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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The welcome death of Section 13 and the arrogance of Canada's censors

Depending on who you talk to, a government lawyer named Richard Warman is either admired or reviled for his unrelenting effort to punish hate speech  in Canada. Joining neo-Nazi online forums, Warman has identified a number of public hatemongers and successfully pursued judgments against them through Human Rights Commission rulings.

His goal of working towards a Canada without racism and illegal discrimination  is an admirable one. From all credible accounts, Warman's efforts are the result of the noblest of motives; the desire to contribute to society and continue, in a different form, the fight against Nazism and fanatical racism that his relatives had done in battle during the Second World War.

But there is a dangerous flip side to the Human Rights Commissions that Warman and others have utilized to serve their aim. Conceived for the purpose of fighting illegal discrimination in employment, housing, education and so on, they have morphed  into tools used by special interests to try to prevent any form of speech that they consider offensive.

They have been used to intimidate people who have not promoted discrimination or racism but have merely expressed ideas. Some of the most notorious abuses were the cases of Ezra Levant being prosecuted for publishing cartoons of Islam's founder Mohammad and Mark Steyn and Macleans magazine for an article about the affect of Islam on western society. Though both cases were ultimately dismissed, there are obvious  problems with a quasi-judicial system presided over by individuals of questionable qualifications and dubious judgement, that forces defendants to appear at their own expense, while plaintiffs can launch frivolous publicly funded cases.

The notion that an ideology that is antithetical to the freedoms that western civilization has achieved is above criticism, because of an idolatrous deification of the secular concept of multiculturalism, should be abhorrent to anyone who believes in liberty and democracy. But that is precisely how Human Rights Commissions have been used, with the assistance of its petty-minded functionaries who believe that free speech is only "an American concept" without value in Canada.

Yet that is how Canada's Human Rights Commissions have been employed by defenders of Islamism. While in Canada, the majority of Muslims have rejected violent jihad, but that rejection is not universal, and Islamic nations like Iran are ruled by leaders who embrace the murderous methods of terrorism.

There is a regrettable, though somewhat amusingly illogical arrogance to the Human Rights censors who appear to think they possess a secret knowledge of the human capacity for hate. I was going to ask Richard Warman a question about that a few months ago at a public forum put on by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At that event, Warman debated Canadian Civil Liberties Association General Counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers about the soon to be undone Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act that deals with hate speech. That debate took place, somewhat ironically, at the same place that almost exactly a year earlier was the site of an anti-Israel forum featuring the author of an anti-Semitic thesis sanctioned by the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Warman had described a short film called "Fitna"  about Islamic radicalism produced by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, as "criminal hate speech."

Fitna is not the ravings of xenophobic "right wingers" against Muslims and Islam. It is a compilation of images of Islamic leaders and demonstrators expressing approval of terrorism,murder, and repressive dictates against Muslim and non-Muslim alike. To be sure, those portrayed in Fitna are not representative of all Muslims. But Wilders did not invent those images and they are a significantly sizable minority within the Islamic world to be of serious concern to those in the West who believe in democratic ideals.

Wilders himself was described by Warman as a "far right" politician. Fitna is a warning against a religious and political ideology that suppresses women and denies them abortion rights, persecutes and kills Gays for their sexuality, persecutes religious minorities, and has no respect for free speech. In what kind of bizzaro world is someone who seeks to defend abortion rights, women's rights, gay rights and free speech against those who suppress them considered  a "right-winger"?

The question I intended to ask Warman was that as he had seen Fitna and had not been transformed into a raving Islamophobe, how is it that he sees fit to try to deprive others of that right on the basis that it would affect other people differently than it did him? Does Warman believe he is so intellectually and morally superior, like some inner party member of Orwell's 1984, that he is of a special class of person capable of correctly processing information the rest of us can not?

As it happened, I didn't get the chance to ask Warman that question, because just as it was my turn at the microphone, I was cut ahead of by Bernie Farber, the anticipated next head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Farber, another proponent of civil hate speech regulation, used his time with Warman to engage in the verbal equivalent of mutual masturbation in which the two men lavished praise on each other, and so consumed all the remaining question and answer period.

Fortunately, questions related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act will soon be moot. As a result of a Private Members' Bill put forward by Alberta MP Brian Storseth, the law that let unqualified censors determine the free speech rights of Canadians will soon be repealed. Hate Speech will still be a crime in Canada, but it will have to meet the test of standards necessary for criminal prosecution in genuine courts presided over by real judges. Given the plentiful opportunities for abuse and mischief afforded by Section 13, its death is not only welcome, but long overdue.

Canada's arrogant censor class need to understand that free speech is not a privilege over which they have final say, but a basic human right that should be infringed on only under the most serious of circumstances.

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