Thursday, March 05, 2009

It used to be illegal to mask your face in public in Vancouver

- because we had a right to live without unnecessary fear of the other. And maybe that bylaw, originally targeting the KKK, is still on the books, I'll have to check. Why is it so hard today for people obsessed with Western society's alleged victimization of various others not to understand that our others are engaging in potentially violent othering too? Anyway, this is just an introduction to George Jonas' latest in the National Post: Canada's medieval rights commissions
Canada's "human rights" commissars are ready. Having spent the last couple of years positioning themselves as our brave new multicultural world's vanguard against such reactionary traditions as free speech, they now feel it's time to extend their horizons. This year's target is the criminal justice system.

HRCs wish to be recognized as "experts." They're seeking intervener status before Justice Frank Marocco of Ontario's Superior Court, who is asked to determine whether a Muslim woman should remove her veil while testifying as a witness at a hearing in a sexual assault case.

Apparently the original presiding judge said yes, please, take it off. He didn't add, as I might have: "Remove it, dear lady, because you're now in Canada, and here it isn't our custom to try people on the evidence of masked witnesses."
Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall's troops are pawing the ground to be heard in the matter. Predictably, their view is that a believer's right to exercise her religious practices trumps the right of an accused to a fair trial. The way the law has evolved in Canada, they say, it's the courts' duty to accommodate outlandish customs. How could it be otherwise, when the vital right of a Muslim woman to be ritually veiled is balanced against a mere bagatelle, such as a man's rightoid to give full answer and defence to the criminal charges against him?

Ah, you're describing a Monty Python skit, someone might say. No, I'm not. I'm describing Canadian reality.

Here's an institution, ostensibly established to safeguard human rights, including, among others, a right Canada's Charter of Right and Freedoms calls fundamental, the right to a fair trial. Crossexamination-- "the engine of truth" as a legal cliche has it --is integral to a fair trial, and seeing a witness' face while testing his or her veracity is integral to cross-examination. Given this, what is there to say about "human rights" officials offering themselves as "experts" to testify that the right to a fair trial in 21st-century Canada takes second place to a medieval Muslim notion of feminine modesty?
Barbara Hall & Co. are masquerading as the defenders of human rights, the very rights and freedoms they're seeking to undermine.

Hall's commissars aren't demanding access to Judge Marocco's court as advocates for shariah. No, they're calling themselves experts on Canada's evolving law. They're not urging the courts to accommodate veiled Muslim witnesses, they're stating as their expert opinion that, as a matter of law, accommodating such witnesses is the duty of Canadian courts. In other words, they're trying to parlay their ideology of Advanced Matriarchal and Transsexual Multiculturalism into expertise on Canadian law. That's a fraudulent pitch, made under false pretenses -- at least, that's what I'd say if the judge asked me.

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