Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Viva Steyn!
Image: Western Standard / Rob Kelly

here is a dust-up brewing in my former home over the issues of freedom of speech and freedom of the press -- or rather, whether the state has the responsibility to protect each and every Canadian from the possibility of feeling offended by someone else's speech or writing.

The Canadian Islamic Congress, and certain Osgoode Hall law students acting on its behalf, are certainly easily offended by Mark Steyn. This is one Canadian (me) who is offended by thin-skinned control freaks who apparently can't handle life in a (relatively) free country.

They've launched charges of hate speech against Steyn and Maclean's news magazine for publishing an excerpt from his book "America Alone" in October 2006. Nobody has challenged the factual content of the article, but have only made claims that feelings were hurt -- and Maclean's must pay them lots of money. Oh, and Maclean's must also allow the CIC to design its own counter cover story for the magazine, so their hurt feelings would be assuaged. The publisher says he'd rather go bankrupt than to have a such a grievance group take over editorial control.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the B.C. Human Rights Commission have both accepted the case, while the Ontario Human Rights Commission is still considering its merits. In the CHRC's 30 year history, the commission has never found in favour of a "defendant." The costs to the complainant is nothing.

Do Canadians wish to ask permission of the government before being allowed to read a Mark Steyn column? If he loses, will they then burn his books -- the source of the excerpt? Are there still advocates of freedom of speech in Canada? There may still be a few left. I hope. The story so far, as summed up by Reuters.

I first became aware of this story a couple of months back, but the complaint seemed so frivolous that I didn't believe many Canadians would stand for it. How out of touch I must be over here.

Surely any self-respecting commission, no matter how PC oriented, would laugh it out of the hearing room after examining the particulars. The only thing that possibly could be construed as offensive was a quoted statement actually made by a UK Islamist, to the effect that Muslims in the UK were "breeding like mosquitoes," and would thus ensure an Islamic future for Britain. (Some air-head blogger in Canada took aim at Steyn's "racism," for this statement made by an Islamist kook.)

But after seeing what Mark wrote the other day on the Corner, it's much more serious than I thought. Quoting from a transcripted hearing before the CHRC, which gives an idea who these thought commissars really are, he introduces us to Dean Steacy, the principal "anti-hate" investigator for the commission. His response follows.
MS KULASZKA: Mr. Steacy, you were talking before about context and how important it is when you do your investigation. What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate one of these complaints?

MR. STEACY: Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value.

MS KULASZKA: Okay. That was a clear answer.

MR. STEACY: It's not my job to give value to an American concept.
Mr Steacy is wrong. It is not "freedom of speech" that is the kinky foreign imposition but his own Orwellian "human rights" regime, set up in the late 1970s and wholly alien to Canada's legal tradition. Why he is so unacquainted with English law as to believe "freedom of speech" is an "American concept" is something I look forward to exploring with him face to face. I happen to believe that freedom of speech is a Canadian right and, if Dean Steacy and the Islamic Congress think it's "their job" to take it away from Canadians, then let's have the dust-up and settle it once and for all.
Apparently the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is featured on the back of our $50 bill, although I haven't seen one in quite a while. I seem to recall that the Declaration says a few things about freedom of expression and of conscience, and nothing much about freedom from being easily offended.

Being out of Mr. Steacy's jurisdiction, I feel empowered enough to say that he's a dope. This reflexive, almost Pavlovian anti-Americanism is usually a dead giveaway (as well as an unfortunately common Canadian trait). Things don't look good for Steyn and Maclean's vs the HRC thought police, but I'd love to be in that hearing room when Mark and Dean get to exploring the issue "face to face."


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