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The Canadian Assault on Freedom of Expression:

For some reason, and despite my obvious interest in conflicts between civil liberties and antidiscrimination laws, I haven't gotten around to blogging about the recent pernicious attacks on freedom of expression in Canada, courtesy of provincial "human rights" commissions.

So here are a few thoughts on how the situation in Canada is relevant to the situation in the U.S.:

(1) The slippery slope. When I was in law school, advocatse of weakening First Amendment protections to restrict "hate speech" pointed to Canada as a shining example of how egregious expression could be banned without threatening freedom of speech more generally. At the time, the Canadian Supreme Court was holding that Holocaust denial and violent, misogynistic pornography are not protected under Canadian constiutitional law. And, really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial and violent pornography? Yet, less than twenty year later, we have Canadian citizens being prosecuted for quoting biblical injunctions against homosexual activity, or for merely reprinting the Danish Mohammed cartoons. (For the latest outrage, see here, courtesy of Instapundit). So the Canadian example hasn't quite worked out as its prior advocates had anticipated. Instead of being an example of "reasonable" restrictions on freedom of expression, it has become an example of the slippery slope problems inherent in allowing restrictions on freedom of expression based on subjective views of what is sufficiently offensive or problematic to be banned.

(2) The most egregious infringements on freedom of expression in Canada have come from "human rights" commissions whose sole function is to ferret out discrimination. Not surprisingly, the functionaries who man (oops, call out the thought police) these commissions have little regard for protecting competing values such as freedom of expression, which is not part of their job description. Similarly, in You Can't Say That!, I found that many of the worst infringements on freedom of expression in the name of antidiscrimination come from state and local "human rights" agencies. The lesson: antidiscrimination statutes and regulations should be enforced by judges who are obligated to uphold the Constitution, not by "human rights" bureaucrats who don't think the Constitution is relevant (and who, in California, are (unconstitutionally) banned by statute(!) from considering whether what they are doing is consistent with the Constitution).

(3)During the Clinton Administration, lawyers at both HUD and the Justice Department--most prominently Deval Patrick*--were at the forefront of trying to blur the distinction between expression and discriminatory actions in the context of housing discrimination law. In particular, the Clinton Administration argued that merely speaking out against plans to locating facilities for the mentally ill or recovering drug addicts in one's neighborhood violated the Fair Housing Act. Only after years of severe public criticism, and several negative court decisions (e.g.), did the Clintonians back down. Judging by the Obama's campaign's claims that the McCain camp is violating the Voting Rights Act by raising questions about voter fraud, I think we can expect a reprise in an Obama Administration.

*Patrick analogized political leaflets to baseball bats, remarking that bats "are perfectly legal too. But if you wield one to keep people out of the neighborhood, we are going to use the bat as evidence of your intent to violate the civil rights laws."

Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
Let's not forget that Deval Patrick has been prominently mentioned as a likely candidate as Attorney General or as a Supreme Court Justice should Obama become President.

Gonzales was merely incompetent. Patrick as AG trying to throw people in jail for voicing their opinions would be a lot worse.
10.21.2008 2:25pm
DangerMouse:
Patrick as AG trying to throw people in jail for voicing their opinions would be a lot worse.

He'd fit in nicely in an Obama administration. Obama supports throwing people in jail who discuss voter fraud.

We're all going to be criminals, eventually, under an Obama government. That's the point of the tyranny of Nice.
10.21.2008 2:35pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Perhaps the problem is the anti-discrimination laws themselves. Once we start telling people who they must have transactions with, it's but a short step towards controlling what they can say. The mistake lies in thinking we can contain the civil rights juggernaut-- we can't. Look to Europe (and Canada) for your future. If you want to avoid the slippery slope, don't climb so high in the first place.
10.21.2008 2:40pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I think there's a problem with your metaphor, Zarkov. You don't avoid a slippery slope by settling at the bottom of the hill... you avoid it by not taking steps closer to the edge. In other words, we start at the top, not at the bottom.
10.21.2008 2:43pm
Sarcastro (www):
A. Zarkov has a great point. I've always thought Brown would lead to the persecution of political cartoonists one day!
10.21.2008 2:47pm
Rodger Lodger (mail):
I'm more worried at this point about any criticism of a President Obama being called out as racist.
10.21.2008 2:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Daniel Chapman:

"you avoid it by not taking steps closer to the edge."


That's the problem-- you can never be sure where the edge is and it keeps moving closer to where you stand.

From the Volokh Conspiracy: A Right To Choose Whom You Live With -- and To Speak About This in Ads.
But antidiscrimination law has to stop somewhere. The government can't tell me not to discriminate based on race or religion (or sex!) in choosing a spouse, even though marital choices obviously have important economic effects. Likewise, the government shouldn't be able to interfere with my choice of dinner guests or house guests — or, I think, roommates who would share a two-bedroom apartment.
10.21.2008 2:54pm
hlm (mail):
Here is an email I sent to the commisars of the Human Rights (sic) Commission in Canada:


I beg your indulgences for a moment. Let me state right off from the start that I am not a Canadian. I am a gay man living in the United States. But I write because your agency has become a direct threat to the legitimate rights of gay men and women in the United States. I actually consider you far more of a pernicious influence on the legitimate rights of gays and lesbians than the typical antigay fundamentalist nutter.

Allow me to explain.

We are fighting an important legal battle to win full recognition for gay relationships. It is difficult to overturn the prejudices of people. The Far Right argues to the public that if gay men and women have equal rights it will lead to censorship and government intervention against religious groups expressing their own opinions about homosexuality. Now I consider such opinions disgusting and absurd. But I also believe that any attempt to censor such things is a massive violation of a fundamental human right -- something I hear you take a passing interest in -- but only passing from what I can see.

I have fought the Religious Right for much of my adult life. And I can assure you they are losing the battle. But periodically someone stupidly hands them ammunition to use to bash the legal rights of gay people. And your badly named organization is a major supplier of such ammunition to the opponents of gay equality.

Any attempt to stifle freedom of speech is a threat to the individual rights of all people. This sort of Nazi-like control of thought is pernicious and destructive. It is contrary to the best values of Western liberalism. And it contrary to the well-being of the very people you pretend to protect.

Right now, every time some stupid censorish move is made by organizations like yours the Christian Right is handed another piece of evidence to show how recognizing gay people as equal citizens leads to the destruction of freedom.

I know you don't value freedom. Nor do you value equality of individuals before the law. Certainly, you can't. Equality of rights would mean we all have the right to say what we think. Your organization doesn't believe that. You believe that you should judge some statements and forbid them while allowing others. So some people may express their opinions and others may not. Your selective freedom is a threat since I fear the day when such a moronic view of rights infests the United States.

I have zero support for Mr. Boissoin's positions. And I agree with Canadian gay writers who have argued that Boissoin helps make the case for gay rights by showing how intolerant and bigoted he is. He doesn't support his case by his hatred, he undermines it. But you give his case support. Your willingness to strip people of their free speech rights to "protect" the dignity of gay people allows the haters to fan the embers of intolerance. You show the world that respecting gay people means undermining freedom.

I can't think of a more effective means of harming gays and lesbians than what your misnamed commission has done. Please, please stop helping us gay people! Your help is about as beneficial as George Bush's "liberation" of Iraq. I'm sure some people appreciate it, maybe -- if they survived. But all in all you are a destructive force for liberty and a destructive force for the cause of gay equality.

I would go further than that. I would argue that you are effectively an antigay organization which fans intolerance and hatred by your short-sighted actions to padlock the tongue and shackle the human mind. You create resentment against gay people far more efficiently than any hate group would. It may well be that the Human Rights Commission of Canada is the most efficient organization around when it comes to encouraging a campaign AGAINST the equality of gay people before the law. And since results matter I believe that it is fair to say the Human Rights Commission is a "hate group". I'd rather have a dozen Boissoins running around with their petty lies than one Human Rights Commissioner who verifies the paranoid positions of the bigots by ruling against freedom of speech.

Please, please go home. Close your doors. Turn off the lights. I'm not sure we can take much more of your protection.
10.21.2008 2:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yes Rodger Lodger! I worry about overheated liberal compaign rhetoric as well! Hitler comparisons make me quake in my boots!
10.21.2008 2:57pm
bad imitation (mail):
Is it really enough though, in order to be non-discriminatory, to simply avoid speech advocating a position or outcome that might negatively affect minorities? Take my law partners, for example. All are Democrats, and all have lives that involving going from leafy suburb to country day school to glass tower and back, contact with minorities being limited to the nanny, the UPS guy, or deposing the plaintiff. These are all nice, liberal, management-side employment lawyers, but maybe they should be forced to live in Hayward rather than Mill Valley, don't you think?
10.21.2008 2:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Sarcastro:

"I've always thought Brown would lead to the persecution of political cartoonists one day!"

What has Brown led to? Certainly not integrated schools.
10.21.2008 3:01pm
Monty:
In fairness to the Canadians, thier higher courts have been overrulling the commisions. However one can only imagine the chilling effect they are creating in the process.

Arguing that the slippery slope is being applied as a logical fallacy is popular when your dealing with rights, but all too often it is accurate. How many times do you hear about a legislature creating a new right of the citizen excersizable against the government? Every time a new 'right' is created, it is a right of one citizen against another.
10.21.2008 3:07pm
Sarcastro (www):
[A. Zarkov Brown at least killed off Jim Crowe laws, and therefore lead to overt racism being all but stamped out in America.]
10.21.2008 3:16pm
SFJD (www):
If I understand Patrick's quote correctly, he was just saying speech can be used to show intent to discriminate. Not that the speech itself is illegal.
10.21.2008 3:25pm
MadHatChemist:
Incorrect thinking is double plus ungood.?
10.21.2008 3:30pm
Paul Barnes (mail):
Do not forget that the Commissions are used almost exclusively against religious or conservative voices. They have cost Macleans magazine $100 000 dollars for Mark Steyn's article, along with another 100 000 (I believe) to Ezra Levant.

Hell, an Albertan Catholic bishop (Bishop Henry) has even been charged by them. Remember, they do not need search warrents to obtain information either. And they steal and lie to gather information as well.
10.21.2008 3:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Sarcastro:

Brown was essentially a repeal of Plessy vs Ferguson and mainly focused on school integration, not Jim Crow laws. Those were dismantled somewhat piecemeal by things like the Voting Rights Act. In any case, I'm discussing anti-discrimination laws in the context of limitations on private transactions, not equal protection under the law. In my opinion, anti-discrimination laws will ultimately lead to severe restrictions on the freedom of speech because we have no bright line division between speech and conduct. And we see how the process evolves. It starts with something that looks reasonable, but ends up with the government telling you who you can't exclude as your roommate.

Sometimes the fruits of freedom taste bitter.
10.21.2008 3:31pm
Houston Lawyer:
Count me in on the repeal of the antidiscrimination laws. The vast majority of racial discrimination in this country is done to favor preferred minorities. If we repealed the antidiscrimination laws, big business and our universities could just admit to what they are doing.
10.21.2008 3:31pm
catullus:
SFJD: I don't think you understand Patrick correctly. The position of the HUD people in the Clinton administration was that voicing opposition to, e.g., the location of a group home for the disabled was itself illegal under the FHA.
10.21.2008 3:35pm
DangerMouse:
I'm more worried at this point about any criticism of a President Obama being called out as racist.

Why worry? You will be called a racist. So just accept it. All of us who oppose Obama are all racists now, apparently. The word has no meaning anymore. On this, the left is quickly becoming the boy who cried wolf.
10.21.2008 3:36pm
Matt_T:
[...Brown at least killed off Jim Crowe laws, and therefore lead to overt racism that benefits whites being all but stamped out in America.]

Fixed that for you.
10.21.2008 3:39pm
Sarcastro (www):
[A. Zarkov

Sometimes the fruits of freedom taste bitter.


Yep, and I don't mind cutting pure freedom with a bit of equality. Smooths it out some.

I guess that's the fundamental place where we differ.

As for the lack of a bright line, that's a pretty common problem (e.g. when life begins, what is obscene, etc.) Doesn't necessarily argue to eliminate the line.

Though I'm moderate enough to think Canada is pretty extreme here, as are the views many American liberals.]
10.21.2008 3:40pm
Sarcastro (www):
Matt_T has a point. People sure don't care about blacks talking about the inherent inferiority of whites and how they should go back to Europe. And blacks are doing that all the time!

Not to mention how often they talk about whitey keeping them down! I never hear whites talking about blackey keeping himself down. Such overt racism!
10.21.2008 3:43pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The position of the HUD people in the Clinton administration was that voicing opposition to, e.g., the location of a group home for the disabled was itself illegal under the FHA."

Exactly. This matter provides a good example the lack of a bright line division between conduct and speech. Patrick compared leaflets to baseball bats. Disorderly conduct laws provide more examples. People have been arrested for "conduct" (actually speech) that annoys someone, and in some cases even charged with hate crimes. What we have to realize is that these abuses are ultimately organic to anti-discrimination laws. You won't stop your freedoms getting abridged without going to the root cause.
10.21.2008 3:49pm
SFJD (www):
@Catullus: I stand corrected!
10.21.2008 3:54pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
Reading about the Canadian HRCs does make my blood boil, but as an American it's of mostly academic interest - and entertainment value, as I inevitably wind up fantasizing about marching them off to an implied nasty fate under the guns of my fictional army of righteousness. Oh, delicious irony for us both!
10.21.2008 4:03pm
teqjack (mail):
As mentioned in an earlier comment, one can argue that the "slippery slope" argument is a "logical fallacy."

Yet it keeps happening. When it does, we (and yes, I include myself) usually call it "unintended consequences" rather than "riding down the slippery slope."

E.g. start by banning "red-lining" which denied mortgages to people who could afford a mortgage because the property they wanted to buy was in a "bad" neighborhood. Expand it to eole who might be able to pay but have "bad" or no credit rating. Imply "racist" connotations. Expand again with the "right" to housing. And when bankers keep insisting on making only loans that they think might be paid off, tell them they must make bad loans but can "bundle" them with a few good ones, and sell them to a quasi-government agency which can sort-of "guarantee" them. When they cannot, drop "quasi-" and pay off with tax money.

Oops: unintended consequences of what started as a good idea...
10.21.2008 4:16pm
Sarcastro (www):
[teqjack that's not my understanding of the enforcement of the CRA. I seem to recall learning it "required banks to apply the same lending criteria in all communities." None of that even with bad credit hooey.]
10.21.2008 4:21pm
Krahling (mail):
Stacy,

Are you proposing Operation Canadian Freedom?
10.21.2008 4:22pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
I know this blog is about "laws", and all that, but the dismantling of "Jim Crow" I lived through in the very early 50's seemed to me at the time to be a function of the near-instant racial integration of southern military installations, and how that social-economic factor affected communities near bases, forts and naval stations - slowly spreading further and further outward. When Brown came along in May, 1954, much of the pre-work had already been accomplished in and around a great number of southern cities. Just saying the movement had already begun - though it was admittedly moving too slow and Brown gave it a much needed "surge". [oops, sorry for that word]
10.21.2008 4:22pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
Krahling: "Are you proposing Operation Canadian Freedom?"

I get it. I get jokes.

Nah, that's the "irony for us both" - the CHRCs because they're "human rights commissions" like North Korea is a "People's Democratic Republic", and me because there I am in my fantasy, marshalling an army to burninate the foes of freedom without any of those pesky "trials".

Just like my favorite phrase from my uber-PC high school: "no tolerance for intolerance" (yes, that was the principal's brainchild)
10.21.2008 4:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sarcastro.
That's approximately right. The standards were jiggered to allow the underserved--those who couldn't qualify--to qualify.
Those standards were then applied generally.
According to some bankers and mortgage guys I know.
10.21.2008 4:33pm
John (mail):
I haven't seen anyone talk about whether these commission decisions are reviewable in Canada's courts, how such review takes place and whether, if such review exists, there are any court decisions that treat these issues.

Anybody know?
10.21.2008 4:38pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Richard Aubrey somehow I suspect the feasibility of the standards was a bit more controversial when enacted.

Though not in retrospect, of course.]
10.21.2008 4:40pm
Adam J:
A Zarkov- I think what Sarcastro's point is is the problem with the slippery slope argument is it basically starts by claiming Brown and all our first steps to eliminate legal discrimination was wrong. I think policies like this should be decided on the merits, not on some vague amorphous threat of a slippery slope that will lead us to catastrophe.

For example, Canada's law has little merit to me- a persons right to free speech clearly trumps the infringement on liberty caused by being subjected to discriminatory speech. Sure, it might feel good to think I'm punishing bigots (which is why these laws have any support), but no government is really capable of objectively applying this... the government will decide if the speech has merit and isn't discriminatory largely on their own ideological beliefs. I pretty much completely disagree with people that Canada has discriminated against, but that doesn't mean I should (or could) impose my beliefs on them.
10.21.2008 4:42pm
Mad Max:
In fairness to the Canadians, thier higher courts have been overrulling the commisions.

If the Human Rights Commissars say your speech is forbidden but then the courts overturn them, you were still censored. Even if they gave you a pass, it was still the government that decided what was acceptable and what was not.
10.21.2008 4:43pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Adam J.

"I think what Sarcastro's point is is the problem with the slippery slope argument is it basically starts by claiming Brown and all our first steps to eliminate legal discrimination was wrong."


I understand his argument, and I disagree with it. As I said, I'm concerned more with anti-discrimination laws as they pertain to private acts and transactions, than to making governments apply the law equally. Although we have problems with the latter too. In our modern era "equal" under the law actually means "unequal."

I don't see anything that limits the progressive erosion of liberty under the guise of "civil rights." Call something "civil rights" and it gets immunized from criticism. This acts to shut off debate.
10.21.2008 5:00pm
Seamus (mail):

teqjack that's not my understanding of the enforcement of the CRA. I seem to recall learning it "required banks to apply the same lending criteria in all communities."



True, in exactly the same way that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as Hubert Humphrey assured everyone, would not lead to racial preferences.
10.21.2008 5:03pm
geokstr:
I've followed the Steyn, Macleans, and Levant cases very closely since the beginning of the year. What is happening up north is truly scary, and the same things have been occuring on a smaller scale here already, but with the "post-racial" attitude Obama promises to bring, would be certain to explode here in short order.

Canadian "human rights commissions" are quasi-legal kangaroo courts, staffed by left-wing politically appointed hacks who have no judicial experience. There are no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence, no right to face your accuser. All costs of the complainant are paid by the state, but the defendant must pay all his own costs, win or lose. No proof of injury is required from the complainant, only the contention that they were "offended". You can even be charged in as many of the 13 or so regional commissions that the complainant wants, all at the same time, and even tried by as many of the commissions that want to take up the case. Double jeopardy is irrelevant.

The defendants are ALWAYS and ONLY conservatives, business owners, and Christians, and the complainants ALWAYS gays, Muslims and other assorted leftist approved victim groups, and with the exception of the recent Mark Steyn/Macleans case, have a 100% "conviction" record.

The commission staff members have been forced under oath to admit to posting nasty, racist hate-filled comments on target websites, using an IP address they hijacked from a private individual to cover themselves, and then using their own comments as evidence that the websites were "hate speech".

Stalin would have been proud.

David Bernstein, in his post above, is referring to the case of Stephen Boisson, a Christian pastor in Canada, He was dragged before the commission for the heinous crime of writing a letter to the editor criticizing gay marriage, was fined, forced to make a public apology, and prohibited from criticizing homosexuality in any way in speech, emails, on the internet, and even from the pulpit - FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

Ironically, his accuser was a well known anti-Christian activist and wasn't even gay. However, he was "offended" and that's all that mattered. The $7,000 Boisson fine went to the accuser, too, tax free.

If you think that this will never happen here, guess again. There are already "human rights commissions" in a number of states, staffed and run in similar fashion to their Canadian counterparts.

In January of this year, a Christian photographer in New Mexico was fined $7K by their "human rights commission" for refusing to take the wedding pictures for a lesbian couple, even though there were hundreds of other photogs available. They were, you see "offended".

If Obama is elected, watch for a vast increase in this type of uni-directional intimidation and coercion. As an atheist, even I have to say "God help us".

Geez, and when you throw in the Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine" and similar attempts to control conservatives on the internet, it's not going to be a fun time soon being a critic of anything to the left of Fox News.
10.21.2008 5:03pm
NowMDJD (mail):

In fairness to the Canadians, thier higher courts have been overrulling the commisions.

If the Human Rights Commissars say your speech is forbidden but then the courts overturn them, you were still censored. Even if they gave you a pass, it was still the government that decided what was acceptable and what was not.

Furthermore, you have spent a whole bunch of money and time fighting the charges-- probably >$100,000. And you won't get it back. The prosecutions by the "Human Rights Commissions" have a chilling effect, even if they are later reversed.
10.21.2008 5:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sarcastro.

Not all that controversial in the general public. Conservatives were annoyed.
The data showing the minority qualified applicants being turned down was flawed. That has recently been more generally known, although it was obvious back then.
I worked with a faith-based social justice and peacekeeping group at the time. It was hard to tell if they were dumb as a bag of hammers, corrupt and mendacious, or had the happy facility of not hearing information which did not fit their preconceptions, no matter how frequently they heard it.
In any event, they were looking for discrimination, and, as usually happens, they found it.
Which is a smaller version of what was going on among the usual suspects.
Talk about reality and you were a racist. That being something more effective a manipulative scam than it is today, it served to tamp down discussion.
10.21.2008 5:18pm
Sarcastro (www):
geokstr's comparison of Canada and Soviet Russia really makes you listen when he cries WOLF WOLF!
10.21.2008 5:18pm
Krahling (mail):
Stacy,

I was thinking of Micheal Moore's bit on TV Nation many years ago in which he proposed invading France - using the name Operation Restore Politeness.
10.21.2008 5:23pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Richard Aubrey I absolutely agree there are some softheads among liberal social justice types, but that doesn't mean all such impulses are softheaded.

I also am not sure I buy the causality between the housing crisis and the CRA. I've seen no statistical arguments at all.

As for racism being used to tamp down on discussion, it's a problem, but so far one confined largely to abuse of social controls, not legal ones.]
10.21.2008 5:28pm
Nathan_M (mail):
The defendants are ALWAYS and ONLY conservatives, business owners, and Christians, and the complainants ALWAYS gays, Muslims and other assorted leftist approved victim groups, and with the exception of the recent Mark Steyn/Macleans case, have a 100% "conviction" record.
10.21.2008 5:41pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Oops, sorry, I hit post by accident instead of preview. I meant to blockquote my last post, and say that Human Rights Tribunals dismiss tons of complaints, and are also sometimes overturned by the courts. They do not have a 100% conviction rate. Obviously the defendants aren't always conservatives either, the most common defendant is undoubtedly the government itself.

Anyway, as a Canadian I think you're taking these much too seriously. I agree they are a threat to freedom of speech, and have gone too far, but they is a long long way from Stalinesque show trials.

The courts need to step in to clarify things, but they can't until someone loses in front of a tribunal and appeals.
10.21.2008 5:49pm
wm13:
"as a Canadian I think you're taking these much too seriously"

That's the funny thing about Americans, we take liberty very seriously. To some this may seem madness, but on it we have staked our all.
10.21.2008 5:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
Nathan_M

What you say sounds far too reasonable to come out of the Canadian regime.

You're a plant from the Canadian "Ministry of Internal Affairs," aren't you?
10.21.2008 5:58pm
epeeist:
I'm a U.S. citizen living in Canada, and I find most of these high-profile proceedings objectionable. However, most "normal" proceedings before human rights commissions are less objectionable (well, maybe to a libertarian they are!) not involving freedom of speech.

I'd also suggest, before getting all high-and-mighty about how bad Canada is, take a look at all the stuff that goes on in the U.S. (arrested for insulting an alderman in a sign was in the news this week, what about the pro bono case discussed on volokh.com about the charges for the Internet suicide case, etc. are the most recent things I've read that spring to mind).

The commissions are set up by statute and the members are appointed by government, and they have a specified mandate. Many concerns -- such as costs, or their role, or whatever -- can be addressed by legislators making changes. Unless or until they do, the commissions are doing (admittedly more extreme, in part because of who gets appointed) what they were set up to do.

In other words, blame politicians elected by the majority who set up the scope and role of the commissions, not so much the commissions themselves, which unlike the California body referred to earlier, do take into account the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights.
10.21.2008 6:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sarcastro
What do you mean by "the housing crisis"? The crash in prices? The foreclosures?
Early this year, one of the networks had a report from someplace in Colorado. It was an upscale neighborhood which was reputed to be the then-leader in foreclosures. A realtor mentioned to the reporter that the folks used their homes as "ATM".
Get hit with an ARM--as some friends did--or lose a job, and the home goes. When that happens, the prices of nearby homes take a hit. If you can't get an equally affluent family into the vacant home pretty quick, the prices start down. And then, having squeezed the equity out, your home is worth less than you owe.
That doesn't require CRA.
10.21.2008 6:01pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Sarcastro,

TV killed off racism, not Brown v. Board of Education.

TV brought the face of Bull Connor racism into most American homes, and made America choose between its ideals and the prejudice of many.
10.21.2008 6:01pm
Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
"People sure don't care about blacks talking about the inherent inferiority of whites and how they should go back to Europe. And blacks are doing that all the time!"

I have in fact heard people of several different races (including black and white) describing whites as inherently inferior and openly wishing we/they could go back to Europe, and there were no discrimination lawsuits or "disiplinary action" under hate speech codes. Have heard nothing of the kind?
10.21.2008 6:08pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Richard Aubrey I was speaking of the crash of the value of Mortgage-Backed securities, and the resulting credit-default-swap fueled loss of liquidity.

I think that the rise in the number foreclosure is the cause of that price drop. And I have as of yet seen no evidence that the cause of the foreclosures is CRA related.

Speculation may be a factor. Again, no statistics as of yet, only waiving fingers of blame and anecdotes.

Maybe we'll find out in a decade or so.]
10.21.2008 6:12pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Duncan C. Coffee Wow. I have not. Not even from self-hating whites.

I guess I take some solace in the fact that such hatred is still far from mainstream in most regions, and isn't likely to lead to lynchings.]
10.21.2008 6:19pm
Kirk:
The position of the HUD people in the Clinton administration was that voicing opposition to, e.g., the location of a group home for the disabled was itself illegal under the FHA.
So? If it really was illegal, it merely means that a clearer case of a unconstitutional law could hardly be found. (Well, next to McCain-Feingold, that is.)
10.21.2008 6:28pm
whit:
epeeist and other canadian speech-law apologists are, with due respect (lol), out of their minds.

how many of these cases do we have to see before you admit that there is effectively no freedom of speech in canada, in any realistic sense. the freedom to say whatever you want as long as it is not offensive to any # of identifiable "victim" groups is a joke.

this started a long time ago. let's not forget the case of prof. rushton, (unsuccessfully) prosecuted for daring to suggest racial differences in an academic setting. etc. etc.

i have a special insight into this because i have worked with RCMP on a few occasions, and attended hate crimes training with them. (I am a trainer for other officers in investigating hate crimes). the difference between our laws is astounding. i was amazed at how much latitude the state has to suppress speech. conversely, the mounties (taking this federally sponsored class in WA state) were amazed at how much freedom our citizens have to espouse hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic ideas.

i suggest people take a visit to the canadian civil liberties association (CCLA) website and compare the "rights" of canadians in free speech vs. ours.
10.21.2008 6:46pm
Nathan_M (mail):

That's the funny thing about Americans, we take liberty very seriously. To some this may seem madness, but on it we have staked our all.

Is that the motto at the entrance to Guantanamo Bay? Sorry, but while the American government refuses to apologize to, let alone compensate, an innocent Canadian you sent to Syria to be tortured that rings a bit hollow.

Cases like this are extremely serious blackmarks on Canada's human rights record, but the United States is in absolution no position to lecture us on freedom. Especially not on the day the Canadian government released a report on three other Canadian citizens who were tortured in Syria; naturally the American government refused to provide any information to the inquiry.
10.21.2008 6:55pm
second history:
I agree that if you don't want slippery slopes, don't build the mountain. I've been opposed to all antidiscrimination laws, Voting Rights Acts, SC decisions (Brown, Heart of Atlanta, Reynolds v. Sims (one man one vote,) etc.) and harrassment laws since involving government invariably constricts personal freedom and association.
10.21.2008 7:04pm
Cornellian (mail):
found that many of the worst infringements on freedom of expression in the name of antidiscrimination come from state and local "human rights" agencies. The lesson: antidiscrimination statutes and regulations should be enforced by judges who are obligated to uphold the Constitution, not by "human rights" bureaucrats who don't think the Constitution is relevant (and who, in California, are (unconstitutionally) banned by statute(!) from considering whether what they are doing is consistent with the Constitution).

I don't get the basis for your use of the exclamation mark. On the one hand, you don't think ALJ type people on human rights commissions should be judging the constitutionality of their enabling statute (and I agree with that) but then why you do appear to be shocked that such people are prohibited from doing so in California? Assuming constitutionality can be tested on judicial review, isn't that how you want it decided?
10.21.2008 7:12pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'm a U.S. citizen living in Canada, and I find most of these high-profile proceedings objectionable. However, most "normal" proceedings before human rights commissions are less objectionable (well, maybe to a libertarian they are!) not involving freedom of speech.

A huge number of human rights complaints in Canada involved people fired from their jobs who claim it was unlawful because the termination was motivated, at least in part, by some low level disability (like a bad back) or the fact that the complainant was an older person, a woman who got pregnant or something along those lines. In other words, cases that don't involve anyone speaking in public about anything. So, hysterical assertions to the contrary in some of the above posts, cases like Steyn's are very rare in Canada. Not every province even has a human rights law that provides for the sort of complaints one saw in the Steyn case.
10.21.2008 7:18pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Canadian censorship took another form 15 years ago, when publication of details in the case of serial sex murderer Karla Homolka was banned, and cars crossing the border were searched for illicit copies of the Buffalo Evening News. The USENET group alt.fan.karla-homolka was deleted from Canadian newsservers, because it carried forbidden information.
10.21.2008 7:27pm
catullus:
Kirk: Of course the Clinton HUD position was unconstitutional, but those who spoke out during that time had to hire lawyers to defend themselves against the FHA liability asserted. Constitutional vindication doesn't come cheap, and the presence of these bogus but expensive and time-consuming claims tends to squelch the next guy from saying anything at all.
10.21.2008 7:46pm
ShelbyC:
Cornellian:

Assuming constitutionality can be tested on judicial review, isn't that how you want it decided?

No. The constitution is, first and formost, a constraint on state actors. The judiciary gets involved when there is a case or controversy between the state actors and someone else.
10.21.2008 8:23pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
David Bernstein said,
really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial

You are a hypocrite, David. How can you say that you believe in freedom of speech when you make an exception for holocaust denial/revisionism?

You never answered my assertion that a systematic Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable way(s) of identifying Jews and non-Jews.
10.21.2008 9:00pm
davidbernstein (mail):
On the one hand, you don't think ALJ type people on human rights commissions should be judging the constitutionality of their enabling statute (and I agree with that) but then why you do appear to be shocked that such people are prohibited from doing so in California? Assuming constitutionality can be tested on judicial review, isn't that how you want it decided?

If a specific defendant claims that the agency's action is barred by the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause dictates that the relevant state official consider the claim. Not to mention that most state officials take oaths to uphold the Constitution. This came up when a California agency tried to punish someone for refusing to have a black roommate, and refused to consider whether there is an intimate association right to choose one's roommate. As a practical matter, fighting it out in the agencies before going to court is extremely expensive. That's an additional reason these issues should go to courts, not agencies, to begin with. I'd prefer that they go to court immediately, but if they don't, the agenices should be required to act within constitutional bounds, and indeed be suable under 1983 if they don't.
10.21.2008 9:04pm
Kazinski:
Larry Fafarman:
You are a hypocrite, David. How can you say that you believe in freedom of speech when you make an exception for holocaust denial/revisionism?

There seems to be a flaw in your logic, not defending holocaust denial doesn't mean that one wants to make it illegal. Make a fool out of yourself if you want to, its OK by me.
10.21.2008 9:37pm
wm13:
Nathan M: the Constitution, and, more important, the Constitution that is written on our hearts, protects freedom for Americans, not for a bunch of loser Canadians who don't even want to be free. Who cares about them?
10.21.2008 10:01pm
pst314 (mail):
"Assuming constitutionality can be tested on judicial review, isn't that how you want it decided?"

And of course the Constitution is a living document of wondrous penumbras and emanations, which meaning can only be determined by judges of a creatively progressive ideology.
10.21.2008 10:08pm
geokstr:
Nathan_M:

Is that the motto at the entrance to Guantanamo Bay? Sorry, but while the American government refuses to apologize to, let alone compensate, an innocent Canadian you sent to Syria to be tortured that rings a bit hollow.

Is the the person you claim was "tortured"? It is the only Canadian related to Guantanamo I could find by googling:
Omar Khadr

I don't see anything about Lebanon, and the only evidence of "torture" comes from allegations by Khadr himself. I don't really want to get into a huge debate about Guantanamo, but I will say it's been visited by every human rights organization that exists and no evidence of "torture" has ever been documented. The "Koran down the toilet" was debunked.

This is from CNN, last I heard, hardly an apologist for the Bush Administration. If this is what you mean by "torture", then all that says to me is that the word "torture" has been so cheapened that it is about as meaningless as "racism". Let's say that the claims of Khadr are true (for argument's sake only) and he really was sleep-deprived for long periods of time. If we are going to call that "torture" then what is the word we use for slowly hacking off people's heads with machetes, which is what the lovely people he was fighting for do.

I don't believe for a second these wounds he got while being tortured. Is there any evidence they didn't come from wounds received when they attacked US troops?

Crying for mommy is not necessarily a sign that he was "tortured".
10.21.2008 10:30pm
MarkJ (mail):
Obvious observation: when a government stifles freedom of speech, people will still find ways to express their opinions. Problem is, such "speech" can, and does, manifest itself in the form of violence.

If a "President Obama" is actually bone-headed enough to, for example, attempt prosecution of citizens alleging voter fraud, he'll be effectively playing with matches while standing waist-deep in gasoline.

I'd like to think that Obama would be smarter than that, but, hey, betting on the intelligence of politicians is for suckers.
10.21.2008 11:06pm
epeeist:
To: geokstr (re Nathan_M)

Try Maher Arar. Canadian citizen, changing planes in NYC, arrested and deported to Syria (he was born there), which tortured him. He's since received an apology and $10 million (Canadian dollars, but still over $9 million U.S.) from the Canadian Government. U.S. government has done nothing except spout some meaningless platitudes, and even when the U.S. Congress wanted him as a witness, the executive refused to let him in (or guarantee he wouldn't be arrested and sent to Syria again, or whatever). His lawsuit was dismissed (I can't remember which Federal Circuit) although last I heard, the circuit decided on its own initiative to rehear en banc, so maybe he'll get some relief.

Aside from the injustice an American (albeit living in Canada!) I have HUGE problems with the U.S. Congress wanting to have someone as a witness, and the executive branch can forbid that?

At least in Canada, the worst he faces is a human rights commission, not being arrested and deported to another country for torture...

As for a previous poster, sorry but I don't think I'm an apologist [grin]. I have HUGE problems with the Canadian restrictions on free speech. On most things I agree with the CCLA. But I also recognize, Canada has its own Constitution and so I wear a different hat when looking at Canadian restrictions. Similarly for gun control, in the U.S. I support availability of weapons as a Constitutional right, but in Canada, where there's no such right, I'm not up in arms (because I don't own any!) over restrictions on gun ownership. I think some gun restrictions are stupid, but it's a different country, different Constitution, different laws, and my objections are principled not legalistic/Constitutional.
10.21.2008 11:06pm
Nathan_M (mail):
geokstr - Maher Arar is the person i was talking about. In 2002 he was detained by U.S. officials, relying on inaccurate information provided to them by the Canadian government, on a stop over in the United States when he was flying back to Canada. He was held in the US for two weeks, and denied access to a lawyer. The US then sent him to Syria, where he was held, and tortured, for just over a year.

An official inquiry by Mr. Justice O'Connor determined that there was absolutely no evidence Mr. Arar was linked to terrorism, and that he had been tortured in Syria.
10.21.2008 11:20pm
DangerMouse:
Nathan is saying "look over here! Ignore the fact that my country is now a police state where saying the wrong thing can quickly get a boot planted on your face!"

Pathetic.
10.22.2008 12:14am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Kazinski said (10.21.2008 8:37pm) --
Larry Fafarman:
You are a hypocrite, David. How can you say that you believe in freedom of speech when you make an exception for holocaust denial/revisionism?

There seems to be a flaw in your logic, not defending holocaust denial doesn't mean that one wants to make it illegal.

The context of my quotation, "really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial," expressed a desire that holocaust denial be made illegal. Here is my quotation in context:

At the time, the Canadian Supreme Court was holding that Holocaust denial and violent, misogynistic pornography are not protected under Canadian constiutitional law. And, really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial and violent pornography?

Duh.
10.22.2008 12:59am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The context of my quotation, "really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial," expressed a desire that holocaust denial be made illegal.
No, it didn't. Reading is fundamental. It expressed no desire of any sort.

The thing the Canadians and Europeans with similar hate speech regimes don't understand is that keeping these things legal serves a valuable purpose: it allows people to Spot the Idiot. (Of course, Fafarman holds up a flashing neon sign, so it doesn't take much.)
10.22.2008 1:52am
Largo:
Nathan_M: Cases like this are extremely serious blackmarks on Canada's human rights record, but the United States is in absolution no position to lecture us on freedom.

Be that as it may, I fail to get your point. Did anyone here claim that the United States is in a position to lecture you on freedom?
10.22.2008 11:24am
geokstr:
Nathan_M:

I stand corrected on the identity of the individual you referred to in your initial post. However, this happened in 2002, one year after the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor. The US was still sorting out how to deal with combatants when there is no national identity for the enemy. If the US made an error, it should accept responsibility for this and make restitution. It happens all the time when someone in prison is cleared with new evidence. However, the US still maintains that there is a connection between Arar and Al-Queda, your government's report notwithstanding.

In addition, the US did not torture him, it deported him to one of the nations of the Religion of Perpetual Outrage. Given that the US thought he was connected to the terrorists, why would they have any reason to suspect that those on his own side would imprison and torture him for a year?

...you sent to Syria to be tortured...

Are you contending that the US knew he would be tortured in Syria, or that they sent him there specifically to be tortured? For what purpose? Of what benefit to us is having him tortured by Syria?

...three other Canadian citizens who were tortured in Syria; naturally the American government refused to provide any information to the inquiry.

What is the purpose of this comment? Are you contending that the US had information of why Syria held your citizens and that we should have been able to do something to stop it? Like we have any influence on Syria - right.

It looks to me that you are condemning the US with a broad brush over one (possible) mistake in a very complex conflict where it is difficult to tell exactly who is the enemy and who is not, and when the Koran of the Religion of Perpetual Outrage expressly advocates deception and outright lying to infidels. It's called "taqiyyah".

There are going to be many errors in this kind of war, where the enemy has vowed to make 9/11 look like a Sunday school picnic, and they are willing to do anything to win, even commit suicide. Given the way that Canada and Europe are succumbing to sharia and pandering to those who would kill us, we certainly can't count on your help, can we?
10.22.2008 1:12pm
geokstr:
Here is an ongoing persecution with the kangaroo kommissions of Kanada trying a former member of Parliament for simply discussing the problem of crime perpetrated by "aboriginals":
Ezra Levant

It will also introduce you to the infamous Richard Warman, a former investigator for the commissions who was also the sole complainant on many of the cases filed, despite not even being a member of the "aggrieved" victim group. He received substantial settlements in all the cases even though he was also the investigator. He was one of the commission employees caught sending "hate" emails to websites under investigation and then the commissions used his emails as "proof" of the websites' hate speech.

He is a serial abuser of frivilous lawsuits, where, as an attorney, his costs are minimal, but all his accused must pay for expensive counsel. He has his own website, where he freely admits that his practice of filing all these suits in courts and in front of the commissions is for the purpose of "maximum disruption" of people he doesn't happen to like. He also says he does it for fun, and of course, it pays pretty well too.
10.22.2008 3:15pm
bpuck:
"advocatse of weakening First Amendment protections"

slight spell check
10.22.2008 5:06pm
MikeDT (mail):
Maher worked at the same company as me before he went back to Canada. I really hope you don't believe the US didn't know that he would be tortured. It's well known that the CIA did this many times, see extraordinary rendition.
10.23.2008 12:00am
JPG:
A Canadian speaking here...

Although, like most readers here, I have huge problems with the "hate messages" section of the CRHA, I have to admit the Commission is doing a great work in regards to other concerns (the majority of cases that have nothing to do with speech).

Before becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper stated his deep worries about the free speech issue with the CRHA. Now that he has been re-elected, we can expect some tweaking going on within the next two years or so.

But I would personally express even more worries about the Harper government's latest attempt at censoring culture: the film industry, among others, must now stand within a certain line of "morality". Bill C-10 explained here. That's pure, unnecessary censorship for you.
10.23.2008 4:41am
Yankev (mail):

You never answered my assertion that a systematic Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable way(s) of identifying Jews and non-Jews.
10.
And you never answered my assertion that the earth is flat, because if it were round, everyone standing on the bottom would fall off.
10.23.2008 11:26am