53(2)(a); (b) an order under subsection 53(3) to compensate a victim specifically identified in the communication that constituted the discriminatory practice, and (c) an order to pay a penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars.

This changed the Canadian Human Rights Commission in very fundamental ways. There is a world of difference between a government agency having the power to tell a citizen he must stop doing something and a government agency being in the business of seizing the property of one citizen to give to another citizen. And on top of this, the Act also gave the CHRC the power to seize the property of citizens on behalf of the state. This simple change in the Act has had very far reaching effects, but by far the worst of those effects has been the raw political power it has delivered into the hands of the CHRC. Now they not only can punish the accused, they can reward the accuser, and keep a cut for the state. To this day the CHRC is using this power to bankrupt people, to instill fear in private citizens and publishers, and to curtail many of the fundamental rights Canadians hold most dear. But this was not all that the CHRC gained from the revision of 1998. The revision continues:

(1.1) In deciding whether to order the person to pay the penalty, the member or panel shall take into account the following factors: (a) the nature, circumstances, extent and gravity of the discriminatory practice; and (b) the willfulness or intent of the person who engaged in the discriminatory practice, any prior discriminatory practices that the person has engaged in and the person's ability to pay the penalty."

This is where the Canadian Human Rights Commission gets into the thought crime business. This part of the Act gives the government agency the power to base their punishments on the offenders "intent', which is in fact his thoughts. We are where we are today because nobody was paying attention in 1998.  And now we all have to pay attention because our negligence is bearing its bitter fruit.


Mark Fournier is the co-founder, with his wife Connie, of Canada's largest political discussion forum,, which boasts a membership of over 8,500, and gets nearly 2 million page views per month.  Out of concern for their own legal protection, in early 2007 she and Connie sold the site to Liberty News Service of Panama; a company which describes its corporate mission as "buying websites from individuals and corporations living in countries where free speech is under attack, and protecting those websites from being shut down or seized by oppressive governments".  Mark has been politically active federally for ten years and is now a full time computer programmer analyst student at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont.