Canada Commences Censorship Court Charade

Andrew Coyne of Maclean's is liveblogging the British Colombia Human Rights Commission's show trial of Maclean's and Mark Steyn, accused of violating Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act (which prohibits expression that has the potential to expose a group to hatred or contempt) before the Kafkaesque star chamber that is the HRC based on the article "The Future Belongs to Islam." Steyn's critics filed the Human Rights Commission complaint after Maclean's refused to give dissenters free space for an unedited rebuttal, which was their primary demand.

The HRC's conviction rate for people accused of Section 13 violations is 100%.

We've blogged about Canada's foolish and contemptible prosecution of Steyn before, as well as the abuses under Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act.

I hold no brief for Steyn. He's a competent writer, but I disagree with much of what he has to say. But as I am not a hysteric or a thug, that doesn't mean that I want him punished for saying things that offend or annoy me. Steyn's accusers say that Steyn's writing exposes Canadian Muslims to hatred, suspicion, or contempt. But to what does this prosecution expose them? The prosecution establishes that a subset (a small one, I suspect) of Canadian Muslims believe that they should be able to dictate what Canadians say and write and print, and that a portion of the government of Canada is indulging them. How should Canadians react to that, if not with suspicion and contempt?

There seems little chance that Steyn and Macleans will emerge from this without some punitive order from the Human Rights Commission. But such a prominent response may not serve the HRC's long-term interests. There are increasing signs that Canada's politicians have become embarrassed by the HRCs and their feckless and fashionable abandonment of cherished rights. A decision penalizing Maclean's and Steyn — for a piece that no society that calls itself free could reasonably punish — may be a nail in the HRC's coffin rather than a feather in its cap. We can hope.


Note: Easily offended Canadians, this post is subject to our Special End-User Agreement.

Update and correction: Commenter meinbc correctly notes that I conflated the Canadian Human Rights Councils (the prosecutions of which are adjudicated, sort of, by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals) and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, before which the Steyn matter is pending. I also conflated Section 13, the hate-speech provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, with Section 7.1, the hate-speech provision of the BC Human Rights Act. However, the operation of the BCHRT and the CHRT appear substantially similar, the political issues appear substantially similar, and Section 7.1 contains the same "likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt" language as Section 13.1. I would welcome input from some of our Canadian visitors about how the analysis of the two should be different.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Patrick says

    Ugh! Anyone with the slightest interest in these issues should read Coyne's liveblogging of the case.

    "Free speech is a red herring."

  2. Revnant Dream says

    This is beyond politics of any sort unless you are a power nut or so blinded by the warm fuzzes your intellect has detonated beyond recovery. It strikes at the Natural rights of man. Liberties & freedoms for individuals, not collectives. To many men have died for our right to think or speak our own minds. To lose to totalitarians of any stripe this great boon fought for, bleed for. Is a betrayal of Canadian core beliefs by Ideologues. I see no tolerance only persecution from these tribunals. The process is the punishment. Its a secular inquisition. Excellent post by the way. If Mark Steyn loses can we really call ourselves free anymore?

    Just my opinion.

  3. PLW says

    "If Mark Steyn loses can we really call ourselves free anymore?"

    First they came for the Hyperbolians, and I said nothing…

  4. meinbc says

    A few quick notes about your blog posting. While your enthusiam is encouraging your fact-checking is not.

    Macleans is up against the BC Human Right's Tribunal (BCHRT) not the Federal Human Rights Commission (HRC). The complaint is under the BC Human Right's Code and has absolutely nothing to do with Section 13 of the Federal Human Right's Act (HRA). The BCHRT does not have a 100% conviction rate (that would be HRC complaints under Section 13 the HRA).

    Admittedly the BCHRT is a mess, but it is our own BC mess and needs to be cleaned up in BC. The federal HRC is its own problem.


  5. Patrick says

    It appears to be Section 7 of the of British Columbia Human Rights Code meinbc, but the pertinent language of the statute is absolutely identical to your federal act. And Ken points out in the first sentence of this post that it's the British Columbia commission.

    Yet I agree, based on what I've read of all this, that you desperately need to clean up the mess you have in British Columbia. Shameful.

  6. kelly says

    "Canadian Muslims believe that they should be able to dictate what Canadians say and write and print"…by extension they are also dictating what I can/cannot read and I find that enormously offensive if not a litle surreal.

  7. kivi says

    "First they came for the Hyperbolians, and I said nothing…"

    Someone who is way ahead on the learning curve for an issue (like Mark Steyn) may be perceived as "hyperbolic" by someone who is simply not well informed yet (like the majority of the Canadian public who depends solely on a biased media with mere soundbite coverage).

    See if in five years you consider Steyn 2008 hyperbolic or a smart man who did his research unlike most journalists today.

  8. Revnant Dream says

    PLW Says:
    First they came for the Hyperbolians, and I said nothing…

    Hey laughing boy. Do your homework. I stand by my comment as no exaggeration or hyperbole . This is a debate that occurred at the Canadian Journalists Associasion in Edmonton. I ask your readers after watching this video, if where no in real peril of losing all out individual rights including Drs, Teachers, Media, Religion, you name it. They want to creep into with programs. Doubt it, just google Barbara Hall. We are dealing with a deranged cultish group who have no supervision, but the power of the State behind them. They even talk in a language they only know between themselves . Making insane rulings , all with NO legal training or understanding being radical activists most of there lives. These are political appointee’s of the lowest stripe telling Canadians how to conduct there human affairs or how to think. Where’s your proof its just nothing?
    Happy Trails