The Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed a hate speech complaint against Maclean's magazine on Friday in a decision the complainants blamed on "inappropriate political pressure."Just to be clear, that would be the complaint claiming that an article written by Mark Steyn, entitled "The Future Belongs to Islam", made a number of statements and assertions that were likely to expose Muslims to hatred or contempt.
So, in other words, the system can and does work, as I've said before.
For those interested, you can find the Commission's entire decision here, courtesy of MacLeans. As best as I can tell, a decision has not yet been rendered in the British Columbia case. You know, the one that was live blogged. So for that, we wait.
Which is why I think that perhaps something else good has come out of this controversy. Apparently an independent review of the Commission's approach to hate speech on the Internet has been launched by the Commission's chief commissioner, Jennifer Lynch.
And I actually think that is a very good thing:
And so the debate Elmasry sparked has become less about media attitudes toward Islam and more about the balance between free speech and hate speech, and whether Canada's federal and provincial human rights commissions can rightly weigh it.The last time Canada's human rights hate speech law was examined in depth was before the advent of the Internet, in a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision about the operator of a neo-Nazi phone-line. In that case, the prohibition on messages that are "likely to expose" identifiable groups to hatred or contempt was judged to be a reasonable limit on the Charter guarantee of freedom of expression. But the extension of the law from telephone lines to the Internet in 2001 has resulted in a whole new ballgame.
So, let's give it a look, says I. Give it a tweak here and there. Even overhaul the entire system if need be. So that it continues to work as advertised. Namely, to protect the rights of all Canadians not to be discriminated against on the enumerated grounds. But for those with a problem with even the concept that the government should have a role to play in protecting individuals from being discriminated against, too bad says I.
Oh yeah, about that "inappropriate political pressure" comment ...
Faisal Joseph, lawyer for the CIC, said the dismissal was predictable, given the political climate and the campaign against the commissions themselves.Well, I guess that's not surprising, I suppose. After all, they always say the best defence is a good offence.
"We are not surprised at the decision in light of the inappropriate political pressure that has been brought to bear on the commission and that has prompted the commission to set up an internal review of its procedures under (the hate speech section of the Human Rights Act)," he said.