by Douglas Farrow
Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (August/September 2008).
These commissions (HRCs, for short) were set up in the 1960s and 1970s with the aim of combating discrimination on a practical level. In recent times, however, they have transmogrified into mechanisms for enforcing politically correct ideologies and silencing dissent. “It never occurred to us,” remarks Alan Borovoy, one of the originators of the HRCs, “that this instrument, which we intended to deal with discrimination in housing, employment and the provision of goods and services, would be used to muzzle the expression of opinion.”
That is exactly what has happened, through the mechanism of Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, which prohibits hate messages. Under
Allan, like many other bemused observers, refers to the HRCs as kangaroo courts. Their proceedings display a bouncy ineptitude and, simultaneously, a sinister level of collusion. Take, for example, Richard Warman, a former investigator for the national commission who decided that it was more fun to be the aggrieved victim of a human rights violation. He has filed twenty-six complaints so far, including more than half of Section 13 complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). What’s more, he has a perfect 100 percent conviction rate for these complaints.
These quasi-judicial bodies are staffed by political appointees who have neither the qualifications nor the independence of regular judges. Their ad hoc procedures provide no firm rules for evidence; bigoted comments, posted by strangers to websites in foreign jurisdictions, have been judged admissible, for example. No actual proof of harm is required in order to obtain a conviction. Investigations and deliberations are driven by far-reaching, utopian mandates to “reduce discrimination and promote social change.”
The growing train of hate-speech prosecutions might have been derailed as long ago as 1990, when an appeal brought Section 13 under review by the Supreme Court in Taylor v.
That view now appears rather naive. Allegations have been made that agents or former agents of the CHRC have themselves posted hate messages online under pseudonyms, and even by way of Internet identity theft, and that their activities in manufacturing offenses have been covered up by evidence and transcript tampering.
The commissioner who heard the complaint—which was brought by a heterosexual, an activist named Darren Lund—might well have noted that political orientation, unlike sexual orientation, is not a protected category. Neither, for that matter, is moral orientation. From which it follows that the coercive power of the state ought not to be used to settle the agenda wars of private citizens. Instead, Commissioner Lori Andreachuk—with the support of the
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DOUGLAS FARROW is associate professor of Christian Thought at
author of several books, including Ascension and Ecclesia and Nation of Bastards .