UPDATE: Read the Joel Brean's report on today's hearing here in the National Post.
Even though I have probably followed various Human Rights Commission related developments more closely than most journalists, I am not an expert on the Marc Lemire
case, nor do I plan to become one. So not having pored over the transcripts of his case, a lot of what I heard today was soporific procedural process stuff that was connected to previous testimony. I have to hand it to Kady O'Malley who live blogged on this for Maclean's.
Off her BlackBerry no less. I'm impressed! For a blow by blow account of today's hearings, start with her reports.
There were lot of Tab 3, and Tab13 referrals to various binders and reading aloud of portions of testimony so Dean Steacy could figure out what they were talking about. It made for a long, slow day.
Athanasios Hadjis, the one-man Tribunal member, kept things on track. He seemed alert, fair and good-humored. I have seen actual judges do worse, so nothing about his performance bothered me except in the beginning of the questioning of Hannya Rizk when he said he was not going to enlarge the scope of the investigation. That meant the kinds of questions the various lawyers could ask her were restricted to those few that she had refused to answer in a previous session because it might have given away precious state secrets on how investigators do their jobs. Hadjis ruling prevented follow up questions that would naturally have followed had she answered the original questions. It seemed at that moment the law became a bunch of process gobbledegook with little resemblance to common sense or justice. But aside from that, he tried to be accommodating of all sides. And the rest of the hearing was much better.As Mark Steyn wrote today, Richard Warman never showed up.
At first people were wondering if the bald-headed Bell Canada witness was Richard Warman.
Dean Steacy looks like Friar Tuck minus the brown habit. He even seems to have a tonsure. He was so low key, he seemed like he was on the verge of dozing off through out most of his testimony.
As Kady reported, there was very little mingling among the various groups. I spent a bit of time talking with the representatives from B'nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Simon Weisenthal Centre. Basically they were all singing from the same song sheet that Human Rights Commissions and Section 13 were good things and should get credit for the fact that hate speech from the right has been pretty well marginalized. The CJC guy also talked about the need to regulate the Internet.
They also liked the good work HRCs have done in areas of discrimination. Maybe some tweaking is in order, perhaps funding "respondents" or finding a way to get rid of nuisance complaints like those against Steyn and Ezra Levant, but that's about it.
I sat in between Mark Steyn and Dr. Dawg. A couple of Ottawa police officers also sat in the room. We had to have one of those metal detecting wands passed over us before we entered and leave our cameras (or cell phones with cameras) with the officer minding the door.
Steacy was asked many questions concerning his internet pseudonym Jadewarr that he used to join Stormfront and Free Dominion. The name comes from Jade Warrior, "a character out of novel I read as a teenager," he said.
He needed the identity, he said, to get onto websites to investigate. Though it was pointed out that these message boards are public, he said it was his understanding there was material you could only get access to if you were a member.
He said he did on occasion interact with Stormfront members. But he didn't remember how many posts.
He had no idea who the mysterious Nelly ****** is, the woman the Bell Canada guy identified with a name and address in downtown Ottawa. Apparently she or someone with access to her account posted under the name Jadewarr and 3:29 a.m. Sorry, missed the date.
Interestingly, he is not the only CHRC employee who has the password to post under Jadewarr.
He said four present CHRC people know the password and thus could be posting under that name.
He also revealed another pseudonym: Odensrevenge, but it was misspelled as oldensrevenge.
Some of the troubling information that came out of his testimony was the degree of cooperation between various big city police departments, the RCMP and even CSIS!!!!! in investigating hate.
In one case, a certain city police force had seized the hard drive of some dude after he was charged criminally---with uttering threats or something. Steacy made an inquiry and the police officer sent him a copy of the guy's hard drive, just like that! This bothered me. A police officer gets a warrant to seize buddy's hard drive based on a specific charge with a judge's consent. But that warrant has to be fairly specific, I would presume, to the complaint at hand. The authorities are not supposed to just do fishing expeditions and maybe discover that buddy's also been cheating on his income taxes or selling fake Viagra. But then, this police officer just hands the hard drive over to the Human Rights Commission, which has much mushier standards of evidence, so a totally new agency can do a fishing expedition without having to go through the hassle of getting a warrant. Shoot, even a dystopic novel manuscript or a review of one might get you in trouble if you have one on your hard drive.
Steacy got questioned quite a bit about the relationship of various police forces to the CHRC. Seems police have been out in force posting hate on various sites too, so that between the police officers and the multi-identity pseudonymous CHRC staffers and complainants posting on various sites you have to wonder how many actual hate mongers (on the right) there are in Canada.
At one point he denied that there was any agreement or cooperation between the RCMP and the CHRC or other police forces on Section 13 hate issues, only on matters of discrimination and sexual harrassment. But when the rest of a heavily blanked out correspondence one of the lawyers had obtained through Access to Information showed that in fact the police and the HRC were cooperating on investigating hate crimes, he kept repeating there was no formal agreement that he was aware of.
Some of the proposed cooperation between the RCMP and the CHRC include establishing direct contacts between RCMP and CHRC officers; sharing of information; improving access to information; giving direct access to CPIC for CHRC officers, among others.
He was asked about whether he had access to CPIC, the police computer information, when he contacted police for information. He said he didn't know where the information came from the police gave him. CPIC can have all kinds of information on it that would disturb those who worry about privacy issues. Like any time you have ever had any contact with the police, never mind whether you have been arrested or charged or convicted of anything. It can contain heresay, what neighbors say about you. Do we want CHRC investigators having access to CPIC?
Another interesting thing came up. Marc Lemire apparently tried to launch complaints against the various police and others who were posting hateful comments on his site. Steacy rejected the complaint because he included too many respondents on a double-sided sheet or some such procedural thing. In other words, he didn't fill out the complaint application properly. (Steacy did acknowledge that under the law even police officers could be vulnerable to hate prosecution for hate posts)
However, someone else, whom he adamantly refused to reveal, either casually phoned or emailed a casual complaint and that was enough for Jadewarr to start snooping over at Free Dominion. This complainant did not need to fill out the single-sided form.
Steacy has said that CHRC investigations are complaint driven, but he signed up on FD's message forum as Jadewarr well before a Marie-Line Gentes launched a complaint against FD for material that was not even on the FD site; there was only a link to it.
Gentes withdrew the complaint last summer, but FD has a record of Jadewarr logging on to their site in January of this year, raising questions about whether they are being monitored. Steacy also said Free Dominion was similar to Stormfront. Well, no, Mr. Steacy it is not. FD is run by two members of the Salvation Army who love Israel and are anything but anti-Semitic. Connie and Mark Fournier allow some rather raucous and crusty people to post on their forum, but there are no White Pride "crosses" or positive links to Ku Klux Klan activities or crap like that over at Free Dominion as there is on Stormfront. It is a conservative site and sometimes a bit freewheeling and immoderate.
Here's an example of some of the testimony and why I was almost ready to doze off myself:
Asked if he posted under name of Jadewarr on Freedomsite (Marc Lemire's site)
Steacy: "I don't recall."
Did Sandy Kozak (sp)?
Steacy: "I don't know."
Did Richard Warman?
"I don't know."
Did Richard Warman know you had signed on to site under pseudonym?
"I don't know."
"Did you talk to him about this complaint?
"I don't recall that I did."
Steacy said his manager John Chamberlain was aware of his use of the Jadewarr identity. He said he was not directed to do so. Chamberlain, Kozak and Steacy's assistant also know the password to this identity. It did not seem like there was a clear system of accountability concerning when and how this identity was used. To me, it seems that having the password available to several people makes it easy for any one of the staffers to have plausible deniability when it comes to accountability for posts.
"What I did as an investigator I did not at any time consult with Mr. Warman." But he said he did not know if someone else might have given Warman the password to Jadewarr.
The whole thing had that same kind of banal, bureaucratic, mushy hard to get a handle on it sense to it that Ezra's "interrogation" would have had if Ezra had not seized control and given the event a narrative shape.
The lawyers were playing to Hadjis and not to the gallery, so they didn't bother to create a narrative for those of us who were new to the case, to punctuate it with much drama.
Some of it was ridiculous. When the lawyers had to read some of the heavily redacted information they had obtained through access to information from the CHRC, It sounded like
Blank wrote to Blank, Hello Blank, I want to inform you about blank and the blank we had blank blank.
To his credit, Hadjis questioned why the material was so blanked out, when most of it was clearly "not privileged."
The other thing that bothered me is that the session was digitally recorded and the CHRC is no longer providing transcripts to the parties, just audio. Imagine having to listen to seven hours of "I don't know" and "I don't recall" and Blank said to blank how about blank blank to find the salient quotes you need. It makes the HRC process all the less transparent for the public, in my humble opinion.