“Human rights” commissions: A travesty of justice in Canada

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The Article

While the Canadian Human Rights Commission has bowed to widespread public opposition to proceeding with a complaint against Maclean’s magazine brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress, less powerful and prominent Canadians should beware: For them, the threat of censorship remains. Even Maclean’s is still under investigation by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in a parallel case initiated by Mohamed Elmasry, National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He has charged the magazine with expressing hatred and contempt for Muslims with the publication of an article by Mark Steyn on the escalating threat posed by radical Islam to democracy and freedom under law in Canada and other Western countries.

Elmasry has a low tolerance for criticism. In a newsletter published by the Canadian Islamic Congress, he has charged me and three other commentators with bearing primary responsibility for “today’s wave of anti-Islam vitriol” in Canada. And he has tried, but failed, to pressure President Paul Davenport of the University of Western Ontario into censuring Professor Salim Mansur for allegedly publishing columns “filled with hate-literature expressions” that “consistently denigrate Islam and Muslims.”

Ironically, it is not I, Mansur, Steyn or the editors of Maclean’s who are ill-serving Canadian Muslims. It is Muslim leaders like Elmasry. By using Canada’s human rights tribunals to intimidate and silence their critics, these authoritarian Muslims are undermining the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Of course, more than a few non-Muslims also betray scant regard for the historic rights of Canadians to freedom of expression. Recently, a gay rights activist threatened to denounce me to the Ontario Human Rights Commission for daring to suggest in a column published by The Free Press on Nov. 17, 2007, that same-sex couples do not have an equality right to adopt children. Specifically, I wrote: “Given that very few children raised by a homosexual couple have grown to adulthood, it is impossible to prove the competence of homosexuals as parents.”

An array of intellectuals denounced that statement as ignorant, malicious and ill-informed. But for all their bluster, not one could cite a single study to refute the experience of centuries which indicates that with rare exceptions, children thrive best under the care and guidance of their natural parents who are united in the traditional bonds of marriage between husband and wife.

However, truth is of no account in the censorship proceedings of a human rights tribunal. Typically, section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits the publication of even true statements that are likely to expose a protected person to hatred or contempt.

In general, the rules of evidence that have evolved over centuries to protect the innocent in a court of law do not apply in a human rights tribunal. Furthermore, while the federal and provincial human rights commissions pick up all the legal costs of complainants like Elmasry, the accused can easily accumulate more than $100,000 in legal bills.

Regardless, the prospects for mounting a successful defence in a human rights tribunal are remote. With all the rules stacked against the defendant, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has never lost a case under section 13.

In the end, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, like its federal counterpart, will probably not dare to censure a powerful publication like Maclean’s for the publication of Steyn’s article. But let us suppose otherwise. If a human rights tribunal were to order Steyn to apologize for his article and to pay several thousand dollars in damages to Elmasry, would Steyn comply?

Not likely. And neither would any other self-respecting journalist obey such an oppressive edict. They would all prefer to languish in jail as a prisoner of conscience rather than obey a court order requiring them to apologize for upholding the truth as they are given to see the truth.

There is only one sure way of preventing such a travesty of justice in Canada: The censorship powers of our human rights tribunals must be abolished. The sooner, the better.

Rory Leishman
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