MacLeans‘ magazine recently published an article entitled, “Section 13: How the battle for free speech was won.”
The title really should have been “how a battle for free speech was won,” not “how the battle for free speech was won.”
That’s because the federal government’s recent repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act does not change provincial human rights legislation.
And many of the worst “human rights” assaults on freedom of expression are made by provincial human rights commissions.
Do you remember the human rights complaints made against Ezra Levant or Mark Steyn?
Ezra Levant, then publisher of the now defunct Western Standard magazine, was hauled up before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for “discrimination” because he dared to reprint Danish cartoons of Mohammed which had caused Muslims to riot in Europe.
Mark Steyn and MacLeans‘ magazine had to contend with not one of Canada’s human rights commissions, but three!
The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), offended by Steyn’s articles, filed complaints against Steyn and MacLean’s’ with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
And there are many other examples illustrating the excess of provincial human rights commissions across Canada.
Repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is a very welcome victory for freedom of expression. And the federal government deserves a lot of credit for repealing it.
But it is only one victory in the larger war to protect freedom of expression in this country.
What deeply worries me is that Canadians will be lulled into a false sense of security and think that freedom of expression is protected now that the federal government has repealed Section 13.
And my worries are not helped when Macleans’ magazine, of all publications, should suggest that the battle for free speech is now won.
It is not. In fact, far from it.
A recent study by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms which examined human rights legislation in Canada had some very disturbing findings. Among them:
- Most provinces have a human rights commission which assists only complainants (never respondents) and which can act like a prosecutor by initiating complaints against citizens;
- Those who adjudicate human rights complaints do not need to have a law degree or understand procedural fairness;
- Human rights tribunals can, and often do, accept hearsay evidence which is normally excluded by real courts because of its unreliability; (thankfully Saskatchewan no longer has tribunals – Commission decides if complaint proceeds , if so it goes to a real court)
- People can file frivolous or malicious complaints without risking any consequences, all while forcing respondents to pay their own legal costs;
- Human rights complaints can be filed by “third parties” who themselves have not suffered any alleged discrimination, thereby allowing “community activists” to advance political agendas, and;
- Human rights legislation authorizes the imposition of large and sometimes unlimited awards in respect of hurt feelings. Real courts have never recognized this kind of damage award because of its inherent subjectivity and unfairness.
The study concluded that the human rights regimes in Saskatchewan, B.C., and Alberta are the worst violators of free speech in Canada and that Ontario, Alberta and P.E.I. have the worst commissions in terms procedural fairness–or lack thereof.
The repeal of Section 13 does not fix this.
It is up to us as concerned citizens to put pressure on our provincial governments to follow the federal government’s lead and reform their human rights legislation.
With the repeal of Section 13 by the federal government, the time to act is now.
That is why Canada Family Action has undertaken a campaign to mobilize large-scale citizen action to put pressure on our provincial governments to reform their human rights laws and rein in their commissions.
Our immediate goal is to produce a provincial brief and lobby each province’s Solicitor General.
We will then launch petition, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, phone and letter-writing campaigns, as part of our multi-pronged effort to mobilize Canada Family Action’s 30,000+ supporters across the country and put citizen-action pressure on the provinces.
Canada Family Action has vigorously fought to protect our basic democratic freedoms from our founding. Since 1997, we have fought against:
- The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) systemic discrimination against religious broadcasters;
- Human rights commissions that were forcing mayors and civic officials across the country into making “gay pride” proclamations in violation of their basic liberties, and;
- “Hate crime” provisions being inserted into the Criminal Code which threatened religious freedom in Canada.
What we have learned over the years is that nothing, nothing, nothing in politics moves unless it is pushed.
If the provinces aren’t pushed, they’re not going to reform their human rights legislation. It’s a simple as that.
If we don’t succeed in reforming human rights legislation now, while the tide is on our side, the assaults on our basic freedoms by human rights commissions are going to continue.
Your financial support will help to give us the resources we need to mobilize citizen action and put pressure on our provincial governments to follow the federal government’s lead and reform their human rights legislation. Donate by clicking the DONATE button.
For 15 years now, Canada Family Action has been one of Canada’s most influential and effective grassroots political action organizations.
Our greatest strength is our ability to mobilize timely, large-scale and effective citizen action on issues of concern to most Canadians. And that strength comes from thousands of Canadians like you who have stood with us and supported us. I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Brian Rushfeldt LL.D.
President and Executive Officer
Canada Family Action
PS: Please support our campaign to reform provincial human rights legislation today. With the recent repeal of Section 13 by the federal government, now is the time to act!