Human rights process damages the innocent

  • February 6, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The federal government should consider the damage done to unjustly accused innocent parties by complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, says the editor of Catholic Insight magazine .

Basilian Father Alphonse de Valk wrote to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in a Feb. 2 open letter, responding to the Moon Report’s recommendation to repeal the controversial subsection of the Canadian Human Rights Act that allows the rights commission to investigate hate speech. The CHRC commissioned the report from University of Windsor Professor Richard Moon last year.

De Valk told Nicholson his 17-year old, national monthly magazine had been the subject of a complaint for “purveying hate literature” that the commission dismissed in July 2008, but not after costing the small-circulation magazine almost $30,000 in legal fees. Yet those who file complaints have nothing to lose, except, in the Catholic Insight case, a “postage stamp,” he wrote.

“On matters of faith and doctrine, we seek to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” de Valk wrote. “In our view, the attacks on us, herefore, are also attacks on the freedom of the Catholic Church in Canada.

“The changes to the charter made by the Supreme Court over the years now pit the new sexual orientation equality rights against the rights of large sections of the Canadian population,” he said. “In the future, this may well become the source of grave divisions and political unrest.”

De Valk noted the human rights complaint was filed “in tandem” with attempts by another homosexual activist who complained to Heritage Canada that the magazine was hate literature in an effort to remove Catholic Insight’s postal subsidy. Heritage Canada rejected that complaint Dec. 31, 2008, he said.

“The nature and timing of the actions suggested a co-ordinated effort to injure our publication and, possibly, to put it out of business.”

De Valk pointed out that members of the homosexual community regularly vilify Catholics but have never been subject to human rights investigations, citing a regular column in the Toronto gay newspaper Xtra.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission and provincial counterparts have “had a political agenda from the beginning,” he said, especially regarding “incorporating sexual orientation and so-called same-sex marriage into Canadian legislation.” The details of this agenda, he said, are available in a recent report issued by the commission entitled Human Rights Commission and Public Policy: The Role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Advancing Sexual Orientation Equality Rights in Canada.

“In it, the authors admit that the commission meddled in public policy development on sexual orientation equality rights, ‘despite a lack of political will or initial public support,’ ” he wrote. “We wonder what right an agency funded by, and supposed to represent, all Canadians had in pushing a distinctly political agenda that was probably at odds with the will of the majority of the Canadian people.”

De Valk agreed with Moon’s recommendation that the commission get out of the business of prosecuting hate speech and that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act — the so-called thought “crimes provision” — be repealed. 

“The use of censorship by the government should be confined only to a narrow category of expressions that advocate, justify or threaten violence,” de Valk wrote, noting the complaints against his magazine were a “retaliatory measure” for Catholic Insight’s positions on “matters for legitimate public debate.”

De Valk wrote that the commission’s complaints’ process violates the charter provisions to be “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

He rejected several of Moon’s other recommendations should Parliament decide not to repeal Section 13, such as giving the commission powers to shut down “hateful” web sites, and mandatory press councils.

De Valk also complained about the investigative techniques of the commission, which he said “verged on entrapment,” and its “failure to adhere to established and widely recognized processes of law and justice — rules of evidence, in particular.”

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