Sunday, August 31, 2008

B'nai Brith On HRC's: A Mixed Bag

Just a few quick notes on B'nai Brith's presentation to Richard Moon, the University of Windsor law professor who was appointed to make recommendations as to the direction the CHRC should take re Internet Hate Speech in Canada.

First, the good. B'nai Brith's practical recommendations are, for the most part, common-sense. For example, it does not seem fair that complaints can be pursued in multiple jurisdictions. As BB writes:

The ability to make several complaints at once in different jurisdictions against the same target means that the complaint power can be used as a way of harassing the object of the complaint. That avenue of harassment needs to be cut off. Complaints should be heard in one forum only. The appropriate forum should be the one with the most substantial connection to the complaint and the parties. No other jurisdiction should have the power to entertain essentially the same complaint.

Perhaps the question of awarding costs to successful defendants is a little more problematic , esp. in light of the Maclean's Magazine case where the refusal to negotiate with complainants, and the legal costs resulting from this refusal, can largely be seen as a stunt, a desperate attempt to bump up sales by embracing cheap controversy and pandering to Canada's far right fringe. Here and elsewhere, where the out-sized sums spent on defending a complaint amount to a kind of business investment on the part of the defendant, should such behavior be rewarded?

However, where I think the B'nai Brith report really disappoints is in the way it draws analogies between the complainants in the Macleans and Western Standard cases and some world-wild conspiracy on the part of "Political Islam"... the way it swallows the Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant koolaid, in other words.

Put briefly (and to give just a single example), whatever the ultimate strength of his case against the Western Standard, there is no question in my mind that Syed Soharwardy was correct when he wrote that the Western Standard "mis-used the Freedom of the press to create hatred against Canadian Muslims", and that his complaint was a response to this and not a move within some vast international conspiracy by Islamic militants.

And I think B'nai Brith Council David Matas, who wrote their presentation to Dr. Moon, probably should have made himself aware of the context around and fallout from Mr. Soharwardy's complaint, which included calls for Muslim Genocide on the Western Standard Blog, and generated a police investigation as well as eventual apologies from the WS editors. I realize that it would have been unpleasant for Mr. Matas to stick his head down that particular sewer, but I think it would have made him a little more aware of what was really at stake.

Read the entire report here.

6 comments:

sue930 said...

The problem from my view with the B'nai Brith report is that it is very similar to what the Canadian Jewish Congress has been suggesting for months. Difference being that the Jewish Congress had the ethical fortitude to stand up and be counted. It took tremendous heat from the likes of Ezra Levant and others for doing so but at least it had the courage of its convictions.

B'nai Brith are "Johnny come latelies" trying to pander on one hand to Ezra while realizing that it has used the CHRC probably as often as Richard Warman.

KC said...

the refusal to negotiate with complainants, and the legal costs resulting from this refusal, can largely be seen as a stunt,

Before any party engages in serious negotiation there has to be at least some legitimate basis for the action. If someone commences an action against me because I'm allegedly to blame for aliens crashing through their ceiling I say litigate. Some complaints simply dont merit a response.

no question in my mind that Syed Soharwardy was correct when he wrote that the Western Standard "mis-used the Freedom of the press to create hatred against Canadian Muslims",

I say bull crap. Soharwardy's extensive quoting of scripture in his complaint says to me that this has far more to do with a "radicalized" theocratic agenda than anything else.

not a move within some vast international conspiracy by Islamic militants

The word "militant" doesn't appear once in the article or the report. You are putting words in their mouths. The Soharwardy action bears striking resemblance to the actions pursued by the OIC in the UN Human Rights Council as of late.

It is clear that there are many people both here and abroad that want to restrict the freedom to mock and criticize religion.

Paul S said...

"in light of the Maclean's Magazine case where the refusal to negotiate with complainants, and the legal costs resulting from this refusal, can largely be seen as a stunt, a desperate attempt to bump up sales by embracing cheap controversy and pandering to Canada's far right fringe."

"Negotiate"?, "Stunt"?, "Far right fringe"? Seriously BCL, you can't be taken seriously when you blog such nonsense.

Macleans was vindicated. End of story.

The one person who is damaged by this whole affair is Barbara Hall; now considered a laughingstock across this great country of ours.

Ti-Guy said...

It is clear that there are many people both here and abroad that want to restrict the freedom to mock and criticize religion.

I see mockery and criticism are one and the same for you. So stupid.

You people make life unbearable for the rest of us. Maybe you can afford the luxury of offending everyone you hate from where you sit in the frozen wasteland (population: 10), bitching about people you never have to meet, but the rest of us have to deal with these people and I don't appreciate having to feel I've got to apologise for every piece of juvenile white trash in this country who is too stupid and intellectually lazy to mount a critique that is reasonable and grounded in evidence and perhaps, based on a legitimate concern that affects them in their everyday lives...like Ontarians had to do with the campaign to introduce Sharia into arbitration law or when the Toronto Board of Education had to stand up to a coalition of religious parents (finding common ground around their hatred of gays...how noble) to try to exempt their children from any part of the curriculum that promotes tolerance and mutual respect.

You can critique islamism for its incompatibility with our laws and civic values (and you'll find a lot of Muslim Canadians agreeing with you) but when you just insult people and make them angry, you fuck it up for the rest of us. They either become hostile or they simply don't listen to anything you have say.

Don't let anyone stop you though; keep doing it. Oh, that's right. You don't actually spend any time exercising the right you feel is being restricted. You just argue about it. That's even lazier than what the hate-mongers do. Worse, it's cowardly.

KC said...

Religion is a silly, nonsensical phenomenom that is fully deserving of mockery. I make no apologies about that. This privilege enjoyed by folks who base their lives around a religion has to stop. If people choose to get so bent out of shape because someone paints goofy pictures of someone who (possibly) lived thousands of years ago, or because someone nailed a frog with a beer in his hand to a cross I say have a little fun with them. Every other fringe mystic or conspiracy theorist has to put up with their share of mockery I don't see why the mainstreamers shouldnt have to to. Its no different than laughing at the 9/11 truthers or crystal ball wielding psychics.

Even if there is a difference between mockery and criticism, the right to do both should be reserved when it comes to silly gibberish like religion. No one would ever be subject to a Human Rights complaint for mocking a full grown adult who believes in Santa and I dont see why it should be any different with religion.

Dont expect the rest of us to play along with such ridiculousness because you dont want to hurt anyones feelings.

Ti-Guy said...

Stop whining. Did you skip your afternoon nap or something?