Monday, March 31, 2008

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Freedoms lost in name of free speech

Freedoms lost in name of free speech

Time to take human rights commissions out of hands of misguided zealots


Lorne Gunter

The Edmonton Journal

Sunday, March 30, 2008


All you need to know about how rotten the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is -- how undemocratic and anti-freedom it has become -- is that in hate-speech complaints, the commission has a 100-per-cent conviction rate.

No one who has ever been hauled before it for allegedly uttering hate speech has ever been acquitted.

Such a rate is impossible for a democratic institution because the state is never always right and the defendant never always guilty. This happens in dictatorships where those in charge control every aspect of the judicial system and there is no impartiality or independence. But it should not happen in a purportedly open, unprejudiced tribunal.

In one way, the conviction rate of the CHRC should be no surprise since the commission is both investigator and judge. One division probes complaints while another conducts the hearings. There is a veneer of independence, a thin gauzy curtain between the two sections, but nothing even remotely approaching the separation of responsibilities in the more formal judicial system.

At the CHRC, it's as if the court that will eventually hear a case is also in charge of the police officers conducting the investigation and the prosecutor who will present the evidence, as well as deciding whether the accused is guilty as charged.

Nice little arrangement.

It gets worse, though.

This week, during final arguments at a CHRC hearing into hate-speech complaints against Marc Lemire (who is typically portrayed as a white supremacist, but who insists he is just a "certified computer expert who ran a website critical of immigration and the CHRC"), it was revealed that commission investigators are not above entrapment, telecommunications fraud and invasion of an innocent person's privacy to harass suspects into a conviction.

After years of investigating Lemire, CHRC investigators had too little proof that he was a hatemonger to proceed to a hearing. So they began logging onto his website under an assumed name, "Jadewarr," and posting provocative comments in hopes of obtaining racist replies they could then use in their case again Lemire.


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