Monday, September 15, 2008

Section 13 called into question by chair of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Today's big news from the Lemire hearings:
TORONTO — An adjudicator of a human rights hearing into an Internet hate case expressed serious misgivings Monday about whether a provision used to attack hate speech can continue to exist in the Internet age.

The Human Rights Act provision permits anyone who objects to even a borderline case of alleged hate speech to expose the author to a costly, cumbersome human rights adjudication process, said Athansios Hadjis - who is presiding over a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal against Internet webmaster Marc Lemire.

Citing a recent case in which Maclean's magazine columnist Mark Steyn defended himself against a complaint from a Muslim group, Mr. Hadjis said it may be all too easy for an individual to be “dragged through the process.”

Mr. Hadjis said that the controversial provision created to combat hate messages left on telephone machines operated by member of the far right - made sense in the past. However, he said that its usefulness may be in the past.

Hate messages on telephone message machines tended to be overt, he said, whereas the ocean of opinions on the Internet include many that are borderline cases of hate.

“Maybe the scale is tipping the other way,” Mr. Hadjis interjected during closing submissions at the Lemire hearing. “There is so much grey zone here that it may tip the scale back the other way.”

“Suddenly, the chilling effect catches not only individuals who set up telephone messages...but just about everyone who posts anything on the Internet,” Mr. Hadjis said. “What we have is the reality of the Internet - open to all; everyone participates...” he said. Rights laws outdated in Internet age, hearing told
I guess that while some "human rights" bureaucrats might look at the potentially endless instances of internet "hate" as an endless make-work project for thought controllers, others are beginning to see the nightmare that would really follow any attempt to consistently apply a law like the Canadian Human Rights Act's Section 13. No doubt some in the game want to cut their losses, perhaps through some kind of legal ruling on the constitutionality of Section 13, and thus deflect attention from all their various activities, before we find a government with the courage to make serious investigations into the "human rights" speech policing regime.

See also National Post report by Joseph Brean

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