June 29, 2009
Gay Activists Plus Conservative Pastor: Thank Government for the Unnatural Pairing
It has the makings of a joke: What do you get when Canada's premiere gay rights organization gets into bed with a conservative pastor from a small city in Alberta? Here's the non-funny answer: The birth of an unnatural alliance, one which resulted from an attack on free expression.
The recounting of how Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (Egale) came to the rhetorical defense of a socially conservative Red Deer pastor, Stephen Boissoin, in his fight with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, is chronicled in Ezra Levant's new book, Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights.
The book, a sharp, sliver of a stab at wrongly-labelled provincial and federal "human rights" commissions and tribunals, is worth a summer beach read. Perhaps especially because Jennifer Lynch, chairwoman of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, recently bleated about how such bodies are misunderstood; she asserted that "detractors seek to caricature the human rights system."
Sorry, no additional caricatures are necessary. The human rights bureaucracies have nicely demonstrated their own absurdity, including in Lynch's own commission--where hate speech was faked online by an employee to draw others into a legal trap.
Or in the Boissoin saga where--big surprise, a conservative Christian cleric thought gay sex was immoral. Boissoin's views were not interesting and were not news--or at least, wouldn't have been, except that the Alberta Human Rights Commission decided to investigate.
The particulars of that case are well-known and won't be recited here; the relevance is that the Alberta "Human Rights" Commission was shown to be supremely silly, made plain by the intervention of Egale.
That's one proof of over-the-top interventions by misnamed human rights bodies; there are others, including Levant's own travails with the Alberta body over his now defunct magazine's publication of Danish cartoons which depicted the Islamic prophet, Mohammed.
In Levant's case, the grinding process began after the Western Standard magazine was subject to a complaint from a disreputable Calgary imam and an Edmonton-based lawyer with rather radical views. Levant "won" but not without years of battles. And not before $100,000 of his and donor money was spent in the process, along with $500,000 chipped in by taxpayers for the commission's case (only to finally dismiss it anyway).
Shakedown details many such stories. It also questions how radical ilk have managed to garner the sympathy of such commissions and even police forces. Levant gives the example of the Halifax police who called up the local Chronicle-Herald newspaper to forward a complaint from a Muslim cleric; the preacher objected to that newspaper's cartoon about a local convert to Islam.
Levant asks readers to imagine how far a local Catholic priest would get if he called up the cops and asked them to lecture a local Blockbuster manager about the presence of the DaVinci Code video. It would, of course never happen, as the police would remind the priest about the separation of church and state.
Then there are the bogus employment claims. One example: in British Columbia, the almost $50,000 award for an ex-McDonald's employee, finally let go after she refused to wash her hands even though she worked in the kitchen. That's bad enough, and Levant argues that even in cases where someone's feelings might be hurt, or think themselves slighted at work, "not every one of life's little setbacks is something we should be running to the state to settle."
It's good advice, especially for those over the age of eighteen who consider themselves mature adults, i.e., most Canadians. This is especially relevant because many of those at human rights commissions and their tribunals are unqualified to adjudicate on the law. "None are judges, and some aren't even lawyers," writes Levant.For instance, in Manitoba, Levant notes the example of one commissioner who only has a high school diploma. This, deadpans Levant, "is considered training enough to determine what's legal and what's not, and who has to pay fines and who doesn't." Or worse, he points out how at the federal level, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hired Sandy Kozak--a former cop fired from an Ottawa-area police force for corruption. The CHRC hired Kozak nonetheless -- to be their hate speech investigator. At the end of it all, be it the relentless attacks on speech (even when one "wins"--"the process becomes the penalty" writes Levant), or the occasionally ridiculous complaint about workplace discrimination (see McDonald's above), the remedy is to rewrite legislation to end penalties that accrue to controversial speech. Also, let's scrap the commissions which are sunk deep into complex matters that are way over their intellectual, philosophical and legal heads. Instead, let the real courts deal with claims of discrimination, and not the fake pretend bodies with their wide-ranging and too-often abused and unchecked powers.
Mark Milke, Director of Research
also lectures in Political Science at the University of Calgary where he received his doctorate. He is the author of three books on Canadian politics, including the 2006 A Nation of Serfs? How Canada’s Political Culture Corrupts Canadian Values from John Wiley & Sons. He is a former director (first in Alberta and then British Columbia) with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation 1997-2002. Since 2002, among other work, Mark has written policy papers on British Columbia’s treaty process, the Canada Pension Plan, Alberta’s Heritage Fund, automobile insurance, corporate welfare and the flat tax. He is writing a book on the effects of anti-Americanism on deliberative democracy in Canada and is a Sunday columnist for the Calgary Herald. In addition, his columns on politics, hiking, nature and architecture have been published across Canada including in the National Post, Globe and Mail, Reader’s Digest, The Western Standard, Vancouver Sun, and Victoria Times Colonist and the Washington DC magazine on politics, The Weekly Standard.