Monday, February 25, 2008

Janet Epp Buckingham doesn't get it

In a recent column "Abolish human rights commission? Not so fast" Janet Epp Buckingham - a lawyer who frequently represents Christians in court - says:

Some people are using the mere fact that the commissions are considering the complaints to argue that they should be abolished. That is like saying that the courts should be shut down just because someone has sued me! Sure, it is a pain and can be costly if you hire a lawyer to defend you. But that is what happens in a country where you have laws and courts. You may have to defend yourself against someone whose claim has little merit. Everyone deserves their day in court.

She doesn't get it. Human Rights Commissions are not there to enforce the law. There are defamation, libel, slander laws and hate crime laws controlling criminal speech in Canada. Such cases are dealt with in courts of law. The complaints people bring to HRCs are about activities and speech which are entirely legal but which hurt feelings and are perceived as insults. The function of HRCs becomes one of controlling thought (and its expression) and making political incorrectness a punishable offense.

And punished you will be, whether you're found guilty or not. Because, on top of the fines levied by the HRC if found guilty, the defendant must pay all lawyer bills while the complainant gets his/hers paid by the government no matter how the case ends up.

And that's another dodgy thing -- predicting how the case will end up. These commissions are arbitrary. If you're dragged in front of one, even your lawyer can't guarantee which way your case will go. It's up to the commission, made up of bureaucrats and lay people and who knows who else to decide if the complaint is worthy. And on the basis of what? The depth your opponent's outrage? Your seeming lack of contrition? The color of your socks? It sure isn't on the basis of the law.

On the other hand the Canadian Association of Journalists does get it:

CAJ urges changes to human rights laws

OTTAWA, Feb. 22 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling on federal and provincial governments to amend human rights legislation to stop a pattern of disturbing attacks on freedom of speech.

Two recent cases spotlight the dangers of allowing state-backed agencies to censor speech based on subjective perceptions of offensiveness - MacLean's magazine, which is facing complaints in two provinces and nationally for an article by syndicated columnist Mark Steyn, and Ezra Levant, the former publisher of the Western Standard who is now before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for his decision to publish the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

"Human rights commissions were never intended to act as a form of thought police," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "But now they're being used to chill freedom of expression on matters that are well beyond accepted Criminal Code restrictions on free speech."

Read entire

Denyse O'Leary, author of By Design or by Chance? and The Spiritual Brain,gets it too.

So does Ray Wiseman.


Willow said...

I am back to see you, Violet. The pussy willow photos are beautiful and I am interested in your Fort to Fort trail. I'm going to look it up on the internet and find out more about it. Thanks for sharing the walk!

violet said...

Hi Willow, thanks for dropping by! I see you have some stellar walks where you live too. Beautiful! (And so is your new baby)

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