"Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."
-- Dean Steachy, principal investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission
"Under the ludicrous British Columbia "Human Rights" Code, we are guilty."
-- Mark Steyn, committer of hate crimes against humanity
I've discussed Ezra Levant a couple of times, but inexcusably have yet to cover Mark Steyn, a newly-favorite writer of mine who has gone through a similar case of being brought before the Canadian Human Rights Commission for the crime of possibly having offended (or offending in the future) Muslims with an excerpt of his book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, in which he criticizes various aspects of Islamic culture.
In my last post on Ezra Levant, I included an interview on the Michael Coren show in which Coren replayed a statement from Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, the guy who made the accusation against Steyn. Keep in mind this is the guy accusing Steyn of spreading hatred...a man who, to my knowledge, has never been brought before the Human Rights Commission (nor has any Muslim, I believe):
ELMASRY: ... and totally innocent people, obviously, is the children. But they are not innocent if they are part of a population which is total population of Israel is part of the army... From 18 on, they are part of the soldiers, even if they have civilian clothes.
COREN: So if Israeli children are killed, that is a valid use of military force by Palestinians?
ELMASRY: No, they are not valid...
COREN: So what are you saying?
ELMASRY: I'm saying that it has to be totally innocent, OK? Totally innocent are the children, obviously, OK? But they are not innocent if the army [inaudible] in civilian clothes, OK?
COREN: What about women?
ELMASRY: The same, if they are women in the army...
COREN: Anyone over the age of 18 in Israel is a valid target.
ELMASRY: Anybody above 18 is a part of the Israeli army...
COREN: So everyone in Israel and anyone and everyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?
ELMASRY: Yes, I would say.
So we see what sort of person and system Steyn was up against. Now to get into the details of Steyn's case...Here are excerpts from Wikipedia's summary of the trial, with emphasis added by me:
Joseph Faisal, legal counsel for the Canadian Islamic Congress opened his arguments by stating that the article Maclean's published presented Muslims as "a violent people" who hold traditional Canadian values "in contempt," and depicted Islam as "inhuman" and "violent." He also argued that the cover image that Maclean's chose to run, the image of two Muslim women, along with the magazine's cover line, "could have been the picture of a horror cult movie." Faisal criticized "20 other articles" that ran in Maclean's, beginning in January 2005 that he claimed were offensive to Muslims and criticized Maclean's for publishing letters from readers praising the magazine and Steyn. Faisal added that "We're prepared to deal with those articles piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph, and those things that we find objectionable."
Faisal and Habib's complaint claims that Maclean's and Steyn, who wrote the article, violated Section 7-1 of British Columbia's Human Rights Code, which stipulates that a person must not publish or cause to be published anything that discriminates against a person or group, or exposes them to hatred or contempt. Under the BC Human Rights code, the complainants are not required to prove harm, or malicious intent; all that is required is a reasonable determination that the excerpt did express hatred and contempt toward Muslims, and likely caused it to spread.
Faisal implored the BC Human Rights Tribunal to take action, arguing that it is "the court of last resort. You are the only opportunity to right a terrible wrong to a clearly identifiable group numbering hundreds of thousands in this great country, and tens of thousands in the beautiful province of British Columbia. You are the only thing between racist, hateful, contemptuous Islamaphobic and irresponsible journalism, and law-abiding Canadian citizens."
...In his closing arguments, Faisal stated that "There has never been a case in this country that has had such clear, concise evidence, ever. There will never be any more demonstrable evidence of hatred that has been perpetrated by this article."
...Steyn told the media that he was hoping the tribunal would rule against Maclean's. "We want to lose so we can take it to a real court and if necessary up to the Supreme Court of Canada and we can get the ancient liberties of free-born Canadian citizens that have been taken away from them by tribunals like this," he said.
...The day after the hearing ended, Khurrum Awan, one of the complainants in the BC case, spoke to a meeting of the Canadian Arab Federation and complained that since Maclean's is not a member of the Ontario Press Council or any similar body there is no authority within the profession of journalism, that can "condemn the journalist, condemn the publication, direct them to publish a letter to the editor." He added that he would "love" to see the case appealed into the regular courts. Awan also stated that:
"And we have to tell them, you know what, if you're not going to allow us to do that, there will be consequences. You will be taken to the human rights commission, you will be taken to the press council, and you know what? If you manage to get rid of the human rights code provisions [on hate speech], we will then take you to the civil courts system. And you know what? Some judge out there might just think that perhaps it's time to have a tort of group defamation, and you might be liable for a few million dollars."
...On October 10, 2008, the HRC dismissed the complaint, stating that the Maclean's article did not violate the province's hate speech law. The tribunal stated that the article contained historical, religious and factual inaccuracies, relied on common Muslim stereotypes and tried to "rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims." However, they also ruled that the article was not likely to expose Muslims to hatred or contempt.
The Tribunal stated that "With all its inaccuracies and hyperbole, [the article] has resulted in political debate which, in our view, [B. C.'s hate speech human rights law] was never intended to suppress. In fact, as the evidence in this case amply demonstrates, the debate has not been suppressed and the concerns about the impact of hate speech silencing a minority have not been borne out."
...Mark Steyn, who wrote the offending article, stated that that a lesser-known writer without a media conglomerate in his corner probably would have been, adding that:
"For me the problem is not the book, the problem for me is Canada, and I will never think of the deranged dominion quite the same way again. It has made me understand just how easily and incrementally free societies, often for the most fluffy reasons, slip into a kind of soft, beguiling totalitarianism. I don't understand why they lack the cojones to find us guilty" and that "The only reason to go through all this nonsense is to get to the stage where you can appeal it to a real court, and if necessary up to the Supreme Court."
Steyn further criticized the Human Rights Commissions and Canadian politicians, stating that:
"they didn't like the heat they were getting under this case. Life was chugging along just fine, chastising non-entities nobody had ever heard about, piling up a lot of cockamamie jurisprudence that inverts the principles of common law, and nobody paid any attention to it. Once they got the glare of publicity from the Maclean's case, the kangaroos decided to jump for the exit. I've grown tired of the number of Canadian members of Parliament who've said to me over the last best part of a year now, 'Oh, well of course I fully support you, I'm fully behind you, but I'd just be grateful if you didn't mention my name in public.'"
Mark Hemingway wrote a good summary of all this (and more) for National Review's blog, entitled "Idiot’s Guide to Completely Idiotic Canadian ‘Human Rights’ Tribunals", which is well-worth reading. Mark Steyn wrote a response to a later post of Hemingway's:
Mark Hemingway is right to say that free speech in Canada "does not exist in any meaningful way". As the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal's rambling and incoherent decision makes plain, Maclean's and I were acquitted of "flagrant Islamophobia" for essentially political reasons - because neither the court nor its travesty of a "human rights" code could withstand the heat of a guilty verdict. Jay Currie puts it well:
The way I read this decision is that it imposes a two part test: a) are your words offensive and hurtful? b) are you a major media organization with deep pockets represented by serious lawyers. If “a” and not “b” you are a hate monger; if “a” and “b” you are engaged in political debate.
Just so. Because we spent a ton of money and had a bigshot Queen's Counsel and exposed the joke jurisprudence and (at the federal "human rights" commission) systemic corruption, the kangaroo courts decided that discretion was the better part of valor. The Ontario "Human Rights" Commission ruled they weren't able to prosecute the case because of a technicality - I offered to waive the technicality, but the wimps still bailed out. If you have the wherewithal to stand up to these totalitarian bullies, they stampede for the exits. But, if you're just an obscure Alberta pastor or a guy with a widely unread website or a fellow who writes a letter to his local newspaper, they'll destroy your life.
I sympathize with the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose mouthpiece feels that, if the British Columbia pseudo-judges had applied the logic of previous decisions, we'd have been found guilty. He's right: Under the ludicrous British Columbia "Human Rights" Code, we are guilty. Which is why the Canadian Islamic Congress should appeal, and why I offered on the radio an hour ago to chip in a thousand bucks towards their costs.
Steyn said things that some people would consider offensive. He is guilty. There is no need for a concept of "free speech" unless it is offensive speech that is being protected. There is no need to protect non-offensive speech, and further there is no way for any debate to proceed without someone being willing to say something that someone else doesn't want to hear.
Here is a wide-ranging interview Steyn did on the Michael Coren show last June covering many of his beliefs: