Denyse O'Leary has warned at a recent Christian writers conference in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, that the "THE MOST serious challenge in Canada today is [to] intellectual freedom" O'Leary was speaking at a plenary session at Write! Canada (13th June 2008) and noted that "increasingly, under our 14 human rights commissions and tribunals, governments and their appointed minders restrict what we can say, think or do, supposedly in our own interests, but certainly in theirs."
O'Leary was referencing a recent article in Maclean's by Mark Steyn about growing Muslim influence and the subsequent fall out. This article was subject to a complaint argued before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission.
The Canadian Islamic Congress apparently took offence to the Maclean's article, claiming that the magazine was "flagrantly Islamophobic" and "subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt." It was further offended by Steyn's argument concerning rising birth rates among Muslims in Europe and the effect that will have on non-Muslims who may feel forced to accept "an accommodation with their radicalised Islamic compatriots."
Whether one considers this to be a real threat is another matter, but the BC Human Rights Commission took a more determined view in favour of the complainant even before any evidence was produced. In fact in 31 years, the national Human Rights Commission of Canada has never dismissed or lost a case brought concerning a 'hate' crime. The Commission also asserts the power to force people to never speak on a matter publicly again.
The Commission first demanded that the magazine Maclean's, give equal and unedited space to respond to the tract. After refusal, the council took the magazine to a 'court' of its own making. These tribunals apparently have no rules of evidence and truth does not seem to be a defence. In fact evidence doesn't seem important at all. The only evidence necessary for hate speech to have been committed is offence taken by a person or group of people. If an offended group merely complains to a human rights commission, then the burden of proof would appear to have been met already. No wonder the commission has never lost a case.
Dean Steacy, an investigator for Canada's national commission, commented: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." Really?
According to Canadian law and the tribunal precedents, the magazine could face unspecified fines and be ordered to publish a response, and be barred in perpetuity from publishing anything the human rights commission deems unsuitable.
O'Leary commented that "I have read the Maclean's article in question and, while some might wish to contest various matters in it, the notion that it constitutes hate is a wakeup call to every one of us." She further noted that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (now 26-year-old) guarantees "freedom of thought, conscience and belief," but expressed concern that the principle of the Charter is "slowly being eroded by the 'human rights' system." While "those who seek to undermine intellectual freedom in Canada aim very frequently (but not only) at Christians," she maintained the aim of such people is to consolidate "their own power over society."
The irony of all of this is that the Commission is itself causing offence and has committed a 'hate' crime against Christians in Canada and should now take itself to its own tribunal and bind itself to never commit another 'hate' crime or bring 'hate' charges against Christians again. This just shows how absurd legislation of this nature is. There is a need for respectful dialogue because suppressing legitimate argument is not healthy for a society and only encourages the hate it seeks to avoid.