While lots of attention has been given to Liberal MP Keith Martin's private member's motion M-446 to delete a controversial section of the Canadian Human Rights Act, Pundita has some excellent analysis today that's a must read.
Don't assume that those who will practically die to defend keeping Section 13 will instantly nod their heads in agreement with the argument. It's going to be a tough slog. The Cohen Commission findings on psychological trauma were given so much weight because they supported Canada's official policy of multiculturalism.
Clearly, multiculturalism policy expanded beyond a defensible mandate when Section 13 gave government sweeping power to suspend laws crucial to democracy -- laws such as the presumption of innocence.
The task is to demonstrate that you cannot hold onto democracy if you base your concept of social harmony on averting psychological trauma.
I suspect that the recent flood of articles in Canada about the need to defend free speech has lulled some supporters of M-446 into believing that getting rid of Section 13 will be a walk in the park. It's a walk in the park, all right -- Jurassic Park.
There are parallels between the Section 13 issue and Jurassic Park. One is an experiment in social engineering devised by shortsighted people; the other is an experiment in DNA engineering devised by shortsighted people. Both experiments met with awful consequences; it's just that it's taking longer for the implications of Section 13 to play out.
There is indeed a push to criminalize "offensive" speech, which is not big in Canada at this time although it's wafting to North America via Europe. It's the product of this era's version of social engineers run amok.
I want to add some additional thoughts. First of all, private members' business is subject to a lottery that ranks the order a member's bills and motions will get attention in the House. Martin's is somewhere in the 200s, so don't expect to see it any time soon. And let's just say a best case scenario somehow moves the motion to the front of the line, it passes an initial vote and goes to committee. Then what? (Keep in mind the at least 50 per cent of the committee would would adamantly oppose the motion, possibly more depending on which Liberals are on it, and who knows what the Tories message would be). What would be the consequences to the common good if the motion loses?
My memory drifts back to the marriage motion Stephen Harper promised in the 2006 election.
Many Catholics --traditionally more at home in the Liberal Party because they tend to like generous social programs for the poor--voted Tory for the first time because of marriage. Could they have given Harper enough of an edge to hand him his minority win? I'm not enough of number cruncher to give the answer, but I suspect they played a role.
Their high hopes were dashed. Remember how quickly the motion went through committee and to the floor for a vote, with hardly the kind of debate such a crucial issue deserved? Is that what people watching the Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and Catholic Insight cases want for freedom of speech and the press?
Before the marriage motion came to a vote in Dec. 2006, a coalition of socially conservative and religious groups publicly urged the Prime Minister to treat this subject with the seriousness it deserved, and to put off the marriage motion in favor of further study.
They were calling for the kind of study the French government commissioned before it made a decision on same-sex marriage. Based on recommendations that showed changing the definition of marriage would be detrimental to the rights of children, France decided against gay marriage.
The freedom of speech issue is another front in the same battle, even though there are many supporters of same-sex marriage who also strongly support freedom of speech.
Canada is in the midst of a huge shift from a former Christian hegemony in its understanding of human rights to a clash with secularist and materialist conceptions that can be frightening illiberal if they continue to gain ground. Think about the legacy of Karl Marx to human rights and you'll get the picture. That's not all. An additional front has opened as radical Islamists seek to implement Saudi-style conceptions of Sharia in the West and are willing to use our liberal institutions, courts and multicultural apparatus to gain ground. (And pour lots of their oil revenues into changing and radicalizing our university faculties, mosques and other institutions). These two illiberal fronts are working in a strange tandem.
It will be interesting to see whether this freedom of speech issue continues to gain traction and whether any of the groups that fought for traditional marriage will enter the fray. But I doubt they would be interested in merely supporting a motion.
They may be asking themselves---why not something like the Manley Commission? Why not a fully-funded (of all sides) round tables series of cross country discussions like the mining industry got? Why not a Royal Commission? They may be asking themselves, gee, if Mulroney/Schreiber ancient history gets a full blown public inquiry why not the most central issue facing Canada today, our very rights and freedoms AND protection of vulnerable groups from defamation? Is there a way we can do both?
I will be watching for those developments, because I don't think a little tinkering here and there with the Canadian Human Rights Act will solve the problem. The problem goes to the heart of who we are, and it doesn't seem like we know who we are anymore. We need to find that sense again. We need to dig deep and refresh our roots. We need a major re-education process. A renaissance.
I can't tell you the degree of ....what's the best word....betrayal? disappointment? dismay? among social conservatives, religious and non.....at the way the Harper government handled the marriage motion.
I imagine many eyes are watching to see how Harper is going to handle this issue. I know Ezra is right in that there is a lot of support within the Tory Caucus. When I attended the second anniversary of the Tory win in late January, I tried to gauge the degree of awareness and support in conversations with a number of cabinet ministers, MPs and staffers concerning the Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn cases. This event was a couple of weeks after Ezra had put his interrogation on YouTube. I found awareness of the issue spotty back then.....some had only a vague awareness. But others were watching quite closely. A lot has happened in the past month. We'll see what happens.