Deborah Gyapong: May 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Me and CTV's Lloyd Robertson

At, I was surprised to find a photo of myself in conversation with CTV News anchor Lloyd Robertson taken during a break in a most interesting panel discussion at the Catholic Media Convention in Toronto.

I will have more to say on this panel later. Here's a bit from the report.

CBC's Kavanaugh had a fascinating story to tell. He told of spending ten days in England at the introduction of the human embryology bill which similar to such bills in North America allowed for in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. "Much to the shock of the Gordon government," Kavanaugh recalled, "the Catholic Church went ballistic, they blew up, they issued denunciations of the bill from the pulpit."

The CBC Radio producer continued: "The newspapers were filled with commentary from both sides, the front page of every paper was about the battle over the embryology bill. From an outsiders point of view it was a remarkable exercise in a democratic discussion about legislation that was proceeding through the House of Commons. It flowed into everything because the Cardinals and bishops in England suggested to Catholic politicians that they might not be able to vote in favour of this legislation. Gord Brown was in danger of losing several cabinet ministers, possibly 30 MPs.

Kavanaugh added, "It was an amazing exercise in democracy, the country was afire. I was actually invigorated and envious because we almost never have these conversations in Canada."

Significantly he said, "I've been thinking about this for two months now. I've come to the conclusion that its not our fault, its not the media's fault."

"Because the critical element in that story was a church's willingness to actually engage in public, in the fiercest of terms an issue that they saw as being vital to the future of the nation and the future of humanity. And the difficulty is in Canada churches are almost unwilling to do that, are unwilling to engage in those types of issues, in those types of discussions", he said to a room now riveted to full attention.

I don't fully agree. I think there are plenty of voices who would be ready to argue things cogently on the mainstream media, including several Catholic bishops, and some great academics like Douglas Farrow.

But while Kavanaugh said he's never been in a story meeting where bias against religion showed, I used to work at the CBC and I experienced it on occasion. In fact, one excellent guest, an articulate pro-life family doctor, was referred to by some colleagues as "the odious" Dr. so and so.

Some of the bias comes down to just plain ignorance and the secularist mindset that there just are no good or worthy arguments against certain things, so why bother digging harder to find one, just take the first descredible Bible-thumper one can find.

Give people the words they need to fight for what's right

I'm back from the Catholic Media Convention. Here's a link to the story I wrote on Margaret Somerville's keynote address:

TORONTO - Ethicist Margaret Somerville challenged Catholic media to become “word warriors” and ethics agents to give people “the words they need to protect human dignity.”

“Words matter” because human dignity is under “unprecedented threat,” the founding director of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law told a gathering of about 400 Catholic journalists and communications professionals at the Catholic Media Convention in Toronto May 28. “A few words can turn the tide.”

Somerville gave an example from a recent a conference in Turkey, dealing with the ethics of the selling of human organs. Most participants shared a horror of organ trafficking and “organ tourism,” but some were willing to consider the sale of organs because the organs are so scarce. Somerville said that at that conference she called the sale of human organs the “21st century form of slavery.” People used to sell the whole body, now they will sell bits and pieces of it, she said.

People need to be given the words so they can express what they believe ethically, she said.

“Give them the words to speak their truth.”

The rest. This is what the blogosphere is doing on the freedom of speech issue and the problems raised by so-called human rights commissions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The calm before the storm

I apologize for the light blogging. Last week I had company from out of town. Today I am on my way to a big media convention in Toronto, checking in from the train. How I love WiFi.

I wondered whether we had hit a lull in the freedom of speech/"human rights" controversy. Outside of Ezra Levant's daily revelations and Binky's round up over at Free Mark Steyn, things seem to have slowed down. Or is it just that I haven't been paying close attention.

My interest, however, has not waned. I just have other business to take
care of right now. I think we are more likely witnessing the calm before
the storm, the storm that will hit when Maclean's and Mark Steyn actually go
before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal last week.

Meanwhile, it will be very interesting to see what impact the panel at the CAJ Conference will have on the journalists that attended, the one that included Liberal MP Keith Martin, Canadian Human Rights Commission top lawyer Ian Fine and Ezra Levant. Ezra

There was a stunning moment at the end of the debate. It caused groans in
the audience, and both Martin and I quickly jotted it down to make sure we
got it right: one journalist in the audience asked Fine not just to give the
"official" line, but to tell the crowd what he personally thought about
section 13 and other censorship. His answer: "there can't be enough laws
against hate."

If Ian Fine had his way, section 13 wouldn't be abolished.
It wouldn't even be maintained. It would be expanded. He said he wouldn't
rest until there was "no hate" left.

Wow -- legislating an end to hate. Why not legislate an end to war, hunger and broken hearts, while you're at it?

That's nutty utopianism. Which is fine for old Marxists in universities. But it doesn't work so well when it's married to the power of the state -- the power to exact large
fines, to issue lifetime publication bans and gag orders, and to grind
respondents through years of abusive hearings.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Unaccountable commission with quasi-judicial powers that doesn't even have due process

The Quebec human rights commission has asked members of the Saguenay city council to stop praying before its meetings.


Jason Kenney, federal secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, found the order surprising.

Freedom of religion is a foundational principle in Canada and communities, in my view, have every right to exercise it as they see fit,” Kenney said May 15.

“Elected local politicians are accountable to their voters, not to some unaccountable commission with quasi-judicial powers that doesn’t even have due process.

Seeing Jesus in street people

When Judy Graves first started working in Downtown Eastside Vancouver, she found that dealing with addicted, sometimes violent street people who did not bathe was so stressful she had panic attacks.

She used to have go outside to be able to breathe. But now she walks the streets at night, waking the people she finds sleeping in alleys, under bridges, in parking garages. She listens to their stories, and by afternoon, she has found them a room to sleep in, a source of income and bank account.

"Nobody in their right mind would do this," Graves told members of Parliament, ambassadors, clergy and religious leaders at the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast May 14. "It is not natural to find the homeless appealing.

"You don't. I don't. None of us do," she said. "But God does."

Gotcha coming or going

Ezra has posted his second example of a hateful post put up by a Canadian Human Rights Commission employee, a post that easily violates Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Ezra writes:

It's important that the public -- and Parliamentarians -- know about this corrupt, abusive, counterproductive behaviour, that also just happens to be against section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which the CHRC is supposed to uphold.

Michael Teper writes the following in Ezra Levant's comment box:

Section 13(a) does not have an "official business" defence - there is nothing in the law that excuses someone from prosecution on the grounds that they were acting in the course of an official investigation.

Those who uphold Section 13 as it is can be appalled at the fact that for years employees of the CHRC have been violating this section of the Canadian Human Rights Act in the name of enforcing it. This is not a contestable "fact." These employees have admitted doing so under oath. The evidence is there in Canadian Human Rights Tribunal transcripts.

Whether the CHRC gets disbanded because of the behavior of its employees vis a vis its own governing Act, or whether the whole apparatus, Act included, is deemed an unCanadian violation of basic fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, this is the beginning of the end.

Will be see an amendment that adds an "official business" defence? But opening the Act up to one amendment opens it up to many more. A big public debate will ensue. We could see the Act tightened up to include defences of truth or fair comment; we could see the Supreme Court of Canada's Taylor decision's narrow parameters included in the Act itself.

Better yet to scrap the whole subsection. Then there will not be any violations of the Act, because there will be no Act.

I had been sitting on the fence about having some kind of protections against group defamation, something that would protect minorities from having lies told about them and having dehumanizing things said about them. But as some blogger said recently (alas, I can't remember where, but if I find your post again I will credit you), who would determine what is the truth? I sure don't want some Ministry of Truth run by the likes of a Barbara Hall deciding.

Either way, though, a huge scandal is developing. If you like the law as it stands, there is no way you can like the behavior of its enforcers.

If you think the law itself is an abusive law inconsistent with our entire heritage of rights and freedoms extending 800 years before the Charter, the enforcers' actions are all the more reason to scrap the law.

Keep talking about it---you bet

Sean Berry has a great blog post entitled "Keep talking about it." I will.

He writes:

And again, it hit me: my buddy's just some guy. He might be left, he might be right, but he's still Canadian, and these complaints struck him as incredibly un-Canadian. Before calling me, he probably thought he had nothing to fear by writing or saying any damn thing he wanted. Now I was telling him the opposite. That's a tough thing to hear when you're not ready for it. In a way, it's life changing.

I told him that I knew these commissions were a bad thing because last week I sat down to write something...and I paused.

That is the first time in my life as a Canadian citizen that I have ever thought twice about saying what's on my mind for fear of getting in trouble for it. First time ever. The words of the commissions were going through my head: "likely to expose someone to hatred or contempt."

Okay. So tell me what "likely" means. Or "contempt."

I think the blog was about gay marriage. I'm not against it, but I'm not for it. I think it needs time to sink in, and that it shouldn't be rushed. The reason I paused is I suddenly thought, "Could someone spin this as me "likely to expose someone to contempt?'"

Couldn't they do that to anything you or I write?
That's the problem with Subsection 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It can be spun any way the government appointees choose. Just having to face a complaint is punishment in itself, given the high costs of legal fees that you will never recover, even if the complaint is eventually dropped.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MP Keith Martin asks justice committee to investigate

The Catholic Register has picked up my story on Liberal MP Keith Martin's request that the Commons justice committee take a look at the Canadian Human Rights Act and the operations of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile, check Ezra Levant's site regularly for examples of what CHRC investigators have admitted under oath to postingposted while operating under false identities. You will hope Martin is successful in getting televised hearings as the appetizer to a full-blown Royal Commission. Here's an excerpt from the Register story.

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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Human Rights conference POSTPONED!!!!

I just received an email from the Public Policy Forum that the June 3 conference examining the future of human rights commissions has been postponed. No date has been set, but the email said,
it will be rescheduled "likely next spring."

I had a feeling it would be canceled, since as late as last week, there was no word on who would participate on the panel discussion and go head to head with Warren Kinsella that afternoon. It also looked like it was shaping up to be a snore-fest, at least from this former television producer's point of view.

Most interesting.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pope's UN talk a wake-up call to Canada

Pope Benedict's speech to the United Nations last month serves as a reminder to Canada that human rights discourse stems from a world view based on universal truths and an objective notion of right and wrong.

"Either we recover some of these assumptions and make a serious course correction," McGill University professor Douglas Farrow said, "or we begin to encounter quite rapidly the consequences."

Farrow sees Canada's human rights commissions as a sign the country is in a transitional phase, because increasingly the Canadians are seeing human rights as what we say they are.

"Thus laws can be written concerning human rights that have nothing to do with universal standards."


"Our human rights commissars may fancy themselves gods of a sort, but their time is short," he [Farrow] said. "Events, I suspect, will pass them by. But these may well be events in which we lose more than our freedom of speech.

"You can't expect the culture that we have to simply evolve slowly and in a natural sort of way when you change quite radically the world view and the underlying assumptions."

What it was like to cover the papal visit

When I was in New York City for the Pope's visit in April, I tagged along with the Salt and Light TV team. Here's a slightly shortened version of the story I filed that gives some idea of what it was actually like to cover the event, given the overwhelming security.

NEW YORK - Salt+Light TV producer Kris Dmytrenko thought covering the Pope’s visit to the United States April 15-20 would be like “being a pilgrim with access.”

“It was very different than what I imagined,” Dmytrenko, 28, said. “I thought I’d have free access to roam around, a ‘backstage pass.’ ”

“I was very excited about this trip to cover Pope Benedict XVI’s first trip to the U.S.A.,” said Salt+ Light TV camera operator Wally Tello, 43.

Tello remembered Pope John Paul II’s visit to his native Peru in 1984. Since the nunciature was a few blocks away from his home in Lima, he got to see him up close.

This time however, Dmytrenko, Tello and fellow producer David Naglieri, 27, found themselves swept into a gruelling round of 18-hour days that started with dogs sniffing all cameras and laptops for explosives, hand searches of briefcases, hair-raising bus rides under police escort and Secret Service or diocesan minders keeping everyone in assigned locations.

The Public Policy Forum devotes day to HRCs

The June 3 conference entitled Next Gen Human Rights: the future of Canada's human rights commissions begins with a keynote speech by the Canadian Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner Jennifer Lynch.

The policy panel afterwards gives no names of participants. It is interesting, however, that the panel's billing includes these words: "The panel will also look at the challenges of moving Canadian society in the direction of greater respect for individual and group rights, and will consider whether the commissions are the appropriate tools for that policy goal."

The former television producer in me is going Ack! Ack! Boring alert at the questions this panel will consider. Among them: "Can HRCs be made to be more effective? How?" The other questions will drown the morning in the details of process.

The afternoon features a debate between Warren Kinsella and . . . ? Liberal MP Keith Martin is invited. But not confirmed.

If I were Keith Martin I would not accept the invitation. Martin should debate another MP, not a spinmeister. Have you ever noticed how most panels on television do not mix apples and oranges?

They do not put journalists or columnists up against spin doctors. They do not put politicians up against journalists. They reserve special debates within these various groupings and seldom mix people up outside their genres.

The best person to debate Kinsella is fellow lawyer, blogger and Conservative spinmeister Ezra Levant.

The only reason why Mark Steyn debated the Socks was because they are the public face of the complaint against him.

I have a feeling this gathering is going to be a preaching- to- the- converted fest.
It is awfully expensive for a day so it will discourage various bloggers from attending.

Did Obama really say this?

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen," he added.

Does he expect people in Arizona to turn off their airconditioning when it is 116 F outside?

Does he expect people in Minnesota to turn down their thermostats when it is -30 F in the dead of winter?

Is he going to create a bunch of thermostat police with extraordinary powers to break into peoples' homes to make sure they have it down to 50 F in the winter and up to 90 in the summer? Is Michele Obama going to monitor whether we eat too much?

Is he going to bring in a Carbon Tax like Stephane Dion promises?

Is that the kind of leadership he's talking about? As much as I'd love to see a black president of the United State, please, not Obama. I wish McCain would choose a viable black candidate for president as his running mate.

h/t ffof

via sda

I loved it when this guy was U.S. Ambassador to the UN

John Bolton is terrifying to pompous asses, the intellectually effete, and the feminized nice people who think Jimmy Carter was a great president. I loved it when he was U.S. ambassor to the United Nations and cut through the b.s. with his simple, forceful, principled stands. How refreshing.

In today's Wall Street Journal he writes:

Mr. Obama hopes to characterize the debate about international negotiations as one between his reasonableness and the hard-line attitude of a group of unilateralist GOP cowboys.

The real debate is radically different. On one side are those who believe that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time. That is where I am, and where I think Mr. McCain is. On the other side are those like Mr. Obama, who apparently want to use negotiations 100% of the time. It is the 100%-ers who suffer from an obsession that is naïve and dangerous.

Negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique. Saying that one favors negotiation with, say, Iran, has no more intellectual content than saying one favors using a spoon. For what? Under what circumstances? With what objectives? On these specifics, Mr. Obama has been consistently sketchy.

Like all human activity, negotiation has costs and benefits. If only benefits were involved, then it would be hard to quarrel with the "what can we lose?" mantra one hears so often. In fact, the costs and potential downsides are real, and not to be ignored.

I love the clarity and precision in this op ed. Read it all.

And check out Mark Steyn's latest on the talk/talk policy approach. He's another one who makes those without backbones shudder.

Increasingly, the Western world has attitudes rather than policies. It's one thing to talk as a means to an end. But these days, for most midlevel powers, talks are the end, talks without end. Because that's what civilized nations like doing – chit-chatting, shooting the breeze, having tea and crumpets, talking talking talking. Uncivilized nations like torturing dissidents, killing civilians, bombing villages, doing doing doing. It's easier to get the doers to pass themselves off as talkers then to get the talkers to rouse themselves to do anything.

Robert Sibley's prescription: recover the virtue of real tolerance

Robert Sibley wraps up his excellent Ottawa Citizen series on tolerance today in part three entitled: A Return to Tolerance. Please read the whole series. Link to it. Save it. Refer to it often. And get a subscription to the Citizen to support this kind of great, thoughtful contribution to the ideas in the public square. If only, if only, our politicians sounded like this in Question Period and in Commons debates.

Sibley sums up the problem:

Indeed, dissatisfied with tolerance as a virtuous habit of patience and forbearance, we've tried to sidestep the need for it though various attempts to overcome our flawed nature. Whether through politics or pills, biotechnology or behavioural modification, we seek to order human experience in terms of safe, comfortable and passive contentment. As philosopher John Gray puts it: "Grounded as it is in accepting the imperfectability of the human lot, (classical) toleration is bound to be uncongenial to the ruling illusions of the epoch, all of which cherish the project of instituting a political providence in human affairs whereby tragedy and mystery would be banished."
Isn't this a wonderful picture of the kind of inherent utopianism animating the likes of Barbara Hall and other purveyors of the new so-called "human rights" regime? If only she could rein us all in through her carrots and sticks, we could all live happily ever after in a hyper-tolerant heaven on earth, brought to you by our tax dollars and our ideological superiors. Does she not realize she is the modern Inquisitor of today, with the state power to root out and suppress heresy?

But Robert Sibley provides a prescription that is an emetic for the ideological constipation that's fogging our Canadian brains:

For nearly five decades postmodern intellectuals have claimed that the assimilation of non-western immigrants is wrong because it presumes the superiority of western culture. These cultural relativists insist that the contemporary West, with its hard-won heritage of the rule of law, political freedom and individual rights, is no better than those cultures that remain tyrannical, violent and oppressive. The result has been a "therapeutic multiculturalism," to borrow philosopher Michael Walzer's phrase, that promotes the relativity of all cultures and values. But this relativistic multiculturalism amounts to a de facto surrender of those values and traditions that are the very source of tolerance. Therapeutic multiculturalism, says Walzer, threatens to undermine "every sort of common identity and standard behaviour," creating "postmodern vagabonds" who "may not be the most tolerant fellow citizens."

Unfortunately, this imprudent thinking has infected the public mind with uncertainty and doubt regarding western values and achievements. So much so, says philosopher Roger Scruton, that "western societies are experiencing an acute crisis of identity." Many westerners no longer conceive of themselves according to the Enlightenment ideal as rational creatures capable of rising above the limitations of birth, culture or geography. Now they assume their sense of identity, their sense of belonging, is tied to a particular religion, ethnic group or lifestyle community. This is a reversion to tribalism. And to the degree postmodern multiculturalism fosters this new tribalism, it threatens the West's liberal heritage.

The retention and continuance of that heritage requires putting an end to the self-flagellating psychology of anti-western postmodernism. One small step in this direction is the recovery of toleration, properly conceived. Genuine toleration presumes disagreement. This disagreement, however, is accompanied a willingness to treat the one with whom you disagree decently and respectfully. That doesn't mean, as the postmodern multicultists insist, that you are required to support, nourish, esteem or validate beliefs or lifestyles with which you disagree.

Amen! Amen! Amen! Great work, Robert Sibley. Thanks for an excellent contribution to the debate and for providing all of us with an intellectual framework to bolster our arguments. May your series be read and reread and studied far and wide.

Part one.

Part two.

Most interesting review of Prince Caspian--the Movie

Thomas S. Hibbs writes a most interesting review of Prince Caspian, the movie based on C.S. Lewis' book of the same name from the beloved Narnia series.

He writes:

A wonderful scene in the second half of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — the second film in the Narnia series, based on C. S. Lewis’s beloved books — highlights the importance of cultivating a memory of the past in the face of strong cultural and political tendencies toward decay and decline. Returning to Narnia after a one-year absence (1,300 years in Narnia time), the Pevensie children — Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) — find themselves in a cave whose walls are covered with ancient drawings. The drawings are memorials to them and their heroic feats in Narnia; it turns out that they have entered a sort of crypt built around the stone tablet on which Aslan was murdered and from which he rose to defeat the White Witch.

The sense of the remote past, as both almost lost and yet recoverable, permeates Lewis’s book. Yet, apart from the scene in the cave, the film neglects this theme in favor of grand battles and a budding romance between Caspian (in a rather lackluster performance by
Ben Barnes) and Susan. Indeed, devoted readers of Lewis’s books will likely take umbrage at the many changes the filmmakers have introduced. The unsettling question they ought to be asking themselves is whether the film transforms what, following Chesterton, we might call a great romance of orthodoxy into a Hollywood bubble-gum romance.

(. . . )

Hibbs praises aspects of the movie, but goes on to highlight what Lewis was trying to do in his novel that the movie lacks.

Lewis is doing more here than giving us a prolix prelude to a final battle. He is attempting to captivate his audience with the art of storytelling and with the superiority of real history over what passes for knowledge of the past in contemporary culture or in an ordinary academic setting. Lewis is also telling us something about the eponymous Caspian, a royal son, raised by his scheming uncle Miraz — who, it turns out, murdered Caspian’s father, and whose opportunistic desire to care for Caspian dissolves once his own wife gives birth to a son. We also learn that Caspian is from his youth a “lover of the Old Things,” in contrast to his uncle, who actively seeks to suppress the ancient and heroic history of Narnia.

Now, it makes sense to streamline Lewis’s historical narration, but, apart from the scene in the cave, the film fails to find a way to inject its version of the story with Lewis’s sense of devotion to the “Old Things.” Stressing Caspian’s longing to revive a lost way of life would have given his character greater gravity, something needed in the film to counterbalance the boyish good looks of Ben Barnes. His pretty appearance, the lack of character depth, and the filmmakers decision to focus on his innocuous flirtations with Susan render him a less than persuasive embodiment of Lewis’s main character.

I have become a lover of Old Things, someone who desires to recover a lost past. I feel I am walking among the precious ruins of Western Civilization, hoping somehow we can revive what was best about it. I also believe the pivotal moment in human history began with the incarnation of Jesus Christ and culminated in His death on the Cross. That is the history we most need to recover, so that we know He rose again, and because He lives, so can we live forever with Him.

At my little church, we use the King James version of the Bible, and the old Book of Common Prayer, once the glory of the Anglican Church, but now in the dustbins of most Canterbury churches. Instead they have a Book of Alternative Services that has modern inclusive language written by people with a tin ear for poetry and a dead ear for the still small voice of God.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Must read primer on tolerance by Robert Sibley

One of the things I have been trying to do on this blog is to try to sharpen my own thinking about human rights and freedom of speech so that I can be an able defender of our fundamental freedoms now under attack in Canada. I am looking for clear ideas, logical arguments, thoughtful approaches that cut through the confusion and relativism of our present cultural Alzheimer's disease.

Today, The Ottawa Citizen's Robert Sibley, in part two of a series, does such an excellent job of placing what ails us in context in a piece entitled Define True Patriot Love. It's a beautifully-written, philosophically-grounded but accessible look at how we have come to this present pass. Please print it off and read it. Link to it, quote it, and reread it and refer to it often. It is an excellent primer.

Sibley is one of the reasons why the Ottawa Citizen still rises to be a great paper in a post-Conrad Black world. I would also advise those who are interested in pursuing the ideas trail further to check out some of his sources, especially J. Budziszewski, a modern-day expert on natural law and the role of the conscience. His seminal essay Revenge of the Conscience is also a must-read.

Sibley writes:

Postmodern hyper-toleration is arguably a reaction to the decline of what philosophers and theologians call ethical theism. The term refers to the assertion that there are unchanging standards of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. When Christianity held sway over the western mind, these ethical concepts were tied to the reality of God's existence. God was the guarantor of moral standards. This theistic ground provided the moral bedrock of western civilization.

However, as philosopher Charles Taylor argues, the God-based worldview has lost its hold on the western mind since the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Many westerners no longer regard God as the source of truth and morality. Many believe, unreflectively or not, there are no eternal moral truths, that morality is what humans decide it is, while the "truth" of reality is determined by the methods of science. This secular notion that we are the sole determiners of right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood, informs the modern project to remake the world according to our will and technological capacity. As secular moderns, we made unencumbered human reason our faith, believing it provides us with the means to create heaven on Earth.

Only it hasn't worked out that way. Trench warfare, concentration camps, crematoria, killing fields and cities obliterated in a flash of light and heat; such phenomena, the unintended consequences of the marriage of science and will, have cast a shadow on modernity. As Taylor observes, the success of secularism depended on science's "disenchantment" of the world, but now there is widespread disenchantment with secular humanism. The narratives of modernity that replaced religion as the West's dominant "social imaginaries" -- faith in rationalism, belief in progress, the pursuit of objective truth, etc. -- are now under attack.

On this point we enter the Alice-in-Wonderland world of postmodernism. To the postmodern mind, "truth" is whatever you, or the group with which you "identify," say it is. In the words of theologian Stanley Grenz, "Truth is relative to the community in which a person participates. And since there are many communities, there are necessarily many truths."

Reason suffers a similar fate. Scientific reason is a "social construct," something we have been conditioned to accept because of the hegemonic power of western technology. Likewise, all this Enlightenment nattering about universal values is merely an expression of western imperialism, an attempt by white men to assert planetary rule under the guise of high ideals. According to the postmodernists, anyone (read: white western males) who tries to claim that what he says is objectively true, and uses this "truth" to judge the values, beliefs or lifestyle of another culture or group, is engaging in a power play to dominate that culture or group.

This deconstruction of the western cultural heritage produces the postmodern claim that all cultures are equal -- cultural relativism, in short. This idea, in turn, radically inflates the concept of tolerance. It is no longer sufficient to "tolerate" or endure the views of others for the sake of civil peace. Now you must accept different views as equally valid, equally worthy of respect, and equally legitimate in terms of social function. Everything and everyone must not only be tolerated, but also recognized, esteemed, valued and validated regardless of content or consequence.

Part one of Sibley's series is here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The great sleight of hand that stole our rights

The editorial writers at the National Post get it. They have a deep enough philosophical and legal grounding to give them a clear-sighted view of the crux of the problem facing Canada today.

That vision comes out in today's editorial entitled Mangling the Charter on the most recent Supreme Court of Canada decision the editors find troubling. The money quote:

Justice Abella's reasoning on publication bans goes against what we had thought was the first rule of Canadian public law: The Charter of Rights is there to protect citizens from the government, not from private actions. Citing a heap of tendentious sociological evidence, the majority in D. B. argues that "lifting a ban on publication makes the young person vulnerable to greater psychological and social stress. Accordingly, it renders the sentence significantly more severe." As newspaper editors, we are startled to learn that our reporting could be logically considered part of a judicial sentence against a criminal.

In case you missed it: "The Charter of Rights is there to protect citizens from the government, not from private actions."

This is such an important concept and it lies at the heart of the whole debate concerning so-called human rights commissions. The Human Rights Commissions are acting as if the Charter is there to give them extraordinary powers to trample foundational human rights in the name of alleged victim groups, often through complaints on behalf of these groups by persons who are not themselves members of that group.

What gives the state the right to come in and trample on fundamental civil rights like freedom of speech in the guise of protecting citizens from speech that may offend them?

Sometime over the past 40 years, even before the Charter, Canadians have missed the sleight of hand that switched our civil rights, based on 800 years of tradition, and replaced it with the Nanny state's bogus, ersatz concept of rights based on the hocus pocus social science propaganda. Shoot, I got my degree in Sociology. It masquerades as a science.

With our eyes focused on the "glittering" social science data, the magicians of an illiberal regime have replaced our God-given rights and freedoms with a power-hungry state that is seizing power to suppress rights in the guise of protecting vulnerable citizens. Yet when real civil rights are being trampled by thuggish behavior, sometimes by criminal warlords acting in the name of some disadvantaged group, the state backs off to avoid confrontation. Instead it picks on people who have done little more than express an unpopular opinion but pose no violent threat to anyone.

Thus the latest jerk with a PhD in social sciences riven with materialist and reductionist philosophies gets persuade our secular fundie elites to throw out our common heritage based on titanic thinkers going back to Moses, Plato, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Burke, Locke and on and on.

Wake up, Canada. But given the kind of thinking now dominating our Supreme Court, it may already be too late.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wow-- A "human rights" decision in favor of a Christian group!

Generally, human rights commissions and tribunals tend to punish Christians. They uphold complaints against them. And they tend to dismiss complaints made by Christians when someone has discriminated against them or defamed them as a group and spread calumnies about their religion.

But the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal accepted a complaint by a campus pro-life group and now this group has reached a settlement with the campus student union. reports:

VANCOUVER, May 15, 2008 ( –The Capilano College Heartbeat Club and the Capilano Students Union (CSU) have reached an agreement that will see the pro-life Heartbeat Club achieve CSU club recognition, pending they submit an application in the fall. The parties released a joint statement shortly after the agreement had been made:

"The Heartbeat Club filed a Human Rights complaint against the Capilano Students' Union. The Club and the CSU have entered into a settlement agreement which is confidential. The parties agree that there is no admission of liability by the CSU and that the Heartbeat Club will be entitled to CSU club status if they apply."

The summer of 2006 saw the CSU pass a motion put forward by a member of the campus “Women’s Center” that made the group an official “pro-choice” organization. Shortly after, the CSU denied the Heartbeat Club’s application requesting official CSU club status. After a second application was also denied, for the reason that the club would hinder "a woman's right to choose", Heartbeat forwarded a complaint to the British Columbia human rights tribunal, that stated the club was being discriminated based on religious belief.

Har har har, heh heh heh, har har har. This is too funny.

Next time someone says or writes something to hold Christians up for contempt, an emboldened member of my religion might complain, invoking Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act or its provincial counterparts. It won't be me, but frankly, I can understand why some of my fellow believers might be so inclined.

All these lefties who have been upholding Section 13 when it targets legitimate Christian and conservative opinion will suddenly join the cause of freedom of speech because they can't defame Christians anymore if we see more Christian complaints and more being acted upon by commissions and tribunals. Next time some political columnist refers to social conservatives as knuckledraggers, he or she might have to go through the crazy abusive process that Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant are going through. Not that I agree with doing that on principle, but a lot of my fellow Christians have decided enough is enough. They have had it with a process that is anti-Christian to its roots and are going to start insisting they get a fair place at the multicultural table if that's the one that is being set.

What's fair is fair. If we are going to have these oppressive laws, then Christians need to be protected by them too. No more discrimination against us, not more defamation, no more holding us in contempt.

No wonder the folks at Rabble have realized they better fight for freedom of speech. They would have been toast for their cartoon of the Pope giving the Heil Hitler salute to a statue of the Virgin Mary. Talk about hate speech and defamation in that thread. Ugh. Disgusting.


A negative image of Canada's Justice system

Mark Steyn has called the "human rights" apparatus of federal and provincial commissions and tribunals a parallel justice system. He's right. But it is not only a parallel system, it increasingly seems to me to be a negative image of our criminal justice system. In a film negative, the dark spots will come out light in the developed picture, and the light portions will be dark. The "human rights" apparatus is a reverse image of Canada's criminal justice system. Black is white and white is black.

I belong to Capital Crime Writers, a great writers group for novelists, short story writers and aspiring novelists who work in the mystery, crime and suspense genres. I'm on the committee that books guests to speak at the once a month meetings, and last Wednesday it was my pleasure to introduce an assistant Crown Attorney, who spoke at length about her job.

If the Socks make you discouraged about the present state of our law schools, the bright, pretty assistant Crown Attorney would have reassured you that all is not lost, that some young law students are still being schooled in good principles based on the rule of law. You would have found her intelligent, articulate, logical, idealistic in the pursuit of real justice, committed to principles such as innocent before proven guilty, rules of evidence, and the Crown's pursuit of truth rather than convictions--i.e. the disinterest on the Crown's part of winning a case just for the sake of winning.

She spoke about the good faith that she experiences in the courtroom among all members of the bar and with the police, good faith assumptions that people will be operating according to these same principles.

What a contrast to what is emerging about the ways human rights commissions operate. Would a real Canadian court of law ever allow evidence to be switched at the request of the Crown in cahoots with an alleged victim? The assistant Crown Attorney spoke about the fact that they have to disclose everything they have to the defense attorney, including copies of the police notebooks and all the witness statements, even those of witnesses that might have testimony that is injurious to a possible conviction.

Where are the copies of the notebooks belonging to the Canadian Human Rights Commission investigators? Where are the detailed explanations of when and how they assumed the Jadewarr identity to go online and lurk on possible hate sites? Or do they even keep detailed logs of what they do? Is that the reason why there is so much "I don't remember" and "I don't know" ?

Another thing that is interesting given the Justice Department's brief in support of the thought crimes provision, is the stress on the effect of hate speech on potentially vulnerable groups.
This is why the intent of the alleged hatemonger is not considered relevant, nor are defenses of truth or fair comment.

Think about it. One of the key ingredients in a criminal case is mens rea, or a "guilty mind."

If I bump into someone accidentally that is quite different from my deliberately assaulting them
and Canada's criminal justice system recognizes that.

But if I accidentally publish alleged hate speech, even if I have no intent to publish hate speech--AND DON'T ACTUALLY HATE ANYONE--I'm toast if a designated vulnerable group feels like complaining my words are likely to expose them to hatred or contempt down the road.

As a journalist, I could write about crime statistics that show some groups are disproportionately represented, I could write about various overseas conflicts, I could write about some Catholic doctrines, or I could quote what some radicals within some violent movements actually say and find myself the subject of a complaint and ground to a powder by a process that is so oriented towards potential victims that there is no need to show that an actual crime has been committed against them, only the likelihood of their being exposed to hatred or contempt down the road at some undefinable date.

Another thing that struck me about the Justice Dept. brief was its internal contradictions.

The brief states:

2. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) prohibits only a very narrow range of speech, specifically expressions of "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and villification," (the quote comes from the Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor in 1990) There is little or no truth value in hate propaganda to attract the protection of the Charter.

Interesting. The Supreme Court's words would seem to speak to intent, when referring to "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation".....and the court seems to be speaking to the importance of truth when it uses words like calumny and villification, because both these words basically mean spreading lies with a deliberate attempt to harm.

Yet later in the brief the Justice Dept. states:

37. . . .The defences of truth and fair comment remain available to torts such as defamation and seditious libel, regardless of the medium in which they occur. However, none of the traditional media can avail themselves of those defences in cases of alleged hate propaganda . . .

Frankly, if Section 13 actually had the words from the Taylor decision included, that decision might have provided guidance for various commissioners so that complaints against various Christians and against Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant and the Chronicle Herald cartoonist would have been dismissed immediately.

But it human rights commissions are not interpreting Section 13 and the provincial counterparts to that section in light of Taylor. They have gone way beyond the very narrow parameters the Supreme Court justices envisioned when they upheld its constitutionality. And yet the Justice Dept. brief as the audacity to say revisiting S. 13 in the courts would be an abuse of process.

What was designed with the best of intentions has run amok like Frankenstein.

I might even support some kind of law against group defamation that falls under the Supreme Court's guidelines in Taylor, as long as truth and fair comment remained defenses and one's hateful intent had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And if there was a built-in fairness so that the accused legal bills were picked up (or assigned to the complainant) unless he or she was found guilty under these very limited circumstances. And if I could have a real, impartial, trained judge instead of an ideologue presiding.

The Pro-life Movement is the Civil Rights Movement of today

The pro-life movement is the civil rights movement of today. That was the message of the 11th annual National March for Life that drew 7,800 to Parliament Hill May 8.

"We now treat unborn babies like blacks were treated," Alveda King, the daughter of civil rights activist Rev. A.D. King and niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., told a news conference sponsored by the parliamentary pro-life caucus.

Even thought DNA and ultrasound tell us that unborn babies are people, they are treated as if they are not. It is discrimination to get inconvenient people out of our lives by calling them subhuman, or a mere clump of cells, she said.

She decried the growing practice of sex selection abortion that has created skewed populations in countries like China. People want a boy, but they "hide their discriminatory attitudes towards females behind the discrimination of abortion. Blacks and the disabled are also targeted this way.

King (on the right) stands with members of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Rob Nicholson sighted in Ottawa

I have had two Rob Nicholson sightings in the past two days! From reports, these sightings are pretty rare. For example, the Justice Minister has not responded to Mark Steyn's requests for interviews, so Mark wondered if he had entered a witness protection program.
I know of at least one other journalist who has tried to find him for an interview and had no luck. Ezra Levant recently urged Nicholson to call his office.

My first sighting occurred on Wednesday. I was walking along the first floor corridor in East Block
and poof! There he was! I was so shocked that all I could muster was, "Hello, Mr. Nicholson."

He's a very nice, cordial man. So, he said "hello" back. He moved by too fast for me to say anything more. I wondered whether he has ever read my blog.

To my surprise---I saw him again on Thursday morning. I felt like a bird watcher who had managed to sight the same rare species twice in a row in different environs. But he was faaaaaar away, up high on a platform at the head table of the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast, while I was seated at a round table in the Congress Centre ballroom way towards the back.

Nicholson sat next to representatives of the three other political parties in the House of Commons and read a Scripture passage selected by Judy Graves, a Vancouver homeless advocate who gave the keynote speech. Bloc MP Raymond Gravel was up there, too, wearing his Roman collar. NDP Leader Jack Layton was up there reading Scripture, too--the only party leader I could see at the packed event that has grown too large to be hosted on Parliament Hill anymore. There were more than 800 people, including MPs from all parties, ambassadors, clergy and religious leaders.

It is my hunch that Nicholson does not agree with the Justice Department brief that has caused such an uproar on the blogosphere, though I do not know Nicholson in the same way I know many of the other MPs and cabinet ministers. Given how busy cabinet ministers are, it is distinctly possible that he had not even read it, though I imagine (and I hope) he has now, or his staff deserve to be fired en masse.

There are others who know me well enough to talk to me off the record, but he's not one of them. Nicholson is caution personified. I think that's why he was put into the job and Vic Toews shuffled from Justice to Treasury Board. While Toews is eminently quotable , Nicholson is a master of blandness. You'll never catch him making a gaffe (which is why he was put in the post during the controversial marriage debate), but you're pretty unlikely to see him quoted anywhere either, because journalists are looking for spicy 7-second sound bites, or quotes that zing off the page. Nicholson deliberately does not provide them.

Ezra Levant has a good overview today of the growing momentum to end the abuses of so-called human rights commissions.

He writes:

It's tough to gauge political momentum in Ottawa, especially from 3,000 kilometres away. But I think that the campaign to abolish section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the thought crimes section, is positively buzzing.

Well, I'm here in Ottawa and yes, it is positively buzzing. But a lot of the buzzing is still behind the scenes. My tally of MPs who support MP Keith Martin's motion to axe s. 13 continues to grow well beyond the number whose support has been identified publicly.

But the press gallery has not picked up on that buzz. For example when Keith Martin scrummed yesterday at the microphone in the House of Commons foyer and called the Justice Department brief "shocking," the size of the scrum was not exactly huge and bristling with microphones. CP's Joan Bryden drifted by as did the CBC's Julie Van Dusen, but I don't think they stuck around long. CPAC was there, but asked a question on something else. Mostly it was CFRB Radio bureau chief Brian Lilley and myself.

As Ezra points out, now that the Justice Department has filed a brief in support of the controversial thought crimes provision, the mess has landed on the Justice Minister's lap and he is going to have to respond:

But the chemical reaction really heated up when the Department of Justice released its outrageous legal brief in support of section 13. The kind of junk arguments in that memo -- that slavery and the Holocaust wouldn't have happened had there been hate speech laws; that the legal defences of truth and fair comment ought not to apply to "hate speech"; that Jews rely on hate speech laws for their self-esteem, etc. -- are the sort of thing one encounters all the time at human rights commissions. But what made this so stunning was that it was a memo written by two of the Justice Minister's own lawyers, Simon Fothergill and Alysia Davies, not some arms-length commission. These weren't CHRC nutbars. They were Rob Nicholson's own nutbars. And 50 pages really lets a guy and a gal express their nuttiness well.

That memo caused a buzz on my own website, spiking traffic, and not just from outraged readers (including appalled conservatives and Conservatives). Judging from my visitor statistics, plenty of folks in Parliament, the Justice Department, the Federal Court of Canada and various human rights commissions were very interested in the public reaction the memo got -- including that it got a public reaction at all. I understand that Blazing Catfur, who has done a particularly good job at rebutting the junk law in that memo, has received a spike in nervous visitors from both the Justice Department and the CHRC, too.

But the memo (which you can read here if you have the stomach) has caused a ruckus bigger than the blogosphere. I have had two reporters -- who haven't reported on HRCs before -- e-mail me to get background on the memo. One reporter -- to his credit! -- didn't even believe the memo was real, asking me for corroboration that it wasn't a "forged document". That's exactly how I reacted to so many of the insane details about the CHRC when I first encountered them: I simply didn't believe they were real. (I mean, if a Hollywood screenwriter came up with this, it would be rejected by test audiences with a "yeah, right!")

This document is radioactive. But it is couched in a lot of bromides about human dignity that are appealing on the surface, lulling the unwary and concealing its draconian elements, such as that truth and fair comment are no defense when it comes to alleged hate speech; or that revisiting the constitutionality of s. 13 would be an abuse of process. Or its insistence that human beings are irrational and therefore they need to have hate speech laws. Yeah, and leftwing ideologues know so much more about human nature than the philosophical titans who provided much of the foundational thinking for our traditional understanding of the rule of law and real human rights. The document basically chucks reason out the window and assumes that we need the likes of people like Ontario Human Rights Commissar Barbara Hall or Canadian Human Rights Commissar Jennifer Lynch to monitor our irrational tendencies.

Who is going to monitor their irrational tendencies?

We may not see action immediately. Marc Lemire is not someone I suspect the Tories want to risk making a poster boy for freedom of speech. Taliban fighter Omar Khadr gets more sympathy as a former child soldier experiencing an alleged miscarriage of justice than Lemire does, at least on the front pages of Canada's newspapers.

A response may have to wait until after Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine go before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. (If the Commission folks are smart they will dismiss this complaint, like yesterday).

I hope Keith Martin is successful in getting the Commons justice committee to hold televised hearings that will require members of the commission to testify and face examination and also give an opportunity for those pro and con the thought crimes provision to speak. The best bet, however, would be for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call for a Royal Commission headed up by great nonpartisan legal minds who could subpoena witnesses and make them testify under oath. We need not only an examination of the law, but also an examination of the process.

This independent commission could then make recommendations that the government can put in place, with I hope the support of most parties. Harper was able to bypass the controversy over Afghanistan by a similar move. He might find that calling a Royal Commission the most responsible way to proceed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keith Martin responds to Justice Dept. brief

After Question Period on Thursday, Liberal MP Keith Martin responded
to the Justice Department brief that defendsthe anti-free speech
subsection 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"Were you shocked to find out that the Justice Department's
own filings said truth and fair comment are no defence?"

"Well, there were a lot of things in the Justice Department's missive
I find absolutely shocking," said Martin. " Not only that but about
blithely talking about restrictions on freedom of expression. That
has absolutely nothing to do with hate crimes, nothing to do with hate
crimes and nothing to do with hate speech whatsoever. So 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. 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."

Martin has sent letters to all the members of the Justice Committee in hopes it will
hold televised hearings that will not only examine s. 13 (1) but also how the
Canadian Human Rights Commission operates. That will include how the commission handles
evidence, whether investigators are using assumed names to plant hate messages and
entrap people, and the way respondents are treated as if they are guilty until proven

"All these things are very disturbing and that's why I'm
bringing this up so that we can take a look at the Canada Human Rights
Act and also the Canada Human Rights Commission and the committee is a
master of its own destiny. It will do what it feels it should do and
it's up to the members. But 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."

Question: "The first thing that happened when you raised the issue of
repealing Section 13-1 of the Human Rights Act was you were linked with
white supremacists and you were out there for people to support the
KKK. Do you think the Conservative government is afraid to even touch
this issue because they're afraid of being associated with the same

"I think Mr. Harper has told Mr. Nicholson, our Justice
Minister, to put a muzzle on their MPs. But the Conservative MPs, as
many members in my caucus, have expressed deep concerns about where the
Canada Human Rights Commission has gone. They have expressed a great
deal of support for my motion to remove Section 13-1 from the Act. And I
think that's a fair thing to do would be to have this out and open.
Have a public hearing through the Justice Committee and televise it so
that Canadians coast to coast can hear those who believe that the status
quo is acceptable and those of us who believe that the Human Rights
Act has to be amended to ensure that we have freedom of speech because in
my view freedom of speech is being trampled in Canada right now.

What are the chances that the Justice Committee will take a
look at this because they've been a pretty dysfunctional committee up
until now?

I think -- I've spoken to members on the Justice
Committee and there's a great deal of support across party lines to deal with
this because members on the Justice Committee recognize that the
removal of Section 13-1 and an investigation of the Canada Human Rights
Commission is in support of that fundamental human right, the right to
freedom of speech. And they recognize that it is our responsibility to
defend this right, a right that Canadians bled for and fought for over two
world wars and that it is our responsibility in this House of Commons
to defend that right.

Question: Now at the very end of the Justice Department brief it
talks about how the law is settled as if to even inquire about this or to
take it up to go to the Supreme Court again would be an abuse of
process. What do you think of that?

Well, laws can be changed and the Human Rights
Commission, Canada Human Rights Commission came about at a time with very
laudable goals. The goals were to ensure that people had recourse if they
were being discriminated against, against employment -- in employment or
in housing. Those are laudable goals that we embrace and fully support
but over time their actions and mandate have changed and some of the
actions that they've been taking of late have been very disturbing I
think to a lot of us and to a lot of Canadians. So that's why I put forth
the motion to remove Section 13-1 but I think taking it to the Justice
Committee, having a public and televised assessment of the
proceedings, having an examination of the Canada Human Rights Act and the
Commission will serve the Canadian public and serve the fundamental rights that
are the pillars of our democracy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Binks waxes eloquent on a free Interent

He writes:

In any case, if the lights are starting to go out on the free web, let’s rage and fight against the dying of the light, and make the maximum good mischief we can while opportunity affords. After all, the foundation of Western civilization is not the power of rulers or the whims of bureaucrats, but the eternal light shining from the broken tomb, an undefeatable victory.

Even if we’re not sure about faith, we can act as if we do, and fight for the right with a hope and confidence and character that worldly power cannot understand or destroy.

Amen and Amen and Amen.

Read the whole thing.

And while you are at it, scroll down and look at the Giant Puppet Worship video that's headlined as an advertisement for atheism. ROTFLMAO

The draconian government defence of hate speech laws

I just printed off the Dept. of Justice brief in defence of the hate speech provisions (Subsection 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Just skimming around I came across this horrifying argument.

37. Mr. Lemire complains that the prohibition against disseminating hatred via the Internet is not accompanied by the defences of truth and fair comment that are available to tradtional news media in torts ranging from defamation to seditious libel. This argument is misleading. The defences of truth and fair comment remain available to torts such as defamation and seditious libel, regardless of the medium in which they occur. However, none of the traditional media can avail themselves of these defences in cases of alleged hate propaganda, whether the communication appears in print, on television or on a website.

38. As the Federal Court has explained, defences that may be available in tort actions are not available in cases of hate propaganda because the prohibition is concerned with adverse effects, not with intent.


I guess that's why the new totalitarians equate Oriana Fallaci a journalist who told the truth, with Ernst Zundel an anti-Semite who lied because truth does not matter.

The brief then goes on to quote the Supreme Court of Canada's reasoning in the Taylor decision:

I am of the view that the Charter does not mandate an exception for truthful statement in the context of s. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I feel like a coup d'etat has taken place and I have awakened to the aftermath.
And this egregious affront to civil rights and to the freedom to speak the truth in Canada is being perpetuated now by the Conservative government.

Woe is us. I have this awful, awful feeling that we're too late. The war has been won by the other side and there are just mopping up operations left, and those that will be mopped up will be those who try to speak the truth in ways that the elite power structure does not like. I no longer think my Tanks t-shirt is funny. I want to weep into it.

The inbuilt tendency to scapegoat

One of the most paradigm-shifting books I've read in recent years was I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by cultural anthropologist Rene Girard, who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago when he participated on a panel discussion at Saint Paul University.

In a 2005 interview in New Perspectives Quarterly, Girard said:

In mythology, a furious mob mobilizes against scapegoats held responsible for some huge crisis. The sacrifice of the guilty victim through collective violence ends the crisis and founds a new order ordained by the divine. Violence and scapegoating are always present in the mythological definition of the divine itself.

It is true that the structure of the Gospels is similar to that of mythology in which a crisis is resolved through a single victim who unites everybody against him, thus reconciling the community. As the Greeks thought, the shock of death of the victim brings about a catharsis that reconciles. It extinguishes the appetite for violence. For the Greeks, the tragic death of the hero enabled ordinary people to go back to their peaceful lives.

However, in this case, the victim is innocent and the victimizers are guilty. Collective violence against the scapegoat as a sacred, founding act is revealed as a lie. Christ redeems the victimizers through enduring his suffering, imploring God to "forgive them for they know not what they do." He refuses to plead to God to avenge his victimhood with reciprocal violence. Rather, he turns the other cheek.

The victory of the Cross is a victory of love against the scapegoating cycle of violence. It punctures the idea that hatred is a sacred duty.

Girard explores in a most convincing way the origins of violence and scapegoating. It is his thesis that society is founded on murder, the murder of a scapegoat, who becomes a safety valve for the violence that becomes contagious until the victim is killed. When the victim is "sacrificed," and the mutual violence suddenly dissipates, that society would view the victim as a god. But in the case of the mythology, the "god" or victim was guilty of the evils that were befalling society. The "proof "came in how much better everything was after the victim's murder.

He also points out that the Jewish Scriptures begin to unveil a truth that victims could be innocent. There is also the scapegoat motif in the Old Testament, the goat upon which all the sins of the tribe were placed. Girard came also to believe that the Christian Scriptures reveal the ultimate innocent victim, Christ and break apart the secret, shrouded in mythology, of the foundational murder. He also writes quite compellingly of how the whole notion of the victim is a distinctly Western working out of Christian belief, though in a more and more secular way.

So now we have the victim, but we have lost sight of Christ. And I can understand that much of the best intentions of the human rights codes designers is to prevent scapegoating and othering. But, unfortunately, it is just creating a whole new set of "others" and scapegoats in the process.

As human beings we all have an inbuilt tendency to project onto other people the unpleasant things we do not wish to see about ourselves. We have a propensity to blame and to scapegoat, to demonize the other. That's why it is important that we examine our lives and hearts, that we take responsibility for our sinful natures and that we develop character and virtue.

This is why Christians are commanded to love our enemies and to recognize that we war not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. In other words, to secularize this, we war against false ideologies and lies, not against the human beings who may believe them.

This is a long preamble to a discussion over at Lawiscool that had me thinking. It follows a charge that the supporters of Mark Steyn are Orwellian.

Law is Cool: This is hardly the first human rights complaint in Canadian history, and all have followed a similar pattern. As stated, most actually have a measure of respect and deference to the Commission, allowing them to resolve issues amicably. Instead in these cases, respondents have verbally abused complainants, called the tribunals into disrepute, and even rallied for their disbandment. In at least one related case, this intimidation has resulted in the withdrawal of the complaint.
A truly principled movement would have been established independently of any actual complaint, and instead these measures are seen for what they are, motivated by self-interest. Calls for legal reform are frequently done, and without indignation characterizing this specific response.

Comment by Sav — May 9, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

you throw words around and you dont know what they mean.

ORWELLIAN? Who’s got the orwellian position here? HINT: Its the one that is trying to impose on everyone else its morals as to what is allowable topics of discussion. Its the anti-freedom position. Its the position that suggests government can decide for you which political opinions are okay to have. I mean how can you suggest that its orwellian to support free speech - do you have ANY clue what you’re talking about - oh yeah it was BIG BROTHER, and the people wanted bigbrother to regulate more but the poor people were left to decide what to read for themselves. How horrible.

Those traits are not only orwellian, they are objectively fascist. I dont even mean that as the backwards slur lefties throw around without knowing what it means. Having the state step in to provide a solution in an area that was previously left to the choice of the individual (what to read), is objectively, positively fascist. Mussollini would have LOVED it.

Law is Cool: Actually, we have a pretty good idea of what Orwell is about. See our posts on the subject previously.

Fascism is a far-right ideology, more akin to what Steyn fans espouse, rather than what liberal human rights activists exemplify. Neither fascism or Nazism ever aspired to protect minorities; in fact, both exerted the power you describe to protect majority interests at the expense of minorities.

This is really interesting. First of all, I absolutely reject the premise that Mark Steyn or his fans are fascist or even far-right. They are conservative. Methinks I see some use of scapegoating and demonizing and seeing the "other" in a negative light on the part of the Lawiscool poster.

But Lawiscool does make a point. I do agree that fascism and Naziism trampled all over minority rights. Jews were scapegoated by the Nazis and sent by the millions to their deaths. So were disabled people, homosexuals and Christians who spoke up against the regime.

Jews are routinely scapegoated in the Middle East in countries that want to blame Jews for their plight rather than recognize their own societal dysfunctions.

Scapegoating is evil. It is wrong. Period. It is sick, a form of psychopathology, denial and projection.

But interestingly, the kind of scapegoating that happened in Marxist regimes targeted social classes and bourgeois thinking (and religious belief), and ethnic groups, too. Marxist regimes were guilty of mass murder that liquidated or starved nations of people (ask the Ukrainians) or classes of people (ask the intelligentsia.)

Canada's secular fundamentalist multiculturalism is, on the surface, very respectful of minorities. But how much real diversity of opinion is allowed within the multicultural framework? Yes, lots of different races and different outward religious emblems (except Christian of course) but the only view that is able to be expressed publicly is that of Barbara Hall or Jennifer Lynch.

The scapegoats, the out group, the other, are the minority of Canadians who happen to be conservative, especially socially conservative Christians. And Jews have always been vulnerable as a scapegoat. In North America, they are far more vulnerable to hate crimes than Muslims, according to the latest statistics.

I exhort people on all sides of this debate to do self-examination to make sure we are not demonizing or projecting our own inward ugliness onto others. Until we are prepared to gaze at the sin within, we are in no position to judge the sin of others. But we must also not let our own sin be an excuse for refusing to discern truth and to call things as we see them. But let us not be clouded by our own resentments and anger.

Let's be careful not to scapegoat Muslims either. But that does not mean that Muslim beliefs and practices and acts done in the name of Islam should not be criticized. The same goes for any belief system.

Most Canadians would rather have a Muslim political leader

I was reading the Hill Times this morning and came across a most interesting, long story about the annual National Prayer Breakfast (coming up this Thursday) and how some people areworking to make the event less Christian.

There was this tidbit buried in the text:

Though the interest in the National Prayer Breakfast is such that organizers had to seek out a larger venue, a 2006 Ipsos Reid poll conducted shortly after the Conservative government was elected, indicated that Canadians are becoming increasingly uncomfortable mixing religion and politics.

The poll, conducted for CanWest News Service, revealed Canadians would be more open to voting for a party led by a Muslim or atheist than one led by an evangelical Christian.

In 1996, 80 per cent said they would vote for a potential prime minister who is an evangelical, however that number dropped to only 63 per cent of Canadians in 2006. Sixty-eight per cent said they would vote for a leader who is Muslim or atheist, down from 74 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively, in 1996.

The campaign of demonization and marginalization of believing (as opposed to nominal) Christians, has been working.

There is a concerted attack on the rights of Christians to be Christian in the public square, whether it is freedom of religion, freedom to set moral standards for our own members, freedom to associate with like-minded believers and so on. Political hacks have used fear-mongering to paint Christian social conservatives as "scary" and "hateful;" and much of the media and judicial elite share the so-called progressive views that see Christianity as a problem rather than the very foundation of all the rights and freedoms Canadians used to hold dear. There is a big, big difference in a society that holds human rights to be inherent and God-given and to be protected by the state and one that sees rights as granted by Trudeau and the state. In the latter instance, the state that grants rights is the state that can take them away or reinvent them or create new rights.

That leads me to realize that Mark Steyn is not joking when he says his career in Canada will be effectively ended by "human rights" commissions, and the first hearing starts early next month.

The bias against Christianity by these bodies has been revealed again and again. Instead, there is a new religion in town, secular fundamentalism, that worships the state and the individual in relation to the state, but tramples every other intervening institution from the family to religions to charities like Christian Horizons.

It is odd that in a culture of victim groups, where everyone is jockeying for the greatest victim status, Christians are the ones who are victimized and vilified. It's okay to scapegoat us, apparently. It's okay to hate us, to blaspheme our religious beliefs and to defame us as somehow dangerous to the public good.

Yet social science shows that it is believing Christians who form the core of a fragile volunteer sector, who provide the social glue that keeps the bottom from falling out underneath the most vulnerable in society.

Canada has got to replace the current relativist, anti-Christian multicultural policy with a robust pluralism that allows a wide-range of freedom for competing viewpoints, within a moral framework that all persons of good-will can agree to. That moral framework found a good expression 60 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was not a Christian document, but there is nothing anti-Christian about it. It is something that came from a range of cultures and nationalities and religions and represents, as Pope Benedict XVI told the United Nations last month, the law written on the human heart.

I should be able to be Christian in the public square and belong to groups that ask its members to follow a moral code consistent with my faith; the same goes for gay people, who should be free to express their viewpoints or have their own clubs free from the interference of busybody heterosexuals. Where we disagree, we can agree to disagree with civility and mutual respect for our innate human dignity. Other religions should have the same rights, too. But we need to have an over-arching code so that some things, whatever the beliefs, are just not on in Canada, especially when those beliefs begin to interfere with fundamental human rights.

But the right not to be offended is not a human right. The truth is often offensive, especially to those in power. That's why we need to respect freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion and conscience---so the truth has a chance of getting out. The first thing that tyranny's do is stamp out the truth.

Monday, May 12, 2008

BBC correspondent recognizes important but paradoxical truths

They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.

It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.

Peace and serenity

What surprises the British tourists is that, in areas of the US that look and feel like suburban Britain, there is simply less crime and much less violent crime.

Doors are left unlocked, public telephones unbroken. (h/t sda)

The government's support of Subsection 13 (1)

When I attended the March 25 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Hearing, I introduced myself to an attractive young woman in the hallway and found out she was the Dept. of Justice Lawyer, representing the government. Frankly, I wonder how she can live with herself after having a front row seat on what has been going on. For her political masters, I have even more harsh things to say, for after all, she is a civil servant doing as her political masters tell her.

What's important to emphasize here is that the Conservative government is not just remaining silent on the out of control "human rights" commissions, it is an active participant in a process that is flawed both in principle and in practice.

We need a Royal Commission to examine both, because the legal principles no longer resemble anything of the Western inheritance of inherent human rights and freedom that extend back 800 years.

The Act doesn't even resemble the Universal Declaration on Human Rights from 60 years ago. It seems to be some wonky concoction whipped up by left-leaning ideologues and social scientists who owe more to scientific determinism and Marx than the great philosophical and spiritual foundations of our freedoms and rights.

We need a Commission to thoroughly examine the logical consequences of this kind of thinking, one with the legal erudition and philosophical grounding to help get us back on our proper foundations. May I suggest retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Charles Gonthier as one of the commissioners? Canadian Civil Liberties Association general counsel Alan Borovoy as another?

Ezra Levant has obtained a copy of the government brief in support of Subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

He writes:

1. The Conservative government believes that the constitutionality of section 13 has already been approved by the Supreme Court, and so it shouldn't be questioned again; and

2. In any event, section 13 is a reasonable limit on free speech.

My two general responses would be:

1. In the 18 years since the constitutionality of section 13 was examined in 1990, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has taken a more and more abusive approach to its application, exceeding the narrow permission granted by the Supreme Court eighteen years ago.

2. The government's arguments that hate speech is the precursor to violence -- and that laws banning speech are necessary to prevent violence -- are absurd. They're logically false and they're historically false.

Mark Steyn writes:

As I always say, the CIC lawsuits objecting to America Alone's thesis in fact confirm it - that in the long run free societies are at risk not from fellows flying planes into skyscrapers but from a misbegotten alliance between the likes of the CIC and bovine western "progressives" only too willing to sign away ancient liberties.

I don't know why any self-respecting person would want to work in the "journalistic" environment Nicholson and Co are creating, a world in which audacious propagandists will be free to use "human rights" courts as a threat to browbeat the press into serving as spineless pliable propagandists. Personally, I'd rather be Eliot Spitzer's hooker. The principles are the same, but the hourly rates are higher.

Right now, most journalists are still asleep to this issue. They have no idea what is going on. Or if they do, they don't mind seeing conservatives like Steyn and Levant getting ground through the process, since they don't think it will ever involve them.

But that is changing. I hope the CAJ conference changes this dramatically.

It is odd to me that Omar Khadr's rights are far more important to the mainstream media than their own right-of-centre colleagues'. Or Brenda Martin's plight in a Mexican jail.

Wake up, journalists, wake up, because your freedom to do your job could soon end.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hijacking access to a wider circulation than they can attain on their own

Dorothy Cummings attended the Faisal Joseph newser and filed this column in the Catholic Register. She makes some interesting observations:

I am particularly interested in the controversy around press freedom and religious minorities for I have read slights against the Catholic Church and the Holy Father in Toronto papers all my life. But I also watch in dismay as Canadian Christians, most notably Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and the editors of Catholic Insight, are made subject to costly investigations by human rights tribunals for voicing their opinions. Of course we get tired of jeers against religious folk in the mainstream press, but the HRC cure seems to be worse than the disease. Meanwhile, we do have our own newspapers.

When the Toronto Star publishes its perennial Christmas and Easter “Was Jesus real?” articles, I don’t threaten the editor so that he’ll give respected theologians as much space as he gives to Tom Harpur. I merely put down his paper in disgust and pick up The Catholic Register instead. If The Register came with a TV guide, there’d be no need for my family to take the Star at all. Freedom of the press means freedom of the religious press.

This in mind, I asked Faisal Joseph how many newspapers the Canadian Muslim community had. He didn’t seem to know, but he cited a Muslim newspaper in London, Ont., with a circulation of 5,000 readers. How about Montreal, I asked. How about British Columbia? Any papers? “But those are community newspapers,” said Joseph. “That’s like comparing grapes and watermelons.”

I’m not so sure about that, especially as the tiny Catholic Insight, like Maclean’s magazine, is considered worthy of an HRC complaint. The issue, then, appears to be not that Muslims associated with the CIC are denied freedom of the press, but that the CIC wishes to publish its views in a press with a wider circulation than it can itself achieve. Joseph reminded the “ladies and gentlemen of the media” that the B.C. human rights tribunal might force Maclean’s to publish the CIC’s rebuttal. If it does, it will have set a very frightening precedent.

I am all for civility and sensitivity when it comes to other religions and minority groups. I know what it is like to have my religion mocked and revered figures in my faith, especially our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, defamed and blasphemed. So I try to think of how what I might write might affect devout Muslims or Jews or members of any other religion. I try to practice civility when I blog. Of course it means my readership is about 20 a day under normal circumstances. But I abhor the idea of state-mandated civility. Virtue that is coerced is not virtue at all.