Lawyer/activist’s sarcasm falls flat over CHRT ruling

[ ED NOTE: Jesse Ferreras was kind enough to allow me to re-publish this article from his blog. You can read the original here. ]

(edited from an earlier post titled “Civil liberties” activist decries Hadjis ruling)

I’m very confused by the message sent in a recent blog post by Jason Gratl, a Vancouver lawyer and self-professed civil liberties advocate, who seems as ambiguous about the ruling yesterday by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as the ruling itself.

He seems to argue on his blog “The Sneer” (the title is most apt) that the ruling may not have gone far enough in condemning the unconstitutionality of the CHRC’s pursuit of Section 13 hate crime charges. Something I might easily agree with.

But then he goes on to say the ruling is a victory for Ernst Zundel and Joseph Goebbels (funny, I thought Goebbels was dead, gunned down in a French cinema by the Inglourious Basterds. Never mind.)

In his own words:

“This a great victory for free speech, the craigslist rants and raves forum, the comments section of the Province newspaper’s online edition, the white power movement, Ernst Zundel, and Joseph Goebbels,” he says.

Is he being sarcastic here? Is he on side with free speechies who for years have decried the actions of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in trying to limit free speech? Or does he actually think this ruling is only beneficial to white supremacists and the nutsoid anonymous commenters on newspaper websites? If there’s any irony here, it’s lost on me.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume it is. Gratl is vice-president and past-president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which has done some fine work intervening on behalf of Maclean’s Magazine in the complaint filed against it by the Canadian Islamic Congress with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. It’s also worked hard to ensure Vancouverites and UBC students have every access to free speech during the Olympics, despite the efforts of others to the contrary.

This past May Gratl won the President’s Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists for his part in challenging speech provisions under the B.C. Human Rights Code. He got this award at the same banquet where the Association, of which I’m a member, had nominated Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals for their intrusion in free speech.

Whether he meant or not that the Hadjis ruling is a victory for Nazis alone is up for interpretation. I take his points about the ruling not going far enough to malign the CHRC’s efforts to curb free speech on the internet. But I hope at some point he’ll clarify exactly where he stands.

Advocacy is his strong suit. Irony is not.

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