Monday, June 15, 2009

Jennifer Lynch's Straw Men

The Canadian Human Rights Commission gave a valiant attempt to sanitize their organization while continuing to expand their empire last week. Initial media coverage focused on the Commissions recommendation that Parliament curb its powers:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it still has a role to play in fighting hatred on the Internet, but wants Parliament to curb its powers.

It says it should no longer be able to levy fines of up to $10,000 against hatemongers and wants lawmakers to provide a clear, legal definition of what
constitutes prohibited hatred.

In a special report to Parliament, the commission also wants legal changes that would allow it to award costs in cases where accusers abuse the process and to quickly dismiss complaints that don't meet the definition of hate.

But the commission insists that the Internet remains a potentially dangerous realm where hatred can spread insidiously. The tribunal says it has to stick around to help rein in such hatred and help strike a balance between free expression and the right of people to live free from discrimination.

But any sense of balance was quickly lost when Jennifer Lynch, CHRC's chief commissioner, wrote an article Friday in the Globe and Mail where she quickly vilified her opponents as a means to justify the continued expansion of her organization's powers:

I believe critics of human-rights commissions and tribunals are manipulating
information and activities around rights cases and freedom of expression to further a new agenda. This agenda posits that rights commissions and tribunals, and the attendant vigilance over all the rights and freedoms Canadians now enjoy, no longer serve a useful purpose. In this way, the debate over freedom of expression has been used as a wedge to undermine and distort our human-rights system.

Ironically, a debate about balancing rights has not itself been balanced. One can only surmise that if these critics succeed, thus would begin a broader assault on freedoms they would subordinate to absolute freedom of expression.

Unreal. The CHRC's critics are merely interested in protecting free speech, speaking your mind anywhere, including the Internet, doesn't directly conflict with any other right. Where it does, criminal laws and civil courts provide a proper forum to solve any problems. In today's editorial the Globe and Mail is succinct:

In the end, freedom of speech and expression are unduly trammelled by hate-speech legislation, whether the criteria involve the inferred contents of someone's head, or the supposed likelihood of the effects of words, or both.

Words that actually incite physical violence should remain punishable under the Criminal Code, but human-rights legislation and the Code should be free of dangerously vague prohibitions of speech.

Well said.

1 comment:

Mac said...

Am I the only person who finds Lynch's surname ironic to the point of satirical?