Wednesday, June 4, 2008

STANDARD: MP wants review of human rights commission


MP wants review of human rights commission

St. Catharines Standard | June 4, 2008

St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra has asked a parliamentary committee for a review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Dykstra’s motion last week to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human rights asks for an examination of the commission’s operations and mandate.

It also recommends a review of the commission’s “application and interpretation” of a controversial section of the Human Rights Act dealing with promoting hatred electronically.

“I think knowing exactly how the commission interprets this section, what it means for Canadians, would be very helpful for the public,” the Conservative MP said in explaining his motion.

“And I think there is some public concern about how the commission operates, in particular its investigative techniques.”

Section 13.1 makes it an offence to communicate by phone or Internet any message that is “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”

The section is at the centre of two high-profile human rights complaints against Maclean’s Magazine and the former publisher of the Western Standard, Ezra Levant, for publishing articles or cartoons some Muslim groups found offensive.

The cases have spurred a freedom of speech debate that includes everyone from extreme right-wing bloggers to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to B.C. Liberal MP Keith Martin.

Martin, in fact, introduced a private member’s bill earlier this year to eliminate or amend Section 13.1.

“We have the right in our magnificent country to be free of slander, discrimination and hate crimes,” Martin wrote on his website. “However, we do not have the right to not be offended.”

Dykstra said he believes a review would be “more prudent than simply eliminating the section.”

“We can see after the review what sort of changes, if any, might be recommended.”

The federal privacy commissioner is also investigating allegations that human rights investigators tapped into an Ottawa woman’s Internet connection to post messages on a white supremacist website.

Dykstra said the review is a matter of “government accountability.”

He suggested the public expects “serious allegations” of that nature to be reviewed.

“I’ve had daily e-mails about it,” he said. “People are certainly aware I’ve put this motion forward.”

A review isn’t guaranteed.

Dykstra needs votes from at least some Opposition members on the justice committee for the motion to pass.

Dykstra hopes the committee will meet again sometime next week.



Stop Section 13!