Monday, June 9, 2008

Free speech on trial in British Columbia

Of course, free speech is an "American concept," of no value to Canadian bureaucrats -- or so says Dean Steacy, the principal "anti-hate" investigator of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Strictly speaking, the body judging the case against eternal pot-stirrer Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine, a newsweekly, is the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, not its federal counterpart, but it's still one of the myriad bodies dedicated to policing thought crimes in a country that, several decades ago, apparently redesigned much of its legal system along the lines of a UC-Berkeley graduate seminar.

Steyn and Maclean's are on trial for publishing an excerpt from Steyn's book, America Alone, which warns of the supposed dangers posed by the Muslim hordes to Western civilization. The case against them alleges that they exposed Muslims to hate with their words -- a charge that, even if true, wouldn't seem to have much basis in the legal traditions of a liberal, democratic country.

The Washington Times chimes in on the case with an interesting roundup here:

Numerous Canadians and Americans following the hearing denounced the case as absurd and that it is a threat to free speech that a provincial tribunal is asserting jurisdiction over the writings of a best-selling author residing in New Hampshire, based upon an out-of-province complainant offended by the response of anonymous American readers on American Web sites.

With proceedings in the case concluded and a judgment pending, the Vancouver Sun's Ian Mulgrew voices a few hopes for the ultimate conclusion:

I can't wait to read the judgment. If there is justice, the three adjudicators will uphold Habib's complaint and Maclean's can seek judicial review. Then a real judge will have a chance to set the record straight and excoriate this abusive, unconstitutional process.

As for Attorney-General Oppal, he should either disband the tribunal or immediately amend the law to accord with the Constitution and common sense.

Honestly, while this case is doing nothing good for the reputation of Canada's civil liberties protections, it's just about the best publicity Maclean's and Mark Steyn could ever hope for. Nothing boosts journalistic credentials like being the target of power-mad censors. Especially when those power-mad censors openly muse that respect for free speech is some sort of foreign affectation.

More: The lowdown on the Alberta Human Rights Commission's jihad against former newspaper publisher Ezra Levant here. And that same body's lifetime gag order against homophobic pastor Stephen Boissoin here and here.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 19, 2009 1:07 AM  

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