Canadian human rights commissions and tribunals are under fire from many quarters these days. Anyone who wonders whether this is just or fair need only read Ezra Levant’s bestseller, Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy In The Name Of Human Rights.
Now—after rejecting recommendations made in a report by Prof. Richard Moon who her own organization commissioned for $50,000, and instead submitting a self-serving report of her own to parliament—Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), apparently, has decided to go on the offense. And the results are not pretty.
The thrust of her rebuttal seems to be to ignore valid points raised in dozens of articles in the mainstream media and zero in on the most derisive phrases used by her critics.
Ms. Lynch gave a speech on Monday at the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) 2009 Annual Conference. Here are excerpts:
The debate moved to one of discrediting Commissions’ processes, professionalism and staff. Much of what was written was inaccurate, unfair, and at times scary:
Articles described human rights commissions and their employees in this way:
- ‘human rights racket’
- ‘welcome to the whaky world of Canadian human rights.’
- ‘...(i)t sounds like a fetish club for servants of the Crown’
- ‘a secretive and decadent institution’
In addition to this mounting discredit for our institution:
- blogs worked to destroy our investigators and litigators’ reputations and credibility with untrue accusations;
- groundless complaints were lodged with the law societies; and
- a Commission employee’s life was threatened.
Some human rights experts tried to respond and correct this misinformation. One human rights expert who wrote a letter to a major daily paper faced an accusation in a response letter by a journalist the next day asking, ‘is (name of person) a drunken ”pedophile?’
We should not be surprised at her tactics, of course, because, in the view of the CHRC, comments that hurt ones feelings are tantamount to criminal offences. You can read her sophomoric screed here, however, I should warn you it is filled with vindictive sounding charges against the mainstream media, and almost devoid of any “context” or actual proof that the statements and personal attacks were false.
There is one element of Ms. Lynch’s recent report to parliament that I find especially bothering: it suggests that truth as a defence in cases of so-called “hate speech” be removed from the Criminal Code. Should she and her agency get their way, Canadians would lose the section that protects anyone who is telling the truth, or believes what he or she was saying to be true. Here is the section as it currently stands:
Section 319(3) of the the Criminal Code identifies acceptable defences as follows: No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
(b) if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject;
(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or
(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.
This is a vitally important section of the Criminal Code. So long as we Canadians insist on identifying certain types of so-called “hate speech” as criminal offences, we need this defence. Telling the truth should not be a crime, regardless of its offensiveness.
As to Ms. Lynch’s assertions that “blogs worked to destroy our [CHRC] investigators and litigators’ reputations and credibility with untrue accusations…”, I submit that those in charge of these commissions—like Jennifer Lynch in Ottawa and Barbara Hall in Ontario—are the ones who are destroying their own credibility.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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