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.