Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Free Speech Throwdown: Warman Vs. Des Rosiers

I attended the Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech in Canada debate held by CIJA last night, pitting Richard Warman against Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.  I intended to live-blog the event with my new, incredibly sexxxy Acer Iconia, but the place didn't have wifi, so these remarks are just off the cuff.

And I won't say much about the debate itself, because frankly I'd heard most of it before.  RW was thorough and logical in his responses, and most of his jokes worked.  Des Rosiers was passionate, but I found her vague in places.  Her objection to S13 being that someone's right to free speech somewhere might get chilled somewhat some day...though she couldn't point to concrete instances of this actually having happened.  My impression is that the majority of the room was in Warman's corner.

I chatted briefly with Meir Weinstein, who is a civil enough fellow in person.  If I were to summarize his current views, it is that the white supremacist movement has been entirely supplanted by radical Islamists as a threat to the Canadian Jewish community (mostly by being a threat to Israel), and that really the latter group are the only ones worth pursuing these days.  I think he's dead wrong, or at least that it isn't an either/or (but not both!) proposition.  And I don't see why he would want to see S13 discarded as one of the tools in the tool-kit for fighting hate, whatever the source of that hate.

As a side note, Meir and the gang (including possibly a small contingent from the Canadian Hindu Advocacy) will be driving up to Quebec later this month (the 26th, I think) to protest Huntingdon Mayor Stephane Gendron's recent remarks on the Israel/Palestine conflict.  These are the latest in a series of inflammatory statements by the fellow, and a few have clearly strayed over the line into Anti-Semitism.  More power to Meir and Co., then, but be careful--don't get yourselves lynched out there in the back-country!

Gary Harding, the only Canadian to be convicted of hate-mongering under the criminal code, was also in attendance.  And, minus the beard, he looks astoundingly like Dr. Dawg.  And that's not a joke or an attempt to insult the Dawg; Harding even had the same style of hat.  I almost went up and said hello, but noticed a mad gleam in his eye (Dawg also has a gleam in his eye from years of NDP indoctrination, but its a slightly different gleam.  That's how I could tell the difference).  I didn't catch much of what Harding said to the people around him; however, a couple of them looked as though they wanted to change seats but were too polite.

It doesn't seem like anyone from Free Dominion showed up, through apparently several of them watched via webcast.  That's a pity, because  there was a FreeD guy sitting next to me at the Lemire hearing whose name, and a DNA sample, I wanted to collect this time out for inclusion on my personal enemies list. 

Went out for drinks later with Bernie Farber and other notables from the old CJC.  Almost all of our discussion was ruled officially "off the record", and will remain so, because I don't want to get sued nine ways from sideways.  However, the general sense seemed to be that this was all window dressing and, no matter where CIJA eventually comes down on the issue of section 13 (they're currently fence-sitting), its gone which--given how hard it is to get the police to act on a hate speech complaint via the criminal code--means Canada will have no viable legal means of combating hate speech.  There have been hints dropped that, as a replacement, the Tories will move to make the criminal code provisions easier to use, but nothing concrete so far.  In any case, we shall see.  There will be a fight in the HOC over Storseth's bill to repeal the measure; so far nobody from the NDP or Liberals has come out in support.  And surprises can happen, even in a majority parliament.

Finally, Ron Bannerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy was apparently in attendance, but I did not meet him.  Which is also a pity: one of my readers recently commented that the guy was an honest to goodness porn star, which remark I deleted as possibly defamatory.  Maybe Ron could clear this up, though.  If its true, my hat is off.

36 comments:

Dr.Dawg said...

Well, I'll let you get away with that. :)

Seriously, what specific remarks did Gendron make that are actually anti-Semitic? Surely criticism of Israel--even unfair criticism--doesn't qualify.

bigcitylib said...

That Israelies are the Nazis of today I think qualifies.

Marky Mark said...

I wondered if I saw you there and I saw the guy you said looked like Dawg!

It was too bad that most of the questions stayed in a pile on the moderator's desk.

Marky Mark said...

Fair and reasoned discussion of s. 134 here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/avi-benlolo/hate-speech-marc-lemire_b_1192590.html?ref=canada

Sir Francis said...

That Israelies[sic] are the Nazis of today I think qualifies.

I'm quite sure Dr. Dawg was unaware that "Israeli" denoted a race. As am I, in point of fact. I'm sure Arab Israelis would be unpleasantly surprised to learn of this as well.

Meir Weinstein said...

It was interesting to hear Mr. Warman speak out against DOG.

buckets said...

I think if you check, you'll notice that Dawg's gleam is in his left eye.

Hardy Weinberg said...

So i went to this event too and yes there was wifi, but only if you're affiliated with UofT.

I felt the conversation on stage was fantastic and both sides actually presented some strong arguments. What struck me the strongest was Warman's last statement reminding CIJA that it does have a history of supporting human rights and dignity and has a history (in its previous incarnations) that it is supported hate speech laws.

The Q&A were good at times, but some people came with an obvious axe to grind with warman.

Was the guy who looks like Dr. Dawg the guy with the big black leather hat and huge moustache. he is also missing a few teeth if you notice closely. I have seen him at other JDL events and he seems to be a JDL regular.

On a related note, I also went to the Human Rights, Religion and the Law event with Barbara Hall. That was another great discussion, with also pros and cons about hate laws in canada. Yet again there were also people there with an axe to grind. I am debating if i should take a few hrs off work tomorrow to go to the 2nd human rights and religion event.

http://bit.ly/wZfCn3

bigcitylib said...

That was the guy. I didn't notice the missing teeth, and anyway Dawg keeps his mustache in better shape.

And yeah there was wifi but all secured networks.

Meir Weinstein said...

That person is not Mark Harding. And he looks more like Eddie Shack.

bigcitylib said...

If you mean the guy in the photo, thats Dr. Dawg.

Hardy Weinberg said...

It should be noted that the guy with the crazy moustache at the event was NOT Mark Harding. I have met Mark Harding and I have seen both Mark Harding and the crazy moustache guy at the same time. Unless this is a superman/clark Kent scenario.

I am not sure who gary harding is in your post. These crazies with the same/similar last names Gary harding and Mark Harding; Marc Lemire and Arnie Lemaire. Grrr

bigcitylib said...

The guy I am thinking of had a white hat, I think, not a black one, and a big white mustache. He was sitting either in Meir's row or one down. Both Warman and Farber seemed to think it was the convicted hate monger Gary Harding when I asked who was the guy that looked like Dawg. Unfortunately, the clip of Gary Harding with M. Coren that I posted earlier has disappeared; in that one he has a humungous beard which, I had assumed, he shaved off.

Maxamillion said...

I regret not being able to attend in person. I heard from a lawyer friend that it was civilized and informative. He too sensed the room was impressed with Mr. Warman and seemed more in favor of maintaining the section.

Meir Weinstein said...

Max, your wrong. Hats off to CIJA for giving the Jewish Community a chance to hear some views with respect to anti hate laws. When I asked Mr. Warman a question, most people applauded me and no one applauded his answer. In fact, most people sat with their eyes open wide in shock with his answer. Late in the evening, Bernie Farber offered his affection for Mr. Warman. The bottom line as far as CIJA and the Jewish Community is that anti Hate laws has not stopped Israel Apartheid Week with all its hate and hate mongers like DOG. Also, these anti Hate laws have not stopped DOG and the Israel Apartheid gang from defaming the Jewish People by labeling Israel and Jews as NAZIS. These anti hate laws have also not stopped the key note speaker for these haters, Norman Finkelstein as he gives justification for the wide spread holocaust denial material in the Islamic world.
CIJA knows all of this and will act in the interest of the Jewish Community and not the Liberal Party. That is what it is all about. SELF INTEREST and that is what motivates Mr. Warman not ideals.

Chapel said...

Mr. Weinstein, hate laws aren't human. They can't drive cars or investigate complaints. You see in order for S13 to work you have to lay a complaint. It gets investigated and as in the case of the 15 neo-Nazi sites that Mr. Warman successfully had closed goes to Tribunal and the order is given.

And Mr. Weinstein a little research on Nexus or Google will show you that both the CJC and Bnai Brith successfully lodged complaints against Three Islamist sites that were promoting hatred against Jews and Israelis and they too were shut down.

And from my vantage point on Tuesday night you were there with your chums and were the only ones applauding with rapture.

Mr. Weinstein history shows you use to understand how to use the hate laws. We know they work in stopping Nazis and Islamists. I fail to see your point in wanting to get rid of them.

Meir Weinstein said...

You are mistaken Chapel. I have been involved in fighting hate groups since 1979. I know all the cases. And I was the person that provided the initial material and proof that cost Zundel his mailing rights and sent him to court. I am all for using the courts, but it is useless when the hero of the so called anti racists groups, Norman Finkelstein can speak on any campus and justify holocaust denial. He is a greater danger than Zundel. In Europe, radical Muslims throw fire bombs and pro Israel rallies. And that same level of hate has no fear of section 13. Also, many people applauded my questions. And all the leaders of CIJA shook my hand and was glad I was there. And one more point, DOG is a hate monger.

Marky Mark said...

Could it be that the debate for the Jewish community (which was the context for Tuesday night) comes down to this: 1. We need Section 13 since we've often been the target of hate and this is a useful tool; vs. 2. Our traditional foes have gone away and we no longer need s. 13 for them. However s. 13 doesn't help us fight off our new foes and in fact is used against us in going after them?

OK--but the debate betweem des Rosiers and Warman was, in contrast, about principles.

brennerman said...

Marky I think you are partially correct.

There are however two important areas where many would differ from you.

1. White supremacists are alive and well. We have seen synagogue desecrations in Victoria and Mosque desecrations in Quebec. In western Canada neo-Nazis have guns and are still actively violent.

2. S13 as Chapel points out, can be only as effective as the person who wants to use it. We know that Islamic extremist hate sites have been shut down by groups like Bnai Brith so it does work. Your claim that it's being used against the Jewish community seems odd. I am unable to find any such violations that went to Tribunal with the exception of the Steyn complaint. That one had to do with spreading hatred against Muslims which I thought was frivolous but many others including the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission felt differently.

I thinks Mr. wienstein is just not thinking this through properly. If I were him instead of making accusations against people spreading hate on the net, why not test the law. It may work.

bigcitylib said...

Brennerman,

MM may be thinking of an HRC investigation of remarks made at a B'nai Brith confab that never amounted to anything, but apparently took several years to complete.

As for Steyn, pretty clearly he has managed to keep his rhetoric at an acceptable level. Nevertheless, he was an inspiration for the mass murderer Brevik and if I were a member of the Muslim community I too would be worried of the damage he is capable of causing.

Marky Mark said...

I actually hadn't intended to give my opinion on the substance and instead was trying to summarize the two competing arguments that both are out there generally and which I thought again were made from a community perspective on Tuesday night.

The people who are really against s.13 may well agree with des Resrosiers' principles but from a practical perspective you can't ignore that what's being argues is that s. 13 hurts their ability to characterize [radical] Islam as evil.

Chapel said...

MM then it seems to me that these people are very myopic.

If anything then they should be going after the criminal hate laws. And with Harper insisting that he will be "toughening up" these laws these folk will turn out to be the gang who couldn't shoot straight.

Right now Jews can easily use section 13 to help shut down hate sites. So if there are Islamic extremists that use the net to go after the Jewish community, which has happened in the past, the section offers protection. And i do understand such sites have been shut down as a result. No more section 13 will be a green light to Islamic Extremists to start using the net to target Jews and others.

Meir Weinstein said...

That article is from the Canadian Jewish News and is posted on the CIJA web site.

Meir Weinstein said...

TORONTO — A controversial section of the Canadian Human Rights Act that covers hate speech on the Internet was up for debate at a town hall in Toronto last week, with a human rights lawyer arguing for its retention and a civil libertarian calling for its repeal.

The Jan. 10 debate on Section 13 of the act, held at the University of Toronto’s George Ignatieff Theatre, was intended to be the first in a series of similar events on issues of the day to be organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Section 13 outlaws hate speech spread via the Internet or by phone. Complaints about hate speech that fall under this category can be brought to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and may end up before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Constitutional scholar Richard Moon recommended the repeal of Section 13 in 2008, and there’s currently a private member’s bill in Parliament calling for its repeal that’s expected to come to a vote in the spring.

Supporters of Section 13 see it as an effective tool in fighting hate speech, but those who seek its repeal consider it a limit on free speech and an unnecessary addition to the law, given the provisions against advocating genocide and the public incitement of hatred that are already a part of the Criminal Code.

Arguing for its retention at the CIJA event was human rights lawyer Richard Warman, who has been a successful complainant in 15 Internet hate cases since 2001, when Section 13 was amended to clearly include online messages.

Arguing for the section’s repeal was Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a former president of the Law Commission of Canada.

Well-known criminal lawyer Edward Prutschi moderated the debate.

“The Internet is not the Wild West in Canada,’” said Warman, adding that people can and should be held accountable for hateful material they post online.

He argued that “it is the hate propaganda that leads to the acting,” so fighting hate speech online is part of fighting it off line as well.

Warman also argued that for the Criminal Code to be an effective tool in combating hate speech on its own, significant additional resources are needed. Largely because those resources aren’t in place and because there is “an institutional reluctance to lay these kinds of charges,” he said, Section 13 is both necessary and effective.

In contrast, Des Rosiers argued that pursuing hate speech through Section 13 is a misallocation of resources and can chill free speech.

“There will never be enough resources to go after everything that is discriminatory,” she said. “Going after acts may be a better investment.”

She added that although controlling speech was not the intention of the section, it seems to have had that effect. “It is dangerous in any society to leave the government with the task of deciding which points of view can be expressed and in which way,” she said.

Des Rosiers suggested that a better way to fight hate speech is with condemnation. “The response to bad speech is stronger speech, better speech and more speech, not less,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, the Jewish Defence League’s national director, Meir Weinstein, challenged Warman about a section on Warman’s website regarding a short film called Fitna, which Warman describes as “a 16-minute long video by Dutch far-right, xenophobic politician Geert Wilders that seeks to demonize the Muslim community using classic hate propaganda techniques.”

Weinstein also took issue with a link to another website that, among other topics, includes strongly anti-Israel views, including a reference to “Israeli apartheid.”

Warman stood by his assessment of Fitna as being criminal hate propaganda against Muslims, adding that he fights hate speech directed at any community.

He also noted that his site states that he doesn’t necessarily endorse the viewpoints presented on linked websites, and that he personally finds the claim that Israel is an apartheid state to be “bogus.”

Marky Mark said...

Just a reminder that religious beliefs are an exemption under the criminal law provisions.

Meir Weinstein said...

I think it is very reasonable to demand that Richard Warman remove any link to groups or persons that assist is spreading the new antisemitism. A good start would be the link to DOG.

Chapel said...

Given MM's admonition, in the end Mr. Weinstein you are biting off your nose to spite your face. With the repeal of Section 13 the Jewish community will be left with nothing when hateful Islamic extremist websites decide to target Jews.

Marky Mark said...

I could be wrong but think he is saying that since it doesn't prevent IAW and other expressions of BDS, then it isn't worth saving. And if I understand the reference to "DOG" correctly, he seems intent on fighting a different battle.

Chapel said...

Well isn't that just a bit bizarre? For example if IAW people were to Post anti-Semitic material on their website of course Mr. Weinstein could consider using Section 13.

And does anyone really believe that White Supremacists are a thing of the past? I still don't get their motivation. If it hurts the Jewish community why do it?

Meir Weinstein said...

The whole concept of israel apartheid week is antisemitic

Marky Mark said...

Meir, I dislike IAW, but don't really see the argument that it is "anti-Semitic" and as a Jewish Candian I don't feel threatened by it either. On the othet hand, there are real anti-Semites who try to insert themselves into the ME debate and by bringing real anti-Semitism into it. At a certain point one might want to use the section for redress although in my own experience I've simply tried to make the point that the speech in question crosses the line such that in the marketplace of ideas it should be discounted.

Meir Weinstein said...

IAW has been labelled as antisemitic on the Federal and Provincial level of Government. Also it is listed in the Government report on antisemitism.

brennerman said...

MM I am not sure I agree. It was once explained to me that if Israel is an apartheid state (which it clearly is not) then anyone supporting Israel is a racist. That would make the vast majority of Jews racist; a deplorable thing and such accusations of supporting apartheid could lead to hatred of Jews.

I do wonder though why Mr. Weinstein has never ever tried to use section 13 against the websites that call Jews supporters of apartheid. Seems to me he is lobbying against his own best interests.

bigcitylib said...

Meir, the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism doesn't mention IAW AT ALL, if that's what you are talking about.

Meir Weinstein said...

On Thursday Jan 26, I together with members of JDL will confront James Keegstra the mayor of Echville, I mean Stephane Gendron the Mayor of Huntingdom, Quebec.

Rotterdam said...

No one named Gary Harding was at the meeting. If you meant free speech martyr Mark Harding, he was not there either.

Free speech is important. Accurate facts are indispensable.