Jennifer Lynch went before the Justice Committee to defend Section 13, and didn’t meet up with much opposition from the unprepared and weak-kneed politicians. As part of the hearing, Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber managed to pepper Lynch with several questions which, although poorly worded and presented, kept Lynch on the defensive and didn’t allow her to obfuscate and waste his time. Here’s the exchange between the two, paraphrased slightly and commented in colored parentheses:
R: Complainants don’t have to hire legal counsel, do they?
L: (Pause) Happily, Canada has a process that is less formal than the courts, that does give individuals the opportunity to come forward when they are extremely vulnerable in the case of discrimination, and Section 13 cases are considered to be discriminatory. (Happily is hardly the adverb I’d use to describe the public’s impression of the process. She also uses terminology that assumes guilt; that the process must favour the complainant because they are “extremely vulnerable”.)
R: I’m going to cut you off right there. The respondent in even unsuccessful inquiries does not have any access to legal defence and is put to his own resources to defend himself.
L: Our process is informal and paper-based, with some interviews, usually done by telephone. No individual needs to retain counsel during the screening process. (That flies in the face of the fact that most individuals who are investigated by the CHRC for any reason immediately retain counsel, if they can afford one. It also ignores the fact that the complainant is given CHRC lawyers as counsel, so of course they don’t need to retain any.)
R: But if they do retain counsel, and if the inquiry or prosecution is unsuccessful, the respondent is entitled to costs neither from the commission nor the complainant
L: Currently, there is no provision to provide for costs to either party. (Yes there is a provision – just rig it so that your complainant also takes the stand as a witness, and presto! Costs covered!)
R: You talked about the highest ethical standards your employees conform to. Is that published somewhere in your guidelines, would I find it on the human rights website?
R: Is there a code of ethics?
L: Pardon me?
R: Is there a code of ethics for the Canadian Human Rights Commission?
L: Of course we subscribe to the public service values and ethics, and various professionals would have separate ethical codes of their own to which they would subscribe, for example, lawyers answer to the Bar Association. (Is there a code of ethics for investigators? No? I didn’t think so. Would lawyers in a real court get away with “Serenity Now” Vigna’s stunt? I don’t think so.)
R: The suggestion has been made that [Dean Steacy] posted on a neo-Nazi website called Stormfront. Not only did he post anti-Semitic data, he posted under a false name, Jadewarr. Bell Canada filed an affidavit saying that the pseudonym was the domain of a private citizen. I’m curious to know if that type of conduct would fall under the strongest adherence to professional codes of conduct and ethics?
L: Commission staff did no such thing. The events you say did not happen. (Categorical denial is her trademark when presented with these allegations.) Just as a police officer, who is part of a drug squad, must go to where the drug operators are, and perhaps interact with them, that doesn’t make them drug traders, or whatever. In our case, we do need to go online, to identify whether there is Canadian jurisdiction, and determine if the content is hateful. (A specious metaphor. In this case, the medium itself – speech – is the crime. Eliciting a crime by posting or e-mailing is entrapment.)
R: [cuts her off] Ms. Lynch, Mr. Steacy said in the transcript of Warman vs Lemire, “The only pseudonym I posted under was Jadewarr” He said that he did it!
L: Mr. Steacy did use the pseudonym Jadewarr, and made one single posting on the internet. You will see that it clearly has nothing to do with hateful expression. He also engaged in a trail of e-mails using the same pseudonym. , and we will file that as well. The exchanges are very bland, and have nothing to do with hateful, or even offensive, language.
R: What about the fact that Jadewarr is the registered domain name of a private citizen?
L: Jadewarr is not a registered domain name of a private citizen. This is another untrue allegation, which has no basis in fact.
Here’s the video. There is a lose-your-lunch alert at 5:10 when Marlene Jennings begins to spew.
I think it is customary to propose a ditty. I’ll stick to my traditional Limerick:
There once was a Justice Committee,
Where Lynch went to plead for pity,
With faux grin displayed,
The members waylaid,
Time’s up and she’s still sitting pretty.
(Cross-posted at SF)