Thursday, May 15, 2008

Boggles The Mind

You might recall the recent story of Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal who was looking to sue Ottawa "for millions" after charges were stayed against her husband who had been jailed for 17 months on allegations of plotting terrorist attacks in Canada.

Along with my thoughts on her litigious musings, I included reference to what I thought was think is a great editorial cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon in the April 18th edition of Halifax's Chronicle Herald. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an actual picture of the cartoon to post at that time, but just so you know what I'm talking about, it looked something like this [courtesy of Ezra Levant]:


And thus I must confess that, perhaps a little naively, I was rather surprised to come across this.
A Muslim leader in Halifax says a recent editorial cartoon in The Chronicle Herald has local Muslims feeling unsafe and unwanted.

Zia Khan, director of the Centre for Islamic Development, has complained to Halifax Regional Police and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission about an April 18 cartoon by Herald staff cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon.
But wait, it gets better.
He [Khan] said dozens of people complained to the human rights commission about the cartoon but the agency is treating them as one complaint.

Mr. Khan said police and the human rights commission are both looking into the complaints and he will consider his options when the investigations are done.

Dan Leger, director of news content for The Chronicle Herald, has said the newspaper would vigorously defend the cartoon and that investigating the editorial content of a newspaper does not fall within the commission’s mandate.

Spokeswoman Theresa Rath of Halifax Regional Police said officers are investigating a complaint under Section 318 of the Criminal Code, which deals with hate propaganda. That section says: "Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years."

Ms. Rath said police will gather facts and review them with the Crown to determine whether a charge is warranted.

At the risk of engaging possible incoming 'friendly fire', I will yet again admit that yes, I am a proponent of human rights commissions. However, at the same time, I will not be an apologist for them. With that in mind, I have followed the stories of Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn with interest, curious, frankly, to see how, at the end of the day, it will all play out.

I think it's important to wait and make that judgment at the end of the day, so to speak, in order to give the system a chance. To see whether or not it will perform as advertised. The problem being, I believe, that any human creation (be it an object, a process or anything else the human mind can imagine), no matter how noble, will, at some point, be abused by another human being. No matter what we create, someone out there will try to screw it up.

Frankly, I think that's what's happening at the moment in many instances with Canada's various human rights commissions. Yes, I do think that there is an attempt being made to co-opt these processes by certain groups. Not that every complaint made by every Muslim, for example, to a human rights commission is illegitimate or part of a 'grand conspiracy', but I certainly do question the legitimacy of some of these complaints. Such as the one set out above.

But, in the end, it's not my personal opinion that counts. Every Canadian has the right to lodge such complaints. It then becomes the job of the commission and ultimately, the relevant Board, to decide whether or not discrimination has occurred. And that whole process is subject to a judicial review process, if need be.

So, although personally, I am a little stunned and taken aback by this latest complaint, I am still prepared to step back, bite my tongue and wait for the complaint to make it's way through the process. Because I have to believe that, eventually, saner heads will prevail and strike the necessary balance between providing a process for protecting for Canadians from discrimination and upholding the Charter value of freedom of speech.

And although I find myself in the unusual and somewhat unsettling position of agreeing with a certain amount of what Ezra Lavant has to say on this issue, I must say yet again that I strongly take issue with his characterization of human rights tribunals as "kangaroo courts", with the implication, for example, that the Chronicle Herald will be unable to "cross-examine Mrs. Jamal at length", in a human rights complaint process. Just as a defendant would eventually be afforded the right to cross-examine his accuser in court, a respondent in a human rights case will eventually be afforded the right to cross-examine his accuser.

Yes, Mr. Levant, we call it 'natural justice' and, belive it or not, it still is alive and well in Canada today. Even in a human rights context.

Update: I can only assume, without further comment, that the police investigation will die a slow, quiet death of its own accord. Because that, for me, is beyond words.

1 comment:

scotiajohn said...

The usefulness of HRCs has already been described some time ago. Lewis Carroll did so when the Queen shouted "off with her head" before Alice's trial began.