Thursday, June 7, 2012

NATIONAL POST: Good riddance to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act


Interesting editorial in today’s National Post by Jonathan Kay, a longtime critic of Section 13 censorship and the fanatical Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Here are some excepts from the editorial.  The full article can be read at: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/06/07/jonathan-kay-good-riddance-to-section-13-of-the-canadian-human-rights-act  

----------------


National Post | June 7, 2012

Jonathan Kay: Good riddance to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act

Five years ago, during testimony in the case of Warman v. Lemire, Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) investigator Dean Steacy was asked “What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?” His response: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”

That was then. Now, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the enabling legislation that permits federal human-rights complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet,” is doomed. On Wednesday, the federal Conservatives voted to repeal it on a largely party-line vote — by a margin of 153 to 136 — through a private member’s bill introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth. Following royal assent, and a one-year phase-in period, Section 13 will be history.

In 2006, most notably, many Canadians were shocked when Maclean‘s magazine was dragged before Canada’s human-rights apparatus, and forced to justify its decision to publish an allegedly Islamophobic excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn. Till that point in time, it was casually assumed that anyone caught up in human-rights quasi-litigation was a fringe commentator scribbling out unfashionable, retrograde views on race-mixing, or the Jewish “bacillus,” or some such. But Mr. Steyn was an internationally acclaimed commentator writing on a real, modern threat that, in its most virulent form, had destroyed a large chunk of Manhattan, and which our troops were fighting against in Afghanistan.
The second factor that turned the tide against the human-rights industry was the blogosphere.
Till the middle part of the last decade, the Canadian punditariat was dominated by professional columnists who were socially, ideologically, and sometimes professionally, beholden to the academics, politicians, and old-school activists (from Jewish groups, in particular) who’d championed the human-rights industry since its inception in the 1960s. But in the latter years of Liberal governance, a vigorous network of right-wing bloggers, led by Ezra Levant, began publicizing the worst abuses of human-rights mandarins, including the aforementioned Dean Steacy. In absolute numbers, the readership of their blogs was small at first. But their existence had the critical function of building up a sense of civil society among anti-speech-code activists, who gradually pulled the mainstream media along with them. In this sense, Mr. Levant deserves to be recognized as one of the most influential activists in modern Canadian history.

Canada’s human-rights law is a product of the 1960s, when much of our society truly was shot through with bigotry and prejudice. Those days are gone, thankfully, and laws such as the Canadian Human Rights Act now comprise a greater threat to our liberty than the harms they were meant to address. The repeal of Section 13 of the CHRA represents a good, albeit belated, first step at reform. Let us hope it provides suitable inspiration for Mr. Storseth’s principled counterparts in provincial legislatures across the country.