Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My (minor) beef with HRCs

Fear can cut both ways. Lately, I have been concerned about the actions of the Human Rights Commissions both federally and at the provincial level. They definitely do have their purpose when it comes to "private" wrongs of discrimination such as in the workplace (where someone is passed up for promotion based on sex, race, religion, etc.) or in the service field (such as when a restaurant refuses to serve a customer on similar bases). Public officials can and have been shamed in such forums in some cases as well as they should have been.

When it comes to the HRCs going after magazines or blog writers, that's a different ball of wax. Long story short -- and here I will have to part company with many of my progressive colleagues -- the free expression of ideas should not be suppressed by bureaucrats which operate under rules which would not be tolerated either under the common law, or the civil law in Québec. Quasi-judicial bodies should act as a means of alternate dispute resolution when it comes to actions, but when it comes to words there is almost no justification.

As infuriated as one may be by the words of Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, Kate MacMillan and others -- we should be defending their right to speak out. We should criticize what they say when it deserves criticism but suing them is wrong. If someone believes such persons are propogating hate, then they should go to law enforcement and file charges under the Criminal Code. Or sue them in real courts under established codes of civil procedure. Shaking people down or threatening them with bankruptcy for having honestly shaped opinions before Star Chambers, no matter how repulsive the opinions are, undermines the case of the complainant.

After all, if the shoes were reversed, what's to stop them from going after us?

Human rights codes should be reviewed every so often to ensure they comply with current standards. When they come up for review, I would suggest that HRC jurisdiction be strictly circumscribed to deal with real discrimination -- going after prejudice knowing full well one's opinions would not be changed is counterproductive, it only makes the defendant even more prejudiced.

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1 comment:

Justin Socie said...

I would suggest that you have a beef with the enabling legislation rather than the HRCs themselves. If publications were removed as a protected area of discrimination, then these free speech concerns that you have would be moot.