National Post View: Quebec hate speech bill would re-establish bureaucratic despotism [click HERE for complete article]
Bill 59 assigns new powers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to combat hate speech, as well as a variety of other provisions meant to protect against extremism, by censoring speech that promotes “fear of the other.” Ominously, the bill would allow the QHRC to pursue websites that in its estimation describe and denounce Islamism.
The bill takes its inspiration from recommendations made public by the QHRC in November 2014. Jacques Frémont, the commission’s president, explained that he planned to use the requested powers to sue those critical of certain ideas, “people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page.”Frémont is an unabashed legal activist, who sees the QHRC’s mandate as “provoking a social change” and “making the law.” (“You will make the law with difficult cases, risky cases,” he said at a March conference at the Université de Montréal.) In support of such stringent censorship he cites resolutions adopted by UN bodies. But the only UN body pressing for this measure is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an Islamist consortium that equates criticism of Islam with hate speech. The OIC’s member nations have nothing to teach any democratic society in the way of “inclusion,” “openness” and “living together,” all justifications for Bill 59 made by Premier Couillard.
Bill 59 is a danger to democracy and should not pass.
The details of Bill 59 are chilling. Article 6 would “give the QHRC the power to initiate legal proceedings before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal without having to wait for complaints from the public.” Article 3 allows members of an identifiable group as well as people outside the group to make complaints triggering suits for hate speech before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.
If this has a déjà vu quality to it, it should. Bill 59 would pave the same well-travelled road to suppression of speech and opinion that led, via the similar Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, to the infamous pursuit of journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant by Muslim activists determined to stifle normative expressions of opinion. The public’s disgust at such bureaucratic despotism happily led to its repeal at the federal level.
All too frequently, HRCs (human rights commissions) in Canada have been abused by litigious groups and individuals angered and threatened by critical speech. HRC decisions routinely equate 'offended' with 'harassment', which is not surprising given that we live in a society that with each passing day seems to be filling up with people who whine loudly and protest like petulant six-year-olds who think fairness is defined by what serves their narrow self interests first and foremost to the exclusion of others' interests.On its face, Bill 59 would seem to be an exercise in futility. The Internet is not a provincial domain. Legal precedence, including a Supreme Court judgment in this area that overturned a previous QRHC victory at the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal (Latif v. Bombardier), confirms the Internet falls under federal jurisdiction.
Offensive speech does not automatically equate to harassment. It is not necessarily the Ezra Levants of Canada who are the bullies. Groups and individuals who routinely use the courts and provincial "rights commissions" in an attempt to silence any reasoned dissent from the status quo are the ones frequently guilty of bullying Canadians to accept behaviours that are, in a word or two, morally objectionable.
“The (Catholic Civil Rights League/CCRL) has refrained from making hate speech complaints to any courts or commissions, even though some of the anti-Catholic content we address, and the remarks directed at us in the course of our work, could certainly be described as demeaning if not downright hateful,” (Joanna) McGarry (Executive Director) said in the alert. “In our view, the importance of free speech supersedes whether we agree with what others are saying.”
“As a civil rights organization, we recognize that freedom expression and freedom of religious expression are two of the most important values for Canadians,” she said in an interview from Toronto. “We think the use of human rights tribunals to penalize the peaceable expression of religious viewpoints is a misuse of their original purpose.”
Freedom of expression, she said, “is an important enough value that any curtailment of it must be held to the much higher standard required by a court.” That standard, she said, includes the presumption of innocence, both parties facing equal costs, and the possibility that frivolous complaints could result in the complainant picking up the defendants court costs.
McGarry said the best way to address these issues is through dialogue, especially through the media. She said it is in the give and take of debate that most people learn about acceptable speech. “Politeness is not something that needs to be judicially imposed,” she said.—Deborah Gyapong, CCN (2008).
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis advised, in his famous Whitney v. California opinion in 1927, "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."—Haiman, 2000.
A sure sign that one's position is inept or untenable is when one resorts to bullying tactics of one kind or another to shut down rational debate. More people should have the courage to confront their own bigotry and/or despotism, and by so doing then avoid using a human rights commission to impose a tyrannical decision on another citizen exercising his or her legitimate right to contribute to a public discussion.
Suppression of rational speech is the action of a fascist. Canadians are prone to fascistic behaviour no less than the citizens of any other country. In our time, the most common source of such behaviour is self proclaimed progressives whose tolerance is reserved for those who agree with their views. Canada's reputation for freedom and authentic tolerance is not served by indulging suppressionists who want to expand their abuse of human rights commissions in order that they may solely serve the narrow interests of elitist cultural and political groups who do not want their misinformed agendas criticized.