Frightening Canadian Free-Speech Suppression Ignored by US Old Media

My my, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is busy these days -- aiding and abetting those who wish to suppress the human right of free speech and expression.

Even though (or is it because?) the vehicle that enabled and emboldened the CHRC's thought police and those who complain to it was the passage of the kind of "non-discrimination" legislation Congress has considered passing for several years, US Old Media could care less.

Some of the CHRC's targets:

  • A Catholic magazine (also noted by NB's Tim Graham last month) --

    In February 2007 Rob Wells, a member of the Pride Center of Edmonton, filed a nine-point complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging that Catholic Insight had targeted homosexuals as a powerful menace and innately evil, claiming it used inflammatory and derogatory language to create a tone of “extreme hatred and contempt.”

    Catholic Insight responded to these charges in its January 2008 issue, saying the complaint consists of “three pages of isolated and fragmentary extracts from articles dating back as far as 1994, without any context.”

    ..... The magazine has continually emphasized that, with the respect to homosexual activity, it follows the guidance of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Although I doubt it will happen (yet), it seems "logical" that CHRC could say, "OK, you're right, the entire Catholic Church is engaged in 'extreme hatred and contempt.'"

  • Ezra Levant, who as noted at Wikipedia, "drew the attention of the Muslim community by reprinting the controversial editorial cartoons depicting Muhammad, the founder of Islam" in February 2006 (the cartoons originally appeared in Denmark). Syed Soharwardy of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada filed a Human Rights Commission complaint over the cartoons' publication.

    At his hearing last week, Levant requested that he be convicted (YouTube video is at link; HTs to LGF and Hot Air):

    As the 90-minute interrogation proceeded, it became obvious to me that it would be morally inconsistent to end by asking for an acquittal, or any other "mercy" from the government. The logical conclusion of denying the legitimacy of the commission was to demand its worst. The point of civil disobedience is not to get off scot-free, but to willingly accept the punishments of an unjust system, to shame that system into reform.
  • Then there is the case involving syndicated columnist and self-described "One-Man Global Content Provider" Mark Steyn --

    The Canadian Islamic Congress, one of Canada's largest Muslim groups, says Maclean's, a popular Canadian weekly news magazine, subjected Muslims to hate speech with an article in October 2006 by best-selling author Mark Steyn that said a high Muslim birthrate, combined with Muslims "hot for jihad," could conquer a West that is unwilling to stand up for its civilization.

    The Islamic group has asked a government body to step in to guarantee it the right to an equal-length rebuttal to the article, which was an excerpt from Steyn's September 2006 book "America Alone."

    ..... (Maclean's) Publisher Kenneth Whyte said he would rather go bankrupt than have the CIC set the terms for what the magazine publishes.

    Steyn is philosophically in solidarity with Levant: "I don't want to get off the hook. I want to take the hook and stick it up the collective butt of these thought police."

  • Finally, there is the evidence that CHRC staff and/or sympathizers are anonymously engaging in what they would consider "hate speech" for the purpose of baiting others into engaging in it. Steyn explains --

    Canada's "Human Rights" Commissions have managed to get anonymous website comments designated a crime and its investigators now go around leaving such comments themselves? Is that right? Traditionally, an "agent provocateur" in the men's room has to entrap the guy in the adjoining stall into propositioning sex. In other words, the target still has to commit the actual crime. But in the case of the HRCs the agent provocateur can, in effect, commit the crime himself and then charge the target with it.

    Nice work if you can get it. Agent Steacy and other current or former CHRC employees who do likewise would undoubtedly insist that they're nice liberal progressives posing as anti-Semitic white supremacists. But who's to say it's not the other way round? Maybe someone should take them to the CHRC.

These are only the most visible examples. For several years, as Toledo Blade op-ed columnist Terrence Watson points out, the CHRC has gone after several individuals who have expressed politically incorrect thoughts:

But for some time now, Canada's HRCs (both federal and provincial) have decided they have the authority to punish thought as well as deed. They have used their power to inflict fines and tear apologies from the pens and throats of those crazy enough to hold opinions offensive to Canadian orthodoxy.

People like Stephen Boissoin. In 2002, a Canadian newspaper published his letter-to-the-editor. In the letter, Mr. Boissoin, a former pastor, stated his opposition to homosexual activity. Eric Lund, a university professor, complained to Alberta's HRC and it agreed to hear the case. In making his complaint, Mr. Lund not only demanded that the HRC force Mr. Boissoin to apologize, but that it also prohibit other newspapers from publishing his letters.

In 2007, the HRC ruled against Mr. Boissoin. His punishment has yet to be decided.

I could also tell you about Ron Gray, leader of Christian Heritage Party, a bona fide political party, who was brought before an HRC because of an article on his party's Web site that was critical of homosexuality. During the hearing, a top HRC investigator declared that, "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."

The sad non-surprise is that US Old Media could care less. Examples:
  • New York Times searches on "Catholic Insight," "Levant,"Maclean's," and "Mark Steyn," and "Canadian Human Rights Commission" return no results -- none -- relevant to any of the matters described above.
  • A Google News search on ["canadian human rights commission" "catholic insight"] (typed as indicated) returned six items, none from Old Media. The same search done in the Google News archive for 2007 came back bone dry.
  • Google News on "Ezra Levant" (typed using the quote marks) -- 65 items, including one Washington Times op-ed, and no Old Media stories.
  • Google News on "Mark Steyn Canadian Human Rights Commission" (typed without quotes) -- 36 items. There's a three-paragraph mention in the Washington Times, a story in the January 9 Times, and a short item at Editor & Publisher. The E&P item uncritically quotes a Steyn complainant:
    (Canadian Islamic Congress) President Mohamed Elmasry said the complaint is not designed to prevent free expression but to ensure that large media outlets like Maclean's allow minorities to respond.
    One wonders how E&P would feel if everyone dissatisfied with its coverage of the news publishing industry became routinely able to demand and get equal time and bandwidth.

Their virtual silence on the CHRC, and how it has been co-opted to intimidate and silence critics, should cause one to question Old Media's claim that they are champions of free speech and expression.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.