Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Human Rights' Commissions Problems Exposed

I was pretty excited about the tragic impact of so called Human Rights commissions about a year ago. Sometime between then and now, it felt like consensus opinion changed and the battle of public opinion had been won. I can't remember the last time I wrote about them. However, the laws and commissions remain. Thankfully there are many eloquent voices that haven't given up the fight. Last week, Ian Hunter wrote a succinct account of how the concept of equality has gone awry:

The purpose of the original legislation was equality of opportunity. It sought to achieve this by prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of defined factors — race or colour. In other words, it forbade practices in hiring, renting, etc., that placed one individual at a competitive disadvantage to another because of some innate factor like colour over which the individual had no control. Such was the original equality-of-opportunity model.

Two decades later, the-equality-of-opportunity model gave way to an equality-of-treatment model. The objective here was to identify, and eliminate, structural barriers to equality; it was contended that human rights commissions must superintend not just opportunity but all subsequent consequences, to ensure that social benefits were equitably distributed.

In employment, for example, equal opportunity required that applicants receive fair, unbiased consideration. Equal treatment expanded this to require that employees receive parity: in salary, benefits, working conditions.

Equal treatment required more intrusive state action in the workplace. Under this model, the Canadian Human Rights Commission compared the salaries of telephone operators with those of linemen, and ordered millions of dollars in compensation for what was called “constructive” discrimination.

Contemporary human rights legislation has evolved again; now it reflects an equality-of-results model. What good is equality of opportunity or treatment, this view says, if nothing much changes?

That's a dramatic evolution, that's led to some crazy rulings. Good on Ian for describing the situation. Incidentally, from the day I started studying at Western, nothing inflamed my pride in my school, like a good article by Professor Ian Hunter.

Then just yesterday, the National Post reported on a case where Barbara Kulaszka, put the situation bluntly:

"The use of censorship to stop psychological harm is a blunt instrument" that in fact has the opposite effect, she wrote, because it "leads to division, not harmony, as each strongly self-identified groups starts using complaints to assert its interests."

"Canada has a general population that deals well with expression, values the right to expression and does not experience the harm that is said to justify [Section 13]. Canadians overwhelmingly prefer open debate, not censorship," Ms. Kulaszka wrote.

Hopefully the battle continues and our country's Human Rights Commissions will be reformed or dismantled.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sure hope that this chapter of the self-enlightenment's militantly legalistic dominance of any & all forms of dissention is ready to fade into history.