Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Beware the future of freedom

I was reading World, one of my favorite magazines, the other day and came across one of the most chilling articles I've ever read.

I have heard about these kinds of miscarriages of justice upon occasion, but, somehow, they have never chilled me as this one did:
Two years ago an excerpt from Steyn's book, America Alone, was published in Maclean's, one of Canada's leading news journals. The article, titled "The Future Belongs to Islam," expressed Steyn's view that at their current comparative birth rates, Islamic citizens of Europe will soon outnumber native Europeans-with, shall we say, troubling implications for Western tradition. [You can see my coverage of this part of Steyn's book in my post from June 1, 2007, Mark Steyn's America Alone, II--Part One (Prologue to Chapter 3).]

Actually, less than half of the article addressed Islamic ascendancy in Europe. An equal part dealt with declining birthrates in developed nations generally-such as Japan, where toy makers are producing talkative baby dolls for elderly citizens who miss the company of little children.

If Japanese-Canadians took offense, they kept it to themselves. But a trio of Muslim law students in Ontario demanded equal space in Maclean's to rebut Steyn's claims about Islam. When the editors refused to have their content dictated, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed a complaint with the CHRC [Canadian Human Rights Commission]--not only in Ontario but also a provincial tribunal in British Columbia, where commissioners were known to be especially sensitive to such grievances. . . .

A three-member panel convened in Vancouver early [in June] to hear the case. Maclean's editor Andrew Coyne, live-blogging the proceedings, reported that according to Section 7.J of the Human Rights Code, "innocent intent is not a defense, nor is truth, nor is fair comment or the public interest, nor is good faith or responsible journalism. In other words, there is no defense." Also no standard for conviction except the complainant's feelings--no wonder the national CHRC has never declared a defendant innocent.

Evidence by the complainants consisted mostly of blog comments, which may or may not have been inspired by Steyn's article. Witnesses included a Quran specialist, a media professor whose area of expertise is Bollywood films, and Dr. Naiyer Habib, co-complainant, who testified of his distress when he read some of the nasty blog posts. Other magazine articles and surveys were introduced, none of which had any connection with Mark Steyn or Maclean's, but because there were no rules about evidence, some were admitted and some not.

In final arguments on June 6, council for the complainants asserted that they had met a two-part test of hate speech, proving that Steyn had both encouraged hate in the readership, and expressed hate in his writing. Plus, he used sarcasm.

The defense introduced no evidence but appealed to Canada's tradition of freedom of the press--even though that tradition has lost its teeth. Only the week before, a CHRC panel in Alberta handed down a decision against Stephen Boissoin of the Concerned Christian Coalition, who published a letter critical of homosexuals in a local newspaper. For this offense, Boissoin and the coalition were directed to pay $5,000 to the complainant for "pain and suffering," to refrain in the future from publishing discriminatory letters, and to make no "disparaging remarks" about the case. These measures, according to the panel, are "remedial not punitive." Nice to know.

The Steyn decision is not expected for several weeks, and tribunal officials are probably aware that this case is loaded. It's a prominent national journal they're dealing with, not some puny pack of concerned Christians. Some speculate that the CHRC will give Maclean's a stern lecture and dismiss the case so it can continue wreaking havoc on Canadian civil rights in relative obscurity. A conviction might drag the commission's habit of overreach into the public glare, and possibly force reform.

Whatever the decision, Steyn and Maclean's promise to hang tough. We can hope so, because rights generally erode before they collapse. As the old caveat goes, "First they came for the sarcastic... ."

[All emphases mine in the above quoted section.--JAH]

I pray the commission will remain true to its habits and be exposed! May we frogs wake up to the water being rapidly heated around us!

Or perhaps those of us who are offended at the offense can begin to bring our complaints to the commission. . . .
blog comments powered by Disqus