Freedom of the press under human rights attack

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The decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal to investigate Maclean’s magazine for publishing an article that some Muslims have found offensive is just the latest in a long line of violations by

Canada’s so-called human rights tribunals of the historic rights of Canadians to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Mohamed Elmasry, National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress, initiated the attack on Maclean’s by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal with a formal complaint in which he claims that the magazine exposed “Muslims to hatred and contempt due to their religion” by publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s best-selling book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Elmasry contends that: “Under the British Columbia Human Rights Code, publication of material of the nature described above is prohibited and clearly exceeds the scope of free speech.”

In a recent editorial on the Maclean’s affair aptly entitled “B.C. hate provision should be excised,” the Globe and Mail suggested that Steyn may well have underestimated the forces of assimilation and integration for Muslim immigrants, “but then again he may be right.”

What will Elmasry and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal do now? Initiate an investigation of the Globe and every newspaper which dares to suggest that Steyn might be right about the perils posed by radical Islam?

It’s not only newspapers and magazines that are threatened by Canada’s human rights censors. Libraries and bookstores could be next. After all, if it is illegal under some of Canada’s human rights laws to publish just an excerpt from Steyn’s book, it must be an even greater violation of these misbegotten human rights codes to make his entire book available to the Canadian public.

Furthermore, it’s not just Muslims who are using Canada’s human rights tribunals to suppress viewpoints they find offensive. The Canadian Human Rights Commission is currently investigating Toronto-based Catholic Insight magazine at the request of a reader in Edmonton who charges that the magazine violated the ban on “hate literature” in section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Code in a number articles that simply uphold the universal and constant teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. 

This Catholic Insight inquisition began in February, 2007. The niche magazine has already run up a crushing $20,000 in legal bills in what looks like a vain attempt to defend itself against a Commission that has never lost a case in a tribunal hearing on a section 13 complaint.

Meanwhile, a human rights panel in Alberta has ruled that Stephen Boissoin, an automobile-parts manager and erstwhile Baptist minister, violated the province’s human rights code with a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate in which he denounced teachings on homosexuality in the public schools. The panel has ordered Boissoin to make a public apology and pay $5,000 in damages to the complainant, Darren Lund, a heterosexual professor at the University of Calgary who was offended by Boissoin’s letter.

The Red Deer Advocate has apologized for publishing the offending letter to the editor. Boissoin is appealing the panel’s ruling to the courts.

Referring to the Maclean’s case, the Globe and Mail has suggested that the censorship powers in section 7 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code “should be struck down by a court, if not by the tribunal.” But surely it’s elected legislators, not judges, who should eliminate the oppressive powers of Canada’s human rights tribunals.

In January, Liberal MP Keith Martin introduced a private member’s bill to abolish at least the censorship provisions in section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. On May 30, Conservative MP Rick Dyckstra followed up with a resolution in the Commons, calling upon the Justice and Human Rights Committee to hold hearings on the matter.

Let us hope these initiatives will prompt freedom-loving Liberals and Conservatives on both the federal and provincial levels to enact legislation safeguarding the inalienable rights of all Canadians to freedom of expression from any further violations by Canada’s misconceived human rights tribunals.


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