B.C. Human Rights Tribunal May Never Live Down Embarrassing Steyn Fiasco

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal may never live down embarrassing Steyn fiasco
Panel's hearing over Maclean's article was an affront to free speech and a waste of public resources and time

Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, October 13, 2008

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided right-wing humorist Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine are not racist hate-mongers.

How droll.

The panel — chairwoman Heather MacNaughton, Tonie Beharrell and Kurt Neuenfeldt — released on Friday 37 pages of self-righteous justification for dragging Steyn and the Toronto-based publication through a ridiculous process.

The tribunal's week-long kangaroo hearing in June was a waste of public resources and of Rogers Publishing Ltd.'s money, too.

This make-believe “human rights” complaint was an attempt by the Canadian Islamic Congress to get publicity by taking on a well-known conservative polemicist and the country's weekly news magazine.

It worked.

This entire process was an affront to our right to free speech and should send a chill down the spine of every Canadian who wants to express an opinion.

Maclean's published an excerpt of Steyn's book (America Alone) that speciously argued Muslims were out for world domination by out-breeding the rest of us.

Like much of the right-wing author's output, the piece was larded with exaggeration and snide remarks.

Instead of ignoring the rant, or writing a letter of complaint to the editor (many of which were published by Maclean's), the congress initially tried to shake down the magazine for pages of free ink and a $10,000 donation. The editor said he would rather go bankrupt than surrender his publication's integrity.

No kidding.

As a result, the congress went forum shopping to find anyone in the country to take seriously its complaint that Maclean's and Steyn were inciting hatred and contempt of Muslims.

Despite its distaste for Steyn's opinions, the Ontario agency said it would not investigate. The Canadian Human Rights Commission, too, ultimately sent them packing stating the obvious — it had no merit.

But the Muslim congress found the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which may never live down this embarrassing fiasco.

Maclean's and Steyn didn't deign to even offer a defence at the summer's tomfoolery.

Who can blame them?

Still their temerity earned them the panel's enmity.

The triumvirate was unable to resist taking a swipe at the defendants for supposedly “fuelling” the raging international controversy:

“At times, Maclean's conduct of its case appeared to be directed to the media coverage of the hearing rather than supporting the positions it had taken in its original response to the complaint . . . . Maclean's, for example, published an editorial critical of the complainants and the human rights process . . .”

There would have been no controversy if the tribunal had not provided this attention-seeking advocacy group with a soapbox.

Maclean's was right to tell the tribunal to get lost and take its case to the public.

This process was illegitimate and these tinpot judges knew it.

They completely agreed that “read in its context, the article is essentially an expression of opinion on political issues which, in light of recent historical events involving extremist Muslims and the problems facing the vast majority of the Muslim community that does not support extremism, are legitimate subjects for public discussion.”

So why did they feel they had the right to conduct an Inquisition?
Most of their lengthy decision is regurgitated irrelevancy — as if wordiness could give it heft. In the end, it reads as if the trio decided they didn't hear from enough experts and lacked someone to “explain the nature of Islamophobia and how the themes and stereotypes in the article might increase its prevalence.”

You couldn't make it up.

Steyn has responded to all the media attention with mock handwringing over Canada's tilt toward totalitarianism — much in the style he used tackling Muslim extremism:

“Under the ludicrous British Columbia 'Human Rights' Code, we are guilty. Which is why the Canadian Islamic Congress should appeal.”

I wouldn't put it past them — keep themselves and this nonsense in the public eye.

A just-graduated lawyer who prepared the complaint for the Congress, Khurrum Awan will be gloating for years over the attention he received for his lame literary analysis — more than any tenured law professor would get for a thoughtful critique.

This bad joke exposes both a chink in our human rights' legislation that must be fixed and a lack of judgment on the tribunal that should be corrected.

Had the agency any sense, it never would have embarked on this sorry exercise. All it has done is expose the human rights process to hatred and contempt, and B.C. to ridicule.