Well, the time of day has come again, at which I talk about all those people who are talking about Jennifer Lynch and her fabulous multi-colour commission.
First off, Mark Steyn has a great piece up, not just on Canada and its disconcerting movement…eh…state-ward, but also with this nice part within it:
In such a craven culture, isn’t legally enforceable thought-policing all but superfluous? Over in Ottawa, the House of Commons sub-committee on International Human Rights was discussing Canada’s “human rights” commissions. Don’t ask me why the domestic HRCs come under an international sub-committee: One can well understand why, in respect of its “human rights” regime, Canada increasingly seems like a foreign country, so perhaps it’s more convenient to lump ‘em in with the Sudanese and Iranian Human Rights Commissions. Anyway, Professor Robert I Martin of the University of Western Ontario gave a sober presentation on the evolution of Canadian “human rights” over the past two-thirds of a century. He considered the case of “a particularly odious man called John Ross Taylor”, a self-proclaimed Nazi who in 1981 became “the first person in Canada to be imprisoned for expressing an opinion” since the Second World War. Tracing the remorseless expansion of the “human rights” commissions’ thought-policing in the years since, he examined the Alberta commission’s prosecution of the Reverend Stephen Boissoin for writing a letter to his local newspaper objecting to what he called the “homosexual agenda”. The Province of Alberta punished the Reverend Boissoin by imposing a fine, a public apology and a lifetime speech ban ordering him never to make a “disparaging” remark (a fine legal concept, no?) about homosexuals ever again, in speech or in writing, in public or in private, anywhere on the planet – or, far all I know, the galaxy. Professor Martin wondered why they didn’t just have the heretic burned at the stake. He characterized such decisions as the judgments of a secular theocracy in which the “human rights” enforcers serve as the holy inquisition.
After the witness’s remarks, the chairman of the committee turned to Liberal member Mario Silva for the first question. Did he have any concerns about incarcerating chaps for their opinions, or imposing lifetime speech bans? Not at all. “As a gay man,” began Mr Silva, “I’m not very fond of the good old days before the commission existed, where it was okay to spit on gays, it was okay to discriminate against them, it was okay to beat them up… So I’m not going to go back to those old days.”
Unless I dozed off in the crucial part, Professor Martin hadn’t said a word about spitting on gays or beating them up. Presumably, had the Liberals had a black member to hand, he’d have said he wouldn’t want to go back to the good old days when the professor would climb into his white sheet and string him up from a tree on the edge of town. As it happens, opponents of Section 13 – Canada’s thought-crime law – include the Liberal MP Dr Keith Martin, “the brown guy” (as he styles himself); members of the gay group EGALE; the multiculti CanCon novelists at PEN. Yet, no matter how coolly you lay out the case, the assumption of Mr Silva and the group-think drones is that you’re just an old-time white-supremacist homophobic bigot itching to get out the tire-iron. Under the circumstances, Professor Martin demonstrated remarkable forbearance. “That is a classic example of the kind of argumentative technique used by people who support the thought police,” he replied quietly. “I make a principled argument, sir, in favour of freedom of expression. I do not add any baggage to that argument.”
Mr Silva had no response to this and handed over to his Liberal colleague Jean Dorion. “It’s quite hurtful to hear the denial of a historical fact,” mused M Dorion apropos Holocaust denial. “These people should be able to prosecute.”
Professor Martin very politely suggested that free societies do not “establish an official version of history and punish anyone who might deviate from the official version.”
And so it went, the Liberal members declining to engage with the very concept of principle. Indeed, their principal principle seems to be a principled objection to principle: They disagree with what you say but they will fight to the death for the right not to have to listen to it. That’s why we need government agencies to police all these opinions and determine which ones are sufficiently homogenous to be compatible with a diverse society.
Meanwhile, in Montreal, Jennifer Lynch, QC, Canada’s Chief Censor, gave a speech to CASHRA. Do you know what CASHRA is? You should. You pay for it. It’s the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. That’s right; they have a club they all belong to. Alas, the conga lines were more muted this year. Like Professor Miller, Commissar Lynch worries about the threat to free speech in Canada. But, in her case, the Chief Censor is now complaining that I’m suppressing the free speech of her massive government bureaucracy. Seriously. As The National Post put it:
“She also claimed that those who accused the CHRC and its provincial counterparts of ‘chilling’ free expression with the prosecutions of writers such as Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant were themselves guilty of ‘reverse chill.’ Harsh criticism of the commissions in the media had discouraged many of their supporters from coming forward to defend their missions, she said. Others who were brave enough to speak out had been subjected to withering personal criticism in opinion pieces and letters to the editor.”Oh, dear, what’s the country coming to? Defenders of state censorship are too cowed to speak out in favour of not letting people speak out? You could hardly ask for a better snapshot of the degradation of “human rights” in contemporary Canada than the chief censor whining to a banqueting suite full of government apparatchiks that the ingrate citizenry are insufficiently respectful of them. The bureaucrats at the top table control hundreds of millions of public dollars. Jennifer Lynch represents state power; Ezra and I represent a bunch of impecunious bloggers. Yet the Dominion of Canada has been reduced to complaining that Blazing Cat Fur is out to get it.
Not suprisingly, Blazing Cat Fur thinks that this may be the best thing that Mark Steyn has ever written on the HRCs. And Kathy Shaidle, great gal that she is, isn’t jealous of BCF’s new-found Steynian fame.
Second off, the fine fellow from Stand Your Ground comments on the recent Montreal Gazette piece skewering the CHRC, and gives mention to Mark’s new piece as well.