Finally, Good News On ‘Human Rights’

Finally, good news on 'human rights'

Jonathan Kay
The National Post
June 27, 2008

The news of the past few months has turned the phrase human rights into something of a joke. On the one hand, a group of Muslim activists has gone before four separate human rights commissions in a high-profile bid to censor critics of militant Islam realizing the worst fears of critics who, years ago, predicted that human rights would become an instrument of thought control. On the other hand, the places in Canada where real human rights are most at risk dysfunctional native reserves controlled by self-serving clans have long been explicitly exempted from the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act (HRA). Efforts by the Conservative government to fix this native loophole (which was supposed to be temporary when it was created in 1977) have met with shameful resistance from self-interested aboriginal leaders, as well as their Liberal and NDP apologists.

But good news is at hand. Today, it was announced that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has dismissed the complaint filed against Macleans magazine by Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). Supporters of free speech should be careful to put this victory in context: A similar complaint against Macleans is still being adjudicated in British Columbia. Moreover, the very fact that human-rights bureaucrats presume to sit in judgment as to what can and cannot be published in this country is appalling in itself. Still, it is nice to see the CICs gag squad get handed another loss. (Earlier this year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission threw out a similar complaint against Macleans though not without issuing a creepy press release demanding more censorship power for its functionaries.)

On First Nations, too, some good news is at hand. Thanks to changes that were finally pushed through by Stephen Harpers Conservatives, natives living on reserves will now enjoy the same rights under the HRA that non-natives have taken for granted for more than three decades. As of now, band members will be able to file human-rights complaints against Ottawa and their tribal leadership (though bands will have 36 months to adapt to the new legislative changes). We are particularly gratified on behalf of native women who often are subject to the sort of institutionally sexist treatment that went extinct in white society almost a century ago.

What is needed now is similar root-and-branch reform of the Human Rights Act beginning with the elimination of Section 13, which bans the electronic transmission of material that bureaucrats judge likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination. Provincial human rights codes should be similarly amended. As Macleans declared on Friday: No human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nations media.