MP asks justice committee to investigate rights commission

  • May 22, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Liberal MP Keith Martin has asked the House of Commons justice committee to hold televised hearings on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the law that governs it.

“I’m almost certain that they will take a look at all of those and do a very profound dissection of the Canada Human Rights Commission, of what they’re doing, of what they’re not doing in the defence of the true rights of our country,” Martin said.

In late January, Martin introduced private member’s motion M-446 to remove subsection 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This controversial so-called “thought crimes” section says no person shall publish anything that “indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate” against any person or persons of various protected groups or material that is “likely” to expose them to “hatred or contempt.”

There is no need to prove the speech or publication actually caused any adverse effects; nor is truth or fair comment a defence as they are in libel or defamation civil actions.

Maclean’s magazine and Catholic Insight magazine both face hate crime complaints under this section. (See here) Maclean’s also faces a five-day trial in early June before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal under similar provincial legislation. Maclean’s faces complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress for running an excerpt of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone.  Catholic Insight faces complaints for running articles alleged to be hateful to homosexuals, even though its editor, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, contends the magazine has written nothing inconsistent with Catholic doctrine.

On May 8, the Justice Department filed a 50-page brief in the Richard Warman and the Canadian Human Rights Commission vs. Marc Lemire case now before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, in defence of the controversial subsection. The brief states that while “defences of truth and fair comment remain available to torts such as defamation and seditious libel,” these defences are not available in the case of alleged hate propaganda “because the prohibition is concerned with adverse effects, not with intent.”

Martin said he was “absolutely shocked” by the Justice Department’s intervention.

“The Justice Department’s missive really was a trampling of basic human rights, human  rights that are enshrined in our charter and I was very disturbed by their intervention,” he said. “So I’m hoping that our Justice Committee actually reviews the Commission and hopefully they’ll be able to — that we’ll be able to bring in members from the Justice Department to be able to account for their statements.”

The decision to intervene in the Lemire case was made by then Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, but it becomes the official position of Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Lemire is a computer expert who maintained some far-right and allegedly white supremacist web sites and message boards. Commission investigators and complainant Warman, a former commission employee, have both admitted under oath to using false identities to post messages on extremist sites.

Though complaints against Lemire gained little attention because of his unsavory reputation, those against Maclean’s and, in Alberta, against the former publisher of the Western Standard, Ezra Levant, for republishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed have created a firestorm on the Internet, talk radio and television debate programs and newspaper columns and editorials.  

Members and supporters of the human rights industry have launched their own counter-attacks in defence of the laws, arguing that vulnerable minorities need to be protected against hate.

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