Weekend commentary: Saskatchewan, Ontario, shills, and hypocrisy

I’m afraid I’ve fallen somewhat behind on HRC-related stories, but here are a few things that have caught my eye in recent weeks.

1) As Saskatchewan moves to dissolve its Human Rights Tribunal and have human rights complaints heard by an actual court, all I can say is this: good. Thank you.

Also, what took so long? Is the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, which initially recommended these changes, the only such body in Canada that is self-aware enough to see the flaws in the Tribunal system? If so, why?

Best not to ask too many questions, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to be the one that jinxes this Christmas present for judicial process. But one final note: it’s interesting to see the marked distinction between various provincial approaches to HRC “reform”.

For instance, while Saskatchewan went the route of keeping the complaints process intact ( via the commission ), but moved the body hearing the complaints ( the tribunal )  into an actual court-room, British Columbia long ago went the route of scrapping its Human Rights Commission while keeping its Human Rights Tribunal intact. The results of the BC HRT’s over-reach are well known.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s approach to restructuring their HRC system only served to maintain the status quo, while Ontario’s restructuring actually added one more bureaucratic body to the mix: the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

As my colleague Scary notes, Saskatchewan’s approach raises its own questions, but it’s still something new, and hopefully progress made. If not, well, join the club.

2) Meanwhile, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has sided with the Raelian ‘religion’ over the Franco-Nord Catholic School Board. The case?

In November 2006, the management of the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Franco-Nord, in Ontario, signed several contracts with the Academy of Pleasurology and Emotional Intelligence (APEI), the plaintiffs’ training firm, which included several emotional pedagogy training sessions for its teaching personnel. In January 2007, this same CSCFN management learned that Daniel, Sylvie and Michel Chabot were members of the Raelian Religion and, as a result, terminated the contracts. In addition, evidence showed that the CSCFN management warned several other Ontario school Boards not to do business with the APEI because its founders were Raelians. With this said, it did not require more evidence for Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal to conclude that the CSCFN committed an act of discrimination.

This, the tribunal concludes, is a clear-cut case of discrimination on religious grounds. And thus have Raelians the world over been vindicated, and their oppression given a voice in Ontario.

Thanks to Blazing Cat Fur, some background on our friends the Raelians:

Not to be confused with the church of Ray Liotta, the Raelians believe that aliens landed on earth, insisted that they designed all life on earth and asked that they be able to make contact with government officials through an embassy.

Hey, different strokes for different folks. One has to wonder, though, why someone’s religion should not have a bearing on a Catholic School Board’s hiring decisions. Just sayin’

3) Some commentary from CHRC one-time paid flak Pearl Eliadis on why not all speech should be free and Mark Mercer is wrong about everything:

The free speech extremists conflate efforts to limit extreme forms of speech, like the ones mentioned above, with authoritarian and heavy-handed censorship. This is as intellectually dishonest as if I called Mercer a supporter of genocide because of his free speech position.
Sigh…that is authoritarian and heavy-handed censorship, hence the opposition. Pearl, what are we going to do with you?

H/t to Blazing Cat Fur, who also brings us this piece of commentary from Mark Hemingway in the Washington Examiner:

On Nov. 20, Canadian journalist Ezra Levant was ordered by an Ottawa judge to pay $25,000 for libeling Giacomo Vigna, a Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer. According to the judge, Levant “spoke in reckless disregard of the truth and for an ulterior purpose of denormalizing the Human Rights Commission across Canada.”

Despite the judge’s ruling, not only is Levant right to “denormalize” these commissions — they should be immediately abolished.

Ah, that’s better.

4) Last word, thanks to Terrence Watson at The Volunteer, who writes on Speech Warriors and hypocrisy:

It is easy enough to understand how a principled speech warrior position could look morally inconsistent, or worse, at least to one who had forgotten or wasn’t aware of the distinction just made. If principles of right are conflated with values, or else ignored all together, then a speech warrior’s refusal to endorse hate speech laws may look like an endorsement of hate speech. Because surely, there is some value to suppressing racist speech, and if it were balanced against the value of permitting hate speech, it is not clear to me that the latter value would outweigh the former. When freedom of speech is justified on the basis of a balancing test, then sometimes censorship will win.

Hence, if we were concerned only with teleology, then the speech warrior who rejected hate speech laws would either be placing too much value on Nazi speech, or would be undervaluing the benefit (i.e. to minorities) of suppressing Nazi speech. In either case, the speech warrior would look like an asshole or a fool.

Libertarians, for the most part, do not base their position on teleology, but on deontology (which is not to say they don’t appreciate the value of an atmosphere of free inquiry.)  Because the principles of right have priority regardless of the outcome of this or any other balancing test, the libertarian can accept that hate speech laws could be good in some respects, while maintaining that it would be wrong for the government to pass or enforce such laws.

It’s quite worth reading the rest.


One Response to Weekend commentary: Saskatchewan, Ontario, shills, and hypocrisy

  1. […] uphold freedom of speech. Instead, Smith announced, she’s going to go more the route of Saskatchewan, putting speech-related AHRA complaints under actual court oversight but still allowing the […]

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