The Lynch List, 31-Sep-2011

October 31, 2011

I categorically refuse to make any Halloween-related puns or jokes in this post.

First: I’m still at a loss on this case. The Tribunal has now awarded $2.3 million in pain and suffering to over 400 nurses at CPP because they were paid less than doctors performing the same functions. The actual pay-equity award is still to come. You could make an argument that this is discrimination on the basis of education (which, last I checked, is legal). But how this turned into sex discrimination is ludicrous. Yes, most of the nurses are women. But what does that mean for the male nurses, who if I’m not mistaken receive the same award? How were they discriminated against?

To give a parallel, teachers in most provinces who upgrade their education receive an increase in their salary but are not assigned any extra responsibilities. I’m sure that the male-female proportion of teachers who have upgraded isn’t exactly the same as the general proportion, so isn’t that sex discrimination? Of course not.

Second: The Toronto Star is the subject of a human rights complaint. No, this is Halloween, not April Fools.

Back in 2003, the Star caused a stir among the Hindu community by publishing a picture of a statue of the Hindu god Durga. The statue was anatomically correct – as correct as possible, that is, for a mythical 18-armed warrior queen. After protests and angry e-mails, the Star gave an official apology:

On Oct. 4. the Star published a photo of an unfinished depiction of the Hindu goddess Maa Durga. Members of Toronto’s Hindu community took great exception to this goddess being presented in an undignified manner. The above picture shows the goddess in an appropriate manner. The Star regrets that publication of the original photo has caused anguish and apologizes to the Hindu community.

Fast forward to 2011, and the Star committed the same heinous act again. This petition informs the Star that “the Canadian Hindu community has launched a human rights case”. The fact that it’s the Toronto Star (which employs one of the only journalists in favour of speech repression in Mohammed Siddiqui) shouldn’t prevent us from defending them on principle.

Third: All of you are encouraged to write simple and to-the-point letters like this one.


The Lynch List, 28-Oct-2011

October 28, 2011

First: The Supreme Court of Canada has ascertained that the enabling legislation does not empower the federal human rights tribunal to assess and award legal costs. I’m mixed about this decision; on the one hand, the ability of a tribunal to award legal costs might allow a respondent to apply for costs from a vexatious complainant. But, we all know that a double standard would exist, as it does in some provincial tribunals).

Second: It seems to be oxymoronic that “civil liberties” groups support a human rights system that is all about infringing upon civil liberties. Nevertheless, Brian Seaman of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre provides some discussion on Danielle Smith’s proposals to reform the Alberta human rights apparatus.

Third: An editorial in the Globe by historical writer Erna Paris argues that Canada needs its hate speech laws. Amid all sorts of historical revisionism, she claims:

Both these authors [Levant and Steyn]  have tried to shift the Canadian consensus by normalizing previously unacceptable levels of speech.

“Previously unacceptable?” Ms. Paris, can you point me towards any evidence that printing Mohammed cartoons was previously unacceptable? Can you show me that stringing together true facts about Muslims into a narrative was “previously unacceptable”?

And of course, she concludes with the predictable fear-mongering that free speech will lead to Anders Breivak, as if restrictions of speech don’t lead to Muammar Gaddafi…

Fourth: Heh. The judge couldn’t overturn the decision given the narrow scope of a judicial review. Federal Court judge David Near was reviewing the preposterous CHRT decision that granted a convicted cop-killer nearly $10,000 for being forced to stand up during head count, and used the power at his disposal to mitigate the damage that the Tribunal had done. He reduced the award to a symbolic $500, disagreeing with the Tribunal on many aspects of the case.

The Lynch List, 26-Oct-2011

October 26, 2011

Wow. What a firestorm started in a Tim Horton’s outlet in Blenheim, Ontario this week. Though the human rights racket isn’t involved yet, this incident is right in its wheelhouse.

First: The initial reports made it sound like a slam-dunk: a Christian pastor objected to having two affectionate lesbians on the premises of the Tim Horton’s at which he was a customer. The manager obliged, asking the women to leave the premises. The women were irate, believing that they were being asked to leave because they were lesbians. Shortly after, a church group held a prayer session in the parking lot, “praying for the souls” of the two women. The lesbians proceeded to look into human rights complaints and begun to organize a protest at the restaurant. Fits the narrative, doesn’t it? No doubt it elicited squeals of indignation from the perpetually aggrieved.

What followed was a barrage of angry e-mails and threatening phone calls aimed at both the restaurant and the pastor’s church.

The truth is a little more complicated. The pastor indeed objected to inappropriate public displays of affection (corroborated by a gay man in the restaurant) in front of his three-year-old, but it so happens to be that he is pastor of a notable gay-friendly church in the area. He even thought that they were a heterosexual couple. Local gay activist groups sided with the pastor and recommended that the lesbian couple move on. The prayer vigil? Simply a few parents from the church standing around and chatting.

There is so much to learn from this incident. It spells the need to check your facts. It illustrates that thin-skinned inviduals can do a lot of damage when they jump to conclusions. It highlights the need for restaurants to have the legal freedom to police their premises without fear of a human rights complaint.

But it also demonstrates that community engagement generally leads to the best outcomes. The planned protest brought many others to examine the situation and make their own conclusions, fostering understanding between everyone – this wouldn’t happen if/when a human rights tribunal stuck its nose into the mix.

And finally, there was a poignant moment when a gay activist identified with the pastor in that both were bullied in school – one for being gay and the other for having red hair. The take-home message here is that the artificial boundaries between groups set up by the human rights legislation (and the Charter) are doing a disservice to its goal.

Second: The Calgary Herald posted an editorial on the Tim Horton’s incident – then subsequently removed it from their website. I found it here.

Had the couple actually been heterosexual, Revie would have complained, the story would never have made headlines, and the words “human rights commission” would never have been uttered.

Third: The Winnipeg Free Press explains why BC employers will never be able to read the riot act to the Stanley Cup rioters – because of the BCHRT:

Even if she was lawfully dismissed, and even if she is convicted of a crime, she or any other rioter has recourse to B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal to compel an employer to hire her, or face prosecution and penalties, including an award of monetary damages payable to her by the employer.

Under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, a person can’t be denied employment if convicted of a crime not related to that employment.

The Lynch List, 24-Oct-2011

October 24, 2011

First: Some eye-rolling arguments in the hearing over the Molnars’ Bed and Breakfast complaint. Xtra reports that the defence brought up the Knights of Columbus case, in which the operators of a wedding hall were permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation because to do otherwise would violate their religious beliefs.

The complainants’ lawyer (who seemed to be acting in concert with Tribunal member Enid Marion for the most part of the hearing) replied that the Hall’s owner, the archdiocese of Vancouver, has as its mission to uphold the values of the Church; Les and Susan Molnar, as private citizens, cannot use that as a defence since they have no such mission, despite their obvious religiosity.

In other words, religious values must be confined to institutions and cannot be held by private individuals. Laughable.

Second: The Yukon HRC has taken their cue from Ontario and embarked upon their own housing-ad crusade. Yet the human rights soldiers in the North don’t quite have the zeal of their Barbara Hall-led counterparts:

The Human Rights Commission said it’s not trying to dictate who landlords rent to, however it wants to create a level playing field for all people applying for housing.

“They may or may not get selected, that’s the landlords right to select the person…”

What? A human rights commission conceding to landlords the “right to select the person” for their premises? Hell hath installed a skating rink…

Third: Claire Hoy of the Orangeville Citizen on the Whatcott case and the human rights process in general:

The whole process is weighted against those who are subjects of a complaint and any fair reading of human rights legislation shows that to be true.

Fourth: If you have time (and a sense of humour), take the CHRC’s “are you a racist” litmus test over at the Fur!!

The Lynch List, 19-Oct-2011

October 19, 2011

First: The complaint against Les and Su Molnar is before the Tribunal this week. The Molnars refused a bed in their B&B to a gay couple, citing their religious convictions. We all know that the BCHRT doesn’t give a whit about religious freedom, except when it comes to Reiki practitioners and Oprah devotees. So there will be no surprise when they rule against the Molnars. Yet this will illustrate that the Human Rights Code has enabled the intervention of bureaucrats into the very homes of Canadians, making a mockery of the Charter’s freedom of religion clause and the property rights found in the Bill of Rights.

Second: Not specifically a human rights issue, but this matter is central to speech freedom nonetheless. The Supreme Court has ruled that simply hyperlinking to a defamatory site does not, in itself, constitute defamation. I guess that means we are allowed to link to that “far-right hate site” without fear of libel suits from you-know-who (starts with a W and sounds like “Mormon”).

Third: Stand Up For Freedom actually has a lawyer participating in the SCC Whatcott case. Read what he has to say.

Some of the more shocking arguments included an assertion from the lawyer for the Sask. HRC stating that certain passages of the Apostle Paul from the Bible could be considered hate speech and arguments made by the Ontario and the Alberta HRCs that there should be a double standard of enforcement of hate speech: a zero tolerance approach for “vulnerable” groups and a less stringent standard for not-so-vulnerable groups. (i.e. no equality before the law).

Fourth: We argue often in these pages in support of religious freedom. But there is a distinction between religious freedom and religious accommodation, which I believe private individuals and organizations should not be forced to provide. In this case, a Christian employee of Statistics Canada complained that his beliefs were violated when a female security guard walked into the washroom while he was changing. His demands were incredible, including a policy that security guards couldn’t enter washrooms of the opposite sex, and that he would never have to see that particular security guard again. The Commission declined to proceed with the complaint and dismissed it as frivolous. The federal court got it right, and agreed with the Commission that the complaint has no basis.

Fifth: John Carpay on the Whatcott case:

A legal right not to be offended is incompatible with a free and democratic society. The right to express oneself, to participate in democracy, and to seek truth through debate and argument, is a right possessed by all people, regardless of their level of education or their income. Not everyone uses the kind of language that one hears at a dinner party in Rosedale.

The Lynch List, 17-Oct-2011

October 17, 2011

First: The appeal of the Moore decision in BC has a twin sister that it just as ugly: the Comeau complaint in Nova Scotia. In both cases, the human rights tribunal decided that it has the power to override executive decisions when it comes to education funding. The Comeau case is even more egregious – it commanded the provincial government to launch a board of inquiry.

It looks like the Comeau case will proceed at the SCC before the Moore case. No doubt one will be a clear precedent for the other.

Second: Don Hutchinson of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada notes as an intervenor at the Whatcott trial that to uphold the restrictions on free expression would amount to “a virtual open season on anyone communicating a religiously informed position on any matter of public policy.”

Like it isn’t already, Don.

He also confesses that he was taken aback when the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission stated that it considers a telivised recitation of Biblical passages to be hate speech. That canary died a long time ago (1997 to be exact)…

Third: The Whatcott trial has everyone all-abuzz. Lysiane Gagnon of the Globe and Mail comments on why we must tolerate hate speech:

Unfortunately, Canada, once a brave country of explorers, has become a “mommy state” in the grip of a vast clique of moralizers who encourage people to be extraordinarily sensitive to the slightest insult, as if reaching victimhood status were a goal in life. It’s censorship by another name, and also a pathetically naive attempt to eradicate evil from the face of the Earth and reconstruct the human mind.

Fourth: The Sun’s David Akin, embarrassingly, endorses the Saskatchewan HRC’s crucifixion of Whatcott. I assume that he will dutifully submit when the new National Press Council, chaired by Barbara Hall, yanks his journalist accreditation for harbouring unapproved emotions…

Fifth: Jonathan Kay of the National Post redeems Akin’s lack of insight:

Canadian Christian activists are not far off the mark when they say that human rights laws is verging on criminalizing Christianity. At the very least, there is a massive legal conflict between the promise of religious freedom contained in our Charter of Rights, and the effective ban on promulgating a central religious dogma — opposition to homosexuality — that has become part of our human-rights culture.

Sixth: Should the human rights commissions find battles that are worth fighting? Maybe, but wouldn’t it be better if an engaged and responsible citizenry find and fight these battles while respecting freedom, rather than putting together commissions and tribunals that have the power to restrict your rights? Just sayin…

The Lynch List, 13-Oct-2011

October 13, 2011

This post is dedicated to all those intervenors in the Supreme Court who are defending our freedom of expression from the HRCs in the Whatcott appeal.

First: Much commentary flying around on the Whatcott case. But first and foremost, let’s get to one of the inane arguments that the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission brought before the court.

Besides their admission that they consider the Bible to be hate speech, the Commission argued that the advent of the internet makes it all the more important to have even more restrictive hate speech legislation at their disposal. The opposite is clearly true: the internet has made any attempt to curtail hate speech implausible at best.

The justices are approaching this correctly with their line of questioning – that the law is inoperable, regardless of the justification behind it, and so fails the Oakes Test.

Second: On to some Whatcott commentary:

The Ceeb has a poll! You know what to do!

Margaret Wente in the Globe: Should free speech trump hate laws? Yes.

Edmonton Journal: Free speech bolstered by defence of those we disagree with.

Third: The rationale behind service dogs has expanded far beyond assisting the blind. And beyond what many consider reasonable. Recall the infamous Dee-Oh-Gee case in which a person suffering from depression can even enjoy the same “rights” as the blind – that is, the right to ride roughshod over any pet restrictions on public and private property, damn the cost, the health hazards, or any rights of the property owner.

So it was within reason that a campground owner refused entry to a man and his dog, arguing that anyone who can drive his vehicle has no need for a service dog. The dog owner, who is paraplegic, flashed some accreditation papers in front of the owner’s face, which the Quebec tribunal recognized as enough to override any property rights of the campground owner.

That begs the question; who gave the accreditation body the power to infringe upon property rights? And since every organization benefits from an expanding mandate, what is there to stop MIRA from issuing service animal permits to everyone?