Rights complaints against Catholic Insight dismissed

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  • July 7, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Canadian Human Rights Commission has dismissed an anti-homosexual hate speech complaint against Catholic Insight magazine.

“We are of course very cautious,” said Catholic Insight editor Fr. Alphonse de Valk, CSB, whose small-circulation magazine already faces more than $20,000 in legal bills. “A judicial review is still possible. We’re not out of the woods yet.

“It is chilling to think that a publication can be hauled before a government tribunal simply for reporting to interested citizens developments in these areas of controversy,” said de Valk in a July 4 statement. “This matter underscores once again the necessity of urgent reform of the Canadian human rights system.”

Edmonton-based homosexual activist Rob Wells filed the nine-point complaint against Catholic Insight in early 2007. Catholic Insight is going to see whether it can take legal action to recoup its costs because of “harassing and financially burdening” nature of the complaints. Catholic Insight has maintained it has always adhered to Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

The commission also dismissed the Canadian Islamic Congress’ (CIC) complaint against Maclean’s magazine for running an excerpt of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone, entitled The Future Belongs to Islam. The CIC called the article “flagrantly Islamophobic.”

“The Steyn article discusses changing global demographics and other factors that the author describes as contributing to an eventual ascendancy of Muslims in the ‘developed world,’ a prospect that the author fears for various reasons referred to in the article,” said the decision. “The writing is polemical, colourful and emphatic, and was obviously calculated to excite discussion and even offend certain readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.”

The commission said the article, when considered as a whole, was not of “an extreme nature” and did not warrant the appointment of a tribunal.

De Valk called the Maclean’s dismissal “wonderful news,” saying he hoped it was a sign of “better days ahead, that cooler heads will prevail and something will be done about these human rights commissions.”

Steyn heard about the dismissal while attending Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s garden party for journalists June 26. He joked he was disappointed, saying he had hoped to lose so the case could be appealed to a higher court.

In a June 27 statement, Maclean’s welcomed the decision but asserted: “no human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into or assess the editorial decisions of the nation’s media.”

Maclean’s also expressed “grave concerns” about the fact that the same complainants could make the same complaint in multiple jurisdictions, costing the magazine “hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the inconvenience.”

The Islamic congress filed complaints not only with the Canadian commision, but with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The Ontario commission dismissed the complaint on jurisdictional grounds earlier this year, but head commissioner Barbara Hall issued what Steyn described as a “drive-by verdict,” saying she agreed the article was Islamophobic. The B.C. tribunal held a five-day hearing on the case in May but may take months to issue its decision.

The complaints against Maclean’s and former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant for republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons have prompted the two writers to lead a campaign exposing the abuses of both federal and provincial commissions.

Dozens of bloggers have kept up a daily campaign since last December for freedom of speech and of religion. Every major newspaper in Canada has written editorials claiming the hate speech provisions in both the federal and provincial statutes have to be eliminated. Columnists and talk show hosts have also joined the fight, as have organizations like PEN Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has launched an internal investigation of hate messaging on the Internet, but the commission is also under investigation by the Privacy Commissioner and by the RCMP for allegations it illegally used the WiFi service of a private citizen to post on a white supremacist site under an assumed identity. Its investigators and a former investigator who has filed the majority of complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act have confessed under oath to joining racist hate-sites under assumed names like Jadewarr and posting hate messages to gain access to identities of members.

In March, a Bell Canada employee testified at a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing that a message to a racist site under the Jadewarr name was posted from a web address owned by a young woman who knew nothing about the post and told the National Post she was deeply distressed that her name was now tied to a white supremacist site.

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