Steyn and Levant on free speech, and what MPs are thinking of doing about it

The free speech advocates testify before the House of Commons Justice Committee

Steyn and Levant on free speech, and what MPs are thinking of doing about itA tandem appearance by Maclean’s columnist Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard magazine, made for an unusually entertaining first day of hearings at a parliamentary committee probing the controversial powers of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Steyn and Levant were called as witnesses by the House of Commons Justice Committee because they have both clashed with the commission and emerged as impassioned advocates for the repeal of Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, which gives the commission the authority to investigate complaints about hate speech.

They put on the anticipated lively show as the committee launched deliberations on Section 13. At one point, Steyn called the human rights commission’s investigators “psychologically disturbed.” Levant catalogued allegations of outrageous entrapment techniques he says have been used by the commission in an “out of control” hunt for hate-speakers to drag before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

But if the two media-star witnesses were the focus of attention in Parliament’s Railway Committee Room, the inclinations of mostly anonymous MPs sitting on the committee could end up being the real story as its work progresses.

MPs from both the government and opposition sides told Maclean’s they are serious about reforming Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Brent Rathgeber, the Tory MP representing the Edmonton-St. Albert riding, a lawyer elected for the first time last fall, said the time is right for the act to be amended.

“I suspect that a groundswell of caucus support could likely move this matter onto the government agenda,” Rathgeber said after the appearance by Steyn and Levant.

The government’s willingness to move on the issue has been far from clear in the past. Early this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he had no plans to amend the act. Even if Rathgeber is right that Harper, and perhaps Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, would now be prepared to take action if enough MPs pushed them, there’s still the question of where the opposition parties stand.

“Bear in mind,” Rathgeber said, “we live in the reality of a minority parliament and I’m not sure MPs on the other side of the table would agree.”

The tenor of questions from Liberal, Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs certainly made it sound like they would not be easily swayed by the arguments from Levant and Steyn for an outright repeal of Section 13. However, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh—a former British Columbia attorney general and longtime human rights activist whose voice counts on this issue—said outside the committee room that he is “absolutely” in favour of changing Section 13, though probably not abolishing it.

In fact, even the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which adjudicates on cases referred to it by the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s investigators, has recently turned on Section 13. In a Sept. 2 decision, tribunal member Anthanasios Hadjis, said the section violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Levant said he now fully expects that decision to be fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada on appeals. “But we shouldn’t have to wait ten years for the Supreme Court’s decision,” he added, arguing it’s time for Parliament to take a stand.

The tribunal’s rejection of Section 13 in some ways echoed a report on the issue that the commission itself paid University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon to write last year. Moon concluded that “censorship of hate speech should be limited to speech that explicitly or implicitly threatens, justifies or advocates violence against the members of an identifiable group.” That sort of ban in extreme cases belongs in the Criminal Code, he said, but not in human rights law. So he called for Section 13 to be repealed.

“Professor Moon is certainly no fan or friend of either of us,” Steyn told the committee. “But he found, as a fair-minded man, when you look at Section 13 in the cold light of day, it’s completely indefensible.”

Maclean’s has also called for Parliament to abolish Section 13. The magazine took that position after the commission pursued a complaint brought against it by the Canadian Islamic Congress, over the article “The Future Belongs to Islam,” an excerpt from Steyn’s book America Alone. The commission ultimately dismissed the complaint, but only after the case had drawn unprecedented attention to its controversial powers to police supposed hate speech.




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Steyn and Levant on free speech, and what MPs are thinking of doing about it

  1. made it sound like they would not be easily swayed by the arguments from Levant and Steyn

    They don't have arguments. They have calumnies

    • Care to back up that statement?

      • One example. Ezra Levant asserted that Richard Moon's report had been interfered with by the head of the CHRC. Moon responded that Levant had simply made up that charge.

        There are many more.

  2. Section 13=thought control

  3. Levant catalogued allegations of outrageous entrapment techniques he says have been used by the commission in an “out of control” hunt for hate-speakers to drag before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

    Levant lied to a Parliamentary committee. Is there are law against that and if not, why not?

    • You are making unsubstaniated and vague accusations, hey wait a sec, you must one of the weasels who makes a nice living working for that kangaroo court. If you arn't, and as long as you have no morals or ethics, I suggest you apply, you would be a perfect candidate. Cheers.

      • "You must one of the weasels who makes a nice living working for that kangaroo court."

        And you're complaining about unsubstantiated accusations?

        How ironic. No, I mean stupid. How stupid.

        • *How ironic. No, I mean stupid. How stupid.*

          Twitchell is that you?
          I mean, the psychological projection is there and all.

          And i noticed, too, you weren't able to come up with more, you know, *examples* of where Levant or Steyn lied. Sounds like Conway Twitchell, but if not, `Foreigner', you're pretty much cut from the same cloth anyway.

        • Only because you made them, butt ass..I wouldn't say that but you are the one who put up the graphic, showing the world what an ass you are..guess you can accuse me of something, but your ass hanging out there for everyone to see kind of proves my point…and for God's sake, cover that up.. cheers

    • Actually there is. We shall see who is right. You or him.

      Now, maybe you can show up as witness and contradict him. If it is false, is there a law against it?

      Derek

  4. you are one of those left wing idiots who apporves censorship when it follows your ploitically correct ideology. SO Robert how do you feel about "piss Christ or Capitalist Jesus?

  5. I saw the video, it was a very interesting discussion.

  6. Just because you dont like his opinion, Buttface, doesnt make it a lie.

  7. Ujal, what an idiot. He was a complete idiot in that hearing. Any 8 year old knows you shouldn't jail people for calling names. Gimme a break. We will see if the Conservatives are worth anything now.

  8. I realize committee members invite witnesses to help enlighten them on issues with which the witnesses would have more knowledge and/or expertise, but I would have hoped that they would have chosen to have become at least a little more informed.

    • I've been thinking the same thing. They appeared to be completely uninformed by recent developments over the last few years. They also appeared to be uninformed about cases ongoing. Do they even know why their committee exists? Do they think it was just a randon happenstance?

    • I watched the live feed and I was appalled at the limited knowledge of the committee members – if I was appointed to a committee to review something I would be doing some background reading at least.

  9. Don't hold your breath waiting for the cowardly weasels on Parliament Hill (especially the Harper minority government) to repeal, or even amend, section 13. The Liberals, Bloc and, especially, the NDP, all enthusiastically support State censorship of views that depart from their left-wing, socialist political line. If change comes at all, it will be the result of a decision (years down the road) by the unelected geezers on the Supreme Court.

  10. The left is an unswerving practitioner of censorship while in power.It is an essential property of its ideology.Its only when out of power that it wraps itself in high minded rhetoric about freedom of speech and thought that is beyond the reach of bureaucrats.Keeping the left out of power therefore not only is a positive thing in terms of sensible government but it also wins converts for free speech. A win-win situation all around

  11. I would just like to point out that it isn't all of the left that supports s 13. I am a card carrying member of the federal liberals (say what you will), but I also see that s 13, and the other HRCs in Canada are disgusting excuses for courts. I once supported limits on free speech, but couldn't cement what the limit would be. Now I pretty much think short of inciting violence against a group, there shouldn't be limits. You don't have a right to not be offended. Political correctness is for politicians. And if you don't like what somebody says, don't listen. Don't insist that the government shut them up. “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” ~ Voltaire
    “Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” ~ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
    Lets stick to "censoring" what children read/see/hear. But let me, an adult, make my own decisions.

    • Let's not censor what children read, see, and hear. Let's leave that to parents who, in a free country, are the ones responsible for raising them.

    • The childhood phrase 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" keeps running through my head – unfortunately Section 13 is all about words that people feel 'hurt' them. Big deal – in the course of my life I have had many, many hurtful things said to me – by friends, by co-workers, by bosses, by family, by people who hardly know me – somehow I have survived. We already have criminal code law to deal with the 'sticks and stones' – we need nothing more.

  12. It should be noted that the Candian Jewish Congress vigorously defends and supports Section 13, and we all know what a bunch of loony toon, lefty socialists they are.

  13. Steyn's writings are often offensive, hypocritical and full of so much misdirected hate it's frightening. However, he has a right to say all these things. Hopefully Section 13 will be properly amended to reflect those rights.

    We choose our own future. Steyn can say whatever he likes, no one has to accept his outlook on things. Those who do… well… we choose our own future.

    • Steyn's writings are often offensive, hypocritical and full of so much misdirected hate it's frightening. However, he has a right to say all these things. Hopefully Section 13 will be properly amended to reflect those rights.

      That's pretty much exactly what the BC Tribunal felt about Steyn. The commissions have pretty much been batting 1000 on hate speech – white power sites and Boisson get the shut down, Macleans goes to a hearing and wins, Ezra's complaint doesn't even go to a hearing.

      …and please nobody start babbling about "it was only because of media attention!" please. You look like idiots.

  14. Whether Levant has put forward calumnies or not is immaterial. The arguments that exist for not only removing section 13 but abolishing "Human Rights" Commissions entirely are among the strongest in Canadian public policy.

  15. I wasn't suggesting that the government or public censor them. The point I was trying to make was that only children need to have information censored, not adults. I personally couldn't care less what parents decide is fit for their children.

  16. I wasn't suggesting that the government or public censor them. The point I was trying to make was that only children need to have information censored, not adults. I personally couldn't care less what parents decide is fit for their children. Hence censoring in " ".

  17. Ohhh ONE WHOLE example. Just about everything he states is backed up be evidence. I would contend that this claim was his opinion.

  18. However, he has a right to say all these things.

    No he doesn't. Promoting hatred against groups of people is against the law. And those laws are constitutional.

    • as usual you are setting up straw men, he has not promoted hatred against anyone, he has called for exposure of what is a ridiculous level of deference. As he has stated again and again, no one has the right not to be offended. Expressing a concern that certain groups receive preferential treatment in contradiction of our charter is not unconstitutional.

    • Well, so far Steyn appears to have kept to the side of the law regarding hate speech, but its not hard to see why people would think he comes close, or why people would make complaints.

      If there's one thing the MacLeans case shows, its how utterly horrifying you have to be to actually get caught by hate speech laws. Anyone who isn't a true lunatic can easily stay within the legal bounds.

    • The definition of "promoting hatred" is a moving target. If I say "I hate group X", is that promoting hatred? If so, haul me before the courts and have me thrown in jail because I hate alot of groups.

    • Steyn has never expressed or advocated violence to any individual or group. Unlike some of the Muslim imans who preach hatred and violent action from their mosques and yet, magically, are never held accountable to any human rights commissions – why is that? It is that way, because as Steyn as pointed out often, they are an approved victim group, but sooner or later, two approved victim groups are going to clash at a human rights commission and then the rest of us can watch the fireworks. It will fun to watch, but totally unnecessary if human rights commissions didn't play favourites. Unfortunately no matter how well intended a law, section is, it will always be interpreted by busybody bureaucratics and in the case of HRC, those bureaucratics have no accountability (unlike the real justice system with all the checks and balances – Levant pointed out to the esteemed, but some ignorant members of the committee yesterday – oops maybe I will brought forward to a HRC because I called someone names.

    • Rights and permissions are not the same thing. My human rights are not properly subject to permission–I have them precisely because I am human, period. Or, for example: Soviet dissidents had the *"right" to complain even if they did not have the State's legal permission. But leaving that (important) confusion aside…

      So, either Steyn *does* have the permission, which is why the complaint was dismissed…

      …or (if you are correct and what Steyn stated was actually properly prosecutable *hate*-mongering…although I disagree) the Commission was then too cowardly to rule against Steyn–but, of course, the latter wouldn't exactly be a good argument in favour of *keeping* the Commission, now would it.

    • Your quite uninformed,He was found innocent by the Kangaroos on promoting hatred.
      The article in Macleans under such scrutiny was factual and accurate.Is the truth then hate speech

  19. Most of the MPs don't know anything about the HRC or the legislation. Nor much of anything else. They are monkeys, only there to stand up or sit down on command when votes are taken. Then after two terms they get their pension for life. Currently 30% of eligible voters can elect a majority government because 40% of eligible voters rightly believe the system is a joke. Canadians deserve the governments they get.

  20. He's promoting hatred, but not hateful actions.

    There's a difference and it's very important. If promoting hatred against groups of people was against the law I should be in jail myself for a number of things – there are people I dislike and truly believe are hurting our society, Mr. Steyn included. I've publicly expressed this hate. However, I don't encourage any crimes to be committed against those I dislike. Neither does Steyn. He villianizes people, yes, and it's very insidious the manner in which he does it (which makes me detest him even more), but until he actually encourages violence, it's not a crime.

  21. their point is that section 13 makes it a crime if what you say MIGHT OFFEND someone.

    it is not about promoting hatred. nobody is saying it's ok to say "we should all hate the so and so's and let's lynch them".

    in Steyn's case, he is saying that the cultural shift the coming demographic changes will bring might not be in our best interest. f

    or that he is dragged before the thought police and that's wrong.

  22. Robert McClelland: "No he doesn't. Promoting hatred against groups of people is against the law." I suppose if when you say "promoting hatred against a group" you mean inciting people to harm that group, then perhaps… in which case, in my opinion, the law should read "inciting to violence". In a free country I should be free to hate whomever I choose, so long as I live and let live.

  23. I don't like Steyn and Levant, but I agree that Section 13 needs to go. Moon is right: speech that outright advocates violence against a group should be in the Criminal Code, but we shouldn't go farther than that. It's undemocratic to ban ideas, even offensive ones.

  24. It was pointed out before, and deserves saying again, that Moon notes that all the successful s. 13 complaints could have been successfully persecuted under the Criminal Code. Except there'd be jail time and criminal records, not just fines.

  25. I too hope that MPs get an opportunity to school themselves on human rights legislation and the legal principles which underpin administrative law and the tribunal system in Canada.

    An hour or so from a junior counsel at the dept. of justice should be enough to point out where Steyn and Levant were peddling their grossest exaggerations and most misleading canards.

  26. That's his opinion. And a crappy one at that…

  27. I am so tempted to say all the mean and hateful things I can think of just to see which one of you whiners hauls me before the HRCs because I offended you….

  28. The sad thing is that so many Canadians like you actually think there's a kernel of truth to comments like this.

    • I am a law student so I know how the law is supposed to work. And setting aside whether you think Steyn is wrong about what are rights and what aren't, I have a huge issue with the procedure that is used in the HRCs. It is NOTHING like real courts; procedure that has developed over hundreds of years and WORKS. So I am more concerned about ignorant Canadians like you.

      • awesome! I graduated from Osgoode many years ago.

        I know admin law, my dear boy, and I don't have a problem with it. Neither does the Supreme Court.

        • One of the tribunal judges stated that the supreme court would have trouble with the administration.

          He opined that it was unconstitutional.

          Derek

  29. On second thought, I hate to second guess people on the internet, but I'm willing to bet you aren't really a law student. A law student, of all people, would understand that the procedures used in tribunal systems are an integral and long standing part of hte legal system, not the sinister evil "star chambers" (puhleeeze) anti-HRC simpletons have made them out of to be.

    For what its worth, I'm just not buying what you're selling regarding your credentials here.

    • A) I'm female. B) Not all law students blindly follow what is taught. Some actually have their own ideas and opinions. The problems with the HRC that I have are a) lengthy waiting times – meaning no right to speedy trial; allowance of hearsay evidence; no access to legal aid of any kind, meaning many people in front of the HRCs are unrepresented, or settle because they cannot afford legal representation; that truth is NOT a defence to s 13, nor is honest belief as is the case for a defamation suit in a real court. I could go on but I think I've proved my point.

      • This post is mindboggingly inaccurate for somebody with your supposed background. A big part of the raison d'etre of tribunals is speed and cheapness. if it were real court they'd still be in discovery by the time the hearing was held at a tribunal – seriously. And if you think they routinely give out legal aid certificates for real court for this kind of thing, go do yourself some good and volunteer at your (supposed) school's legal aid clinic.

        As for the difference in standards commonly used in tribunals across the country, from your vast store of knowledge (heh) please give examples of how these standards have led to bad determinations, rather than merely prevented Zundel from getting a soapbox. Even the dissent in Taylor admitted you can effectively police hate speech without a so-called "truth defence".

        • In Lund v. Boissoin, from start to finish, it was 5 years. And there are more examples, that is the one I chose. I understand the principle of speed and cheapness, but that doesn't mean the application works.
          And I do volunteer at my school's legal clinic.

          You are clearly not interested in seeing the evidence; only attacking me. I've presented proof for my arguments, you have not. I'm done. Have a good day.

    • Specifically regarding the HRCs, there are decisions (Lund v Boissoin) where the adjudicator has created a hierarchy of the rights enshrined in the Charter, which the Supreme Court DOES NOT agree with (See eg. Dagenais v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835, at p. 877). Another SERIOUS problem with the HRCs.

      • Sometimes tribunals make mistakes of law (as happened recently when one refused to follow s. 13),a nd this can be corrected by a process known as judicial review. It's built into the system itself.

        And five years is the very beginning of the drop dead rule in civil proceedings. If that's your example of an outrageous delay, I can't ehlp you.

    • Could be a first-year law student. It's only the beginning of October, after all. I didn't know very much about administrative law by then. Of course, I wouldn't have made a statement like "I'm a law student so I know how the law is supposed to work" then either.

      That said, it is a completely defensible position to have some disagreement with some of the procedural practices of the HRTs. I don't think they are as egregious as some other tribunals in the country, but I guess the procedural practices of securities commissions isn't a very sexy issue right now.

      • Indeed I'm totally willing to talk about tribunals AS A WHOLE, but I really really dislike the way the press has made aspects of an entire branch of law into something sinister without providing context.

      • I'm 3rd year. I've taken admin. But I've seen the evidence re. the HRCs. I don't care for administrative tribunals in general.
        The purpose of that statement was so that Mike T. could appreciate that I understand the workings of the legal system rather than insult my intelligence. The personal attacks are unnecessary. I've offered evidence for my claims; criticizers haven't.

  30. I'll take it over yours, mr. I play some sort of law student on the interent :)

  31. No one has a right to not be offended from time to time.

    Everyone has a right to stand up and say stupid things be laughed at.

  32. Imagine if we could imbue the offended with a sense of humour. Consider the body bag scandal. Get over it First Nations!

  33. There is a problem here , it is ok to get rid of section 13 , but it will be difficult to practice the favorite double standards. I mean if you criticize the human rights abuses of Israel . It immediately becomes hate speech and anti semitic , on the other hand aboriginals and Muslims are a fare game, there is no limit to how much you can insult and hate them.It will be difficult to stop those who criticize Israel for their war crimes . no one can run after them with a dagger and a threat of lawsuit. even though Mark Steyn will feel free to exercise his right to hate speech when it comes to Muslim bashing. so the price you pay for getting rid of section 13 is far greater , If good people really knew that Israel Commits war crimes and gets away with it , that will not be good. Now you have successfully convinced a whole bunch of morons in Canada that Israel is a good country and must be respected. Abusing the section 13 and gagging any one who tells the truth.

    • Syed, give it up. Steyn's book was simply an anlysis of demographics – which are easily backed up – and his (reasonable ) conclusions that arrive from those demographics. And there is nothing in the book that counsels hatred against the Muslims – it is simply a prediction of changes that will come about if those demographics continue. And as far as the Israelis go, if someone spent month after month lobbing rockets into my backyard I would have done exactly the same thing they did. As well, it was not the Israelis that brought down the World Trade Center. It was not the Israelis that bombed the train in Spain. It was not the Israelis that bombed the tube in London. It was not the Israelis that bombed the nightclub in Bali. It was not the Israelis that…………….. do I really need to continue? You persist in showing who is really the moron.

    • Syed,

      You don't get it. The criticism of Israel is valid. But it's also valid for Pakistan, Britain, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, China, and many many more.

      As for America Alone, I read it and quite enjoyed it. But i didn't thing Muslims were being unfairly characterized. What I felt was that western liberals have gone too far and have really screwed things up for themselves. The Liberals have created a culture, which is headed towrds extinction, gone, adiós. The Muslims, on the other hand, are youthful, energetic and alive. it's up to the secularists to see this and perhaps rescind the Award of Canada to Morgantaller. and begin to become less selfish and more community oriented.

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