You don’t generally get to pick your battles, and, if you’d asked me circa 2007 if I wanted to spend much of the next half-decade battling for the restoration of freedom of speech in Canada and elsewhere, I’d probably have decamped to the South Sandwich Islands. But then the Canadian Islamic Congress and their statist enablers in the “human rights” racket attempted to impose a de facto lifetime publication ban on me, and so I found myself conscripted to the cause.
It’s been a long, slow process, but the victories have been real. Section 13 of the Canadian “Human Rights” Code has as a practical matter been rendered unenforceable. It’s now about to be removed from the law formally. It passed its third reading in the House of Commons, which means it only requires a vote in the Senate and Royal Assent (yes, yes, calm down, Kevin Williamson et al), and it’s history. This twit from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is a good example of what we’ve been up against:
Clear off, you twerp. I don’t want the state to have a “mandate” to “educate” the citizenry about their thought-crimes. Even if I did not object on principle, one thing I’ve learned during this five-year campaign is that the statist hacks Canada’s official opposition is so eager to empower are, almost to a man, woman and pre-op transsexual, either too stupid or bullying to be entrusted with the task. Mr Garrison himself would appear to be a fine example of the former, at least.
If it’s a choice between an unlovely citizenry with all its flaws or an overbearing state policing their opinions, I know which is the lesser evil. What a shame a “progressive” “liberal” “socialist” like Randall Garrison has such a low opinion of his fellow citizens.
Jonathan Kay: Good riddance to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act
Jonathan Kay Jun 7, 2012 – 11:59 AM ET | Last Updated: Jun 7, 2012 1:03 PM ET
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.”
Those words produced outrage. But there was a grain of truth to what Mr. Steacy said: For decades, Canadians had meekly submitted to a system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups. All that was required was a complainant (often someone with professional ties to the CHRC itself) willing to sign his name to a piece of paper, claim he was offended, and then collect his cash winnings at the end of the process. The system was bogus and corrupt. But very few Canadians wanted to be seen as posturing against policies that were branded under the aegis of “human rights.”
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, thefederal 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.
Liberal MP Scott Simms voted for the bill
While Mr. Storseth and the MPs who voted for the bill (including Liberal MP Scott Simms) are to be applauded, the fact is that government action on this file is a trailing indicator of popular opinion, which has shifted against human-rights-justified censorship over the last five years for two main reasons.
The first reason: the legacy of 9/11, and the associated realization that speech codes have been actively hampering our ability to respond to the threat from militant Islam.
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.
The battle against human-rights speech codes is far from won: The worst cases of censorship, such as the muzzling of Christians who proselytize texts that contain anti-gay themes, occur at the provincial level. Yet the tide clearly has turned: The Canadian Human Rights Commission received only three hate speech complaints since 2009, two of which were dismissed. And at the provincial level, bureaucrats know that any censorious verdict they deliver instantly will be pounced upon by Mr. Levant and his blogging allies (including some at this newspaper), and thereby become a lightning rod for legislative reform.
The pattern extends to other areas of human-rights law, too: Just this year, an Ottawa woman became a (well-deserved) object of mockery when she went to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to speed up her demand for a parking pad in front of her house, on the basis that navigating the driveway to the back of her house was too tricky.
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.
— Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post, and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
‘Your God is wrong’:
Anti-abortion Prolife activist to appeal conviction, saying judge attacked religion
Sarah Boesveld Jun 7, 2012 – 6:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Jun 7, 2012 10:23 AM ET
Mary Wagner (R) with fellow anti-abortion protester Linda Gibbons. Both have lengthy criminal records and jail time due to abortion clinic protests.
The lawyer for an anti-abortion activist jailed for entering a Toronto abortion clinic last fall is appealing her conviction, saying he thinks the judge may have left the impression of bias during a verbal skirmish in which the judge told his client: “Your God’s wrong.”
Justice S. F. Clements launched a “conditional attack on the Christian God” during the March 21 hearing at the Ontario Court of Justice, in which Mary Wagner was convicted of mischief and breach of probation, apellate lawyer Peter Boushy plans to argue during the forthcoming appeal hearing.
“I think it could be certainly argued on appeal that the justice’s conditional attack on the Christian God, along with the tenor and content of his other comments that day, gives rise to a reasonable apprehension — and I stress the word ‘apprehension’— of bias by [the judge],” Mr. Boushy said in a statement to the Post.
- Supreme Court set to rule on whether jailed anti-abortion protester was treated fairly by law
- Barbara Kay: Confronting abortion, ‘the defining moral conflict of our epoch’
- Andrew Coyne: The idea we can’t debate abortion is unworthy of a democratic country
- Is one woman’s 16-year protest a case of harassment or free speech?
Court transcripts reveal a tense exchange, first between Judge Clements and one of Ms. Wagner’s supporters in court and then between the judge and Ms. Wagner.
After the man was ordered out of the court by Judge Clements, the judge turned to Ms. Wagner and said “Ms. Wagner is smiling. You don’t get it, do you Ms. Wagner?” before saying she does not know what the law means.
She asked him to explain it.
“If you think that you have some higher moral authority that allows you to break [the] rule of law, that allows you to go to that clinic, to allow you to disregard the rights of other people to use that clinic, to disrespect those people, then you are wrong, and your God is wrong, because no God would tolerate that,” Judge Clements said.
Later in their exchange she said she would not stay away from abortion clinics in the future.
“You are going to go to jail,” the judge said.
He found Ms. Wagner guilty of entering Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic the morning of Nov. 8, 2011, approaching patients in the waiting room, refusing to leave and pushing on a door being closed on her by staff to prevent her entry into a secure area of the clinic. Ms. Wagner was already on probation for a previous mischief charge and was barred from contacting clinic staff or being at least 500 metres from its doors when she appeared that day.
In her victim impact statement, clinic co-owner Patricia Hasen said Ms. Wagner returns to the clinic despite her legal restrictions, adding that it puts employees in an “emotional tailspin when a staff member says ‘Mary is here.’”
A devout Catholic, Ms. Wagner’s pro-life activism has earned her a lengthy criminal record made up of mischief charges and jail time connected to her abortion clinic protests in Toronto and Vancouver. She is friends with Linda Gibbons, a well-known anti-abortion activist who will hear from the Supreme Court this week if she had been appropriately dealt with in the courts. In fact, Ms. Wagner and Ms. Gibbons encountered one another in prison shortly after the November incident, friend Leeda Crawford said.
In his sentencing, Judge Clements dismissed a joint submission from Crown counsel Derek Ishak and defence lawyer Russell Browne that took time served into account, saying it was “not substantial enough if she is not going to abide by court orders.”
“You know, get a grip. She sure wouldn’t like it if somebody was standing on her doorstep everyday pushing her around. If I had the power to do that, that is what I would do. I would have somebody in her face every day, go and rattle her door. How would she like that?” Judge Clements went on to say.
Mr. Boushy said he will raise concerns about that comment as well as the judge’s exchange with Ms. Wagner over what is meant by the rule of law.
“There is simply no authority under the criminal code for a judge to so engage an accused during the sentencing process since all accused have the time honoured right to remain silent,” Mr. Boushy’s statement went on to say. “And this is for good reason. Because soon after this engagement, a fairly extensive debate ensued between Mary Wagner and the judge, the fruits of which the judge then used as an aggravating factor on sentence.”
Judge Clements sentenced Ms. Wagner to an extra three months in jail. She was released May 21st, and is now in Illinois taking a religious course, Ms. Crawford said.
Mr. Boushy will get the date for the appeal hearing later this month and doesn’t expect it to take place until fall.
Judge Clements did not respond to requests for comment.