This week's topic from Mr. Hannaford is all about a vile little piece of work that writes for Maclean's under the name Mark Steyn. Steyn is yet another of the "chickenhawk" crowd - pro war, pro American aggression, and desperately phobic of the "brown-skinned menace" that he predicts will overrun Europe in a few generations. (I won't go into the details of Steyn's bird cage liner book - if you really want to read it, find it in the library or a used book store ... or at the bottom of a parrot cage)
Apparently, Mr. Steyn finds himself subject of a human rights complaint:
A chapter of his book, America Alone, ran in Maclean's Magazine last year. In it, Steyn predicted -- in his trademark abundant style -- the likely outcome of changing European demographics. Low birth rates among Europeans, and high birth rates among Muslims, could have only one result: eventual Islamization of the continent. He also cited the satisfaction that gave Islamic leaders such as Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi: "There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades."
Complainant Dr. Mohamed Elmasry says it was "flagrantly anti-Muslim . . ." As a reader of Maclean's, "I am entitled to its services without discrimination on the basis of religion."
This is the issue. The rise of Europe's Muslim population Steyn talks about is real -- in France it's reached 10 per cent. If religion matters to government and institutions, (and we know it does, and separate church and state accordingly,) it's reasonable to suppose this may affect life over there.
While Steyn may wish to assert that Europe will be "a Muslim continent" within a few decades, I suspect strongly that the issue is not the prediction itself, but rather the manner in which Steyn framed it that is at issue.
However, Mr. Steyn's specific woes are not my point with Mr. Hannaford's column. It is the blatant way that he repeats a series of talking points that I have heard repeatedly out of those who wish to impose their will upon others.
In Canada, there are two parallel streams of law dealing with speech. One is the criminal code, the other is the constellation of human rights commissions.
The key difference among many is that nailing somebody for discriminatory speech is much harder in court under the code, than at a commission by its rules. The prosecution has to prove an intent to incite hate; it is difficult to get a conviction. The commissions just take somebody being offended as prime facie evidence of guilt.
Well, not all somebodies. Years ago, B.C.'s HRC declared a hierarchy of protection: vulnerable minorities got it, members of oppressor groups didn't. Seriously: In the name of equality, these people declared Canadians unequal before them.
This is so fundamentally dishonest it's not even funny. Hannaford is doing little more than spouting a talking point here. Just as he did in his commentary on the Boissoin ruling, he's blithely ignoring the reality of the situation.
While the Human Rights Commission uses a much less rigid set of standards upon which to evaluate a case than would be used in evaluating criminal charges under S. 318 of the Criminal Code, Mr. Hannaford is utterly incorrect in claiming that they are "parallel laws". The Human Rights Commissions are essentially civil processes with very limited powers to impose punishments. Second, once a case leaves the commission system, there are options to appeal those cases to the courts.
Second, the criteria for a "hate crime" are quite different for the criteria that one would make a finding of "discrimination". Hannaford is conflating the two, and being quite dishonest in the process.
Multiculturalism secretary Jason Kenney thinks Elmasry is reaching: "To be attacking opinions expressed by a columnist in a major magazine is a pretty bold attack on the basic Canadian value of freedom of the press and freedom of expression . . . I think all Canadians would reject that kind of effort to undermine one of our basic freedoms."
Well, without seeing the substance of the complaint, I fail to see how either Kenney or Hannaford can really comment. I suspect that Elmasry's complaint won't go very far on its own merits.
I think Steyn's predictions are largely intellectual excretia, from the fevered imaginings of a man who tends to argue purely from assertion and claim that it is fact.
You've guessed it. Steyn is a paid-up member of the oppressors, and won't get a chance to marshal his facts in court, or offer a fair-comment defence.
Instead, it's off to the HRC, where all that matters is whether what he wrote is judged likely to bring an identifiable group into hatred or contempt.
Hannaford's characterization of Human Rights Commission processes is horribly dishonest here. If you have actually spent some time reviewing the published decisions (such as the Boissoin decision), it's quite clear that both parties in the discussion have considerable opportunity to put forward their side of the story, and that the commissioners do make an effort to weigh the positions in the context of both the laws that set out the powers of the Commission, Canada's legal framework overall and past cases.
These are not, as Hannaford or Craig Chandler might characterize them, "Kangaroo Courts". They are quasi judicial bodies that take their roles seriously.