Stephen Harper used to have very clear—and colourful—ideas on human rights commissions and what should be done about them.
“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society,” he said in a 1999 interview with Terry O’Neill of BC Report newsmagazine.“ It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” He went on to complain about the “bastardization” of the entire concept of rights in modern society.
Of course, that was back when Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. Today he’s Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. And he appears to have lost his fear of totalitarianism.
In an interview this past January with Maclean’s, the Prime Minister was asked what, if anything, he intended to do to halt the encroachment on individual freedom by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the name of regulating hate speech.
It is an issue of crucial importance to this country and our strongly held traditions of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
This magazine understands only too well the dangers involved in putting those rights at risk. Following a 2006 cover story by columnist Mark Steyn titled “Why the future belongs to Islam,” we were visited by a group of law students from the Canadian Islamic Congress. We were given the option of handing over editorial control of our pages for a rebuttal to Steyn’s piece or face a series of human rights complaints. As the first option was anathema to our obligations to our readers, the students launched their complaints.
That we were vindicated in all instances, notwithstanding the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s attempt at an unofficial smear, is beside the point. Under the guise of human rights, the ability of any news organization to produce truthful and reasoned articles was questioned by a variety of government bodies. Scary stuff indeed.
So we asked Harper if he intended to correct this threat to the basic existence of a democratic society.
“The government has no plans to do so,” was his casual reply. “It is a very tricky issue of public policy . . . It’s probably the case that we haven’t got the balance right, but I’m not sure the government today has any answer on what an appropriate balance would be.”
To summarize: the issue of human rights commissions running amok over Canadians’ basic rights and freedoms is something Harper has followed—closely and with obvious passion—for at least a decade. As Prime Minister he admits it is still a problem. And he says he doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.We do.
Read the whole thing. H/t Ezra Levant, who adds his own colorful commentary.