Monday, February 23, 2009

Currie nails Ahenakew

The Criminal Standard | Jay Currie
Revolting as Ahenakew’s comments were I am inclined to think that the Criminal Code provisions have worked as intended. Essentially, hate speech charges under the Code are reserved for truly egregious speech intended to directly promote hatred. That Ahenakew said ignorant, anti-Semitic, things is not in issue; what was in issues, as it should be in any hate speech matter, is the intent. Not liking Jews – repellent as that is – and saying so should certainly make a person an outcast and can and should be contradicted. But it does not and should not result in a criminal conviction.

The Lying Jackal view of the world requires us to outlaw speech we find repellent; my view is that we should only criminalize speech in the narrowest of circumstances and with the requirement that the Crown prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. My view will allow all sorts of speech with which I disagree. And, by setting a high burden on those who want to prosecute speech, it will avoid the chilling which the absurdly low HRC standards create.

If we are to abridge a Charter guaranteed fundamental right we should make such abridgment very, very difficult. Abolishing the HRC’s jurisdiction over speech and leaving really nasty cases to the criminal process will accomplish this.
As Ezra noted last year, there is also a downside to making a fuss about angry old men like Ahenakew:
David Ahenakew is a former somebody, who is now a nobody, who has views that are distasteful.

If a reporter hadn't been at the conference, none of us would know about it.

A reporter was there, and the resultant publicity marginalized Ahenakew even more in life, including stripping him of his Order of Canada. He was denounced nationally. He became a pariah.

And that's how it should be.

And it should have ended there, in 2002.

But it's 2008 now, and Ahenakew is still front-page news. And his nutty views, which should be in obscurity along with him, are in the news again, too. He's praising Hitler again, and hating Jews -- and the national (and even international) media are eating it up. Google News says there are 453 stories about him in recent days.

If you're in the PR business, you know that getting 453 different news stories in a week is an astounding achievement. That's a multi-million dollar advertising buy -- except that news stories carry much greater credibility with readers than do ads. Ahenakew could never have received such an audience for his views on his own.

Six years after the fact, and Ahenakew is facing his second trial for saying those bad words (his first conviction was overturned on appeal, and a new trial was ordered). I have no idea how many millions of dollars that has cost the justice system, but it's a lot. And all to persecute a man's foul words -- a man whose deeds of military service and educational reform were extraordinary. Ahenakew has never hurt a fly. But he's been charged with the crime of saying bad things.

He's being tried in criminal court, under the criminal code prohibition against hate speech. That's the only reason why he was acquitted -- because he's in the real court system. Had he been charged before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, he would have lost -- they have a 100% conviction rate.
Ahenakew himself is obviously unrepentant. To the contrary -- he's surely now convinced, more than ever, of a Jewish conspiracy to silence him.

But that's not even the real achievement here.

The real achievement here is that a broken-down nobody is a media superstar, and that his odious views are receiving massive attention. No doubt, some Aboriginal youth look up to him as having stood up to the White Man, and stood his ground. He's a role model for defiance who made the white government blink at least once.

There is a glamour attached to him and his views that just wasn't there when he was a rambling old fool at a conference. Now, he's such a danger to the state -- his ideas must be so powerful! -- that the government has to silence him, using the brute force of the law.

It was the Official Jews who pushed for the creation of hate speech laws, both in the criminal code and in human rights commissions.

And what have those Official Jews achieved in this case?

They have turned a bigoted nobody into a bigoted somebody.

They have turned racist comments muttered to a hundred snoozing conference-goers into racist comments read with interest by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

They have turned a baseless whiner into someone with a basis for his whining -- six years of prosecutions by the state being his basis.


Eowyn said...

"Essentially, hate speech charges under the Code are reserved for truly egregious speech intended to directly promote hatred."

Ah, but are they? The Rev. Boissoin surely didn't fit this assumption.

Dag said...

When I lived in Nicaragua I had a friend whose last name is Marx. The name itself pissed-off half the people he met. My name pissed off everyone. In spite of that I felt freer there than in Canada.

truepeers said...


Rev. Boissoin was prosecuted and persecuted under the (Alberta) Human Rights Act, not the Canadian criminal code.

BUt what exactly the criminal code is meant to criminalize is not yet very clear to me. If you read it, it would seem as if it would be very difficult to prosecute anyone for hate speech since there are various defenses allowed and indeed there have not been a lot of prosecutions (which require approval of the Attorney General); still at least one man has been screwed (in my opinion) by a rather fanciful judicial interpretation. These laws are dangerous even when framed carefully. I think there has to be some way of stopping incitement to violence but of course that is something very difficult to delineate too.

As for Nicaragua, Dag might have felt free, as do many Westerners with money who travel around the third world. BUt it certainly isn't or wasn't a very free place for Nicaraguans. How much could they do with their lives compared to people in Canada? There are restraints of various kinds in Canada but the freedom to engage with others in a modern economy and society does require respecting certain limits if people are going to live and work together and engage productively in the dense networks of interaction that give us many opportunities. Modernity comes with bureaucracy and taxes and laws; there's always a debate about when we have too much but we can't have modern freedoms without them to some degree.

Dag said...

Real freedom is responsibility, I tend to think. I have had the luxury of both. Locke calls Nature the perfect freedom. I can live without that much.

I was freer in Nicaragua. That says, as you point out, nothing about Nicaraguans.

Eowyn said...

truepeers, our libel laws work very well here in the U.S. without the need to parse meaning (and thereby dilute it). Clearly, within the religious context, the Rev. Boissoin was not directly promoting hatred. Neither was he doing so in a social context. That he was charged with doing so was done through a deliberate political lens. And speech must never, ever be subjected to such a requirement. Either it directly results in harm to someone's reputation/career/ability to make a living, or it doesn't. Which is provable in a court of law. Otherwise, say it. The ramifications will naturally evolve in the direction of truth or obscurity, on their own merits, or lack thereof. (Thinks me, anyway)

As for Nicaragua ... central Americans have a cachet uniquely their own. Having spent my childhood until the age of 10 in Panama gives me a bit of an insight, and an appreciation. Why any of them bought into the Marxist schtick is beyond me; I can only think it was a romantic idea, finding fertile ground in a romantic people. But, well, we all know how ultimately barren that ideology is; and, I'm guessing that, over time, they'll slough it off.

Keep kicking over the traces, dag :)

And truepeers, as always, your scholarship is a joy.

truepeers said...

Yes, of course you're right Eowyn: Boisson was the victim of a political prosecution. Because he wrote a letter of the "hate the sin not the sinner" variety to his local paper and because allegedly - though it was never proved in "court", to the best of my knowledge - a kid in the community was soon after gay bashed - a homosexual rights activist decided to have a run at Boissoin, and the politically-correct ideologies of our time, having taken possession of law in the name of "human rights" - were able to put Boissoin through hell, find him guilty and order he never again publicly offer his opinions on homosexuality.

Pure politics masquerading as law.