Thursday, September 18, 2008

Interview with Marc Lemire: AM770 (Calgary) "The Marc Lemire Case - Why It Matters"


Listen to Rob Breakenridge interview Marc Lemire on his Constitutional Challenge.









The Marc Lemire Case - Why It Matters



Posted 9/17/2008 7:00:00 PM


The adjudicator has reserved his decision in the case of Marc Lemire's constitutional challenge of Section 13 (more at this post). Lemire was the subject of a human rights complaint filed under Section 13 - a complaint that was filed some five years ago. We spoke with Marc Lemire Tuesday night about his case - you can listen to that conversation via the player on the right.


Whatever one might think of Marc Lemire, he has suffered an injustice under the thumb of this complaint and the ongoing ordeal. Frankly, we never should have ever heard of Marc Lemire in the first place. Would anything really been accomplished by shutting down his websites and censoring him?


As you hear in the interview, Lemire rejects any suggestion that he's a bigot - and to be fair, the complain against him seems to stem from the words and postings of others. That said, his associations and his involvement on websites like Stormfront and Vanguard News Network are revealing (not to mention the creepy "white rights" banner included in a photo on his own website).


In any event, it shouldn't matter. Even if one finds Lemire offensive or the content on his website offensive, he's entitled to his freedom of speech - or at least should be.


This case, however, isn't just about Marc Lemire. As I've argued here, here, and here the implications of cases like this are far reaching indeed.


Take this, for instance:


Every Internet message board in the country will have to shut down if an Ontario man - Marc Lemire - is found liable for vile comments that were posted on his website, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was told yesterday.

"It's preposterous," said Douglas Christie, a lawyer representing far-right groups who advocate free speech. "It is the same as the chairman of a meeting being held liable for someone who shouts something out."

He warned that an adverse decision would prove destructive not just to a sprinkling of characters on the "lunatic fringe," but to mainstream newspapers, magazines and other institutions that have launched online message boards and chat rooms.

Mr. Christie said a single paragraph on a newspaper website, left on an Internet message board for just a minute or two, could generate a complaint that would spawn three years of human-rights litigation.


And the lawyer for the Canadian Human Rights Commission seemed to confirm the point:


Mr. Hadjis questioned whether it is fair, in general, to hold Web site owners accountable for what others may write in their comment sections, possibly without their knowledge, consent or endorsement.

He used the example of the CBC, which operates several chat forums for readers to discuss news stories, and asked what would happen if a hateful message somehow got past automatic filters and live editors.

Without commenting on the CBC directly, Ms. Blight said there is no "free pass" for anyone.


"No free pass for anyone" - there it is. That's why we all have a vested interest in this case.


Keep in mind that under Section 13, intent doesn't matter. So if I wrote a post about racist bigots, and someone posted a racist, bigoted comment, perhaps I would leave it there as an example of the sort of bigotry I was talking about. But since "no one gets a free pass", I could be held liable.


Or let's say that bigoted comment wasn't really from a bigot at all, but someone trying to get me in trouble. It's very easy to use an anonymous pseudonym and write whatever you want to write. It follows, then, that it would be very easy to post numerous racist comments on a blog or forum or chatroom and then turn around and declare that blog or forum or chatroom to be racist.


And what counts as offensive or bigoted? That, too, could be subjective since Section 13 speaks of content that is "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt" - as we've seen in the cases of Maclean's magazine and the Western Standard, there are those who take that definition pretty far.


Mr. Christie makes an interesting point:


...(Christie) cited various historical issues that, if discussed truthfully, could conceivably expose certain groups to hatred: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, the battles of Waterloo and Tours, the Charge of the Light Brigade and the War of the Roses.


The Criminal Code restrictions on speech are sufficient - scrap Section 13.