Human rights complaint costing Catholic Insight

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA -- Catholic Insight magazine has paid $6,000 in legal fees fighting a human rights "hate" complaint, yet no hearing date is in sight.

For a small circulation (3,500 subscribers) conservative specialty magazine, "it has cost us quite a bit," said the magazine's editor, Basilian Father Alphonse de Valk.

"We're getting some donations, fortunately, even though we haven't done anything," de Valk said in an interview from Toronto.

It's not only the money. De Valk said he and staffer Tony Gosgnach have spent an "enormous amount of time" on the issue since they became aware of the complaint against the magazine a year ago.

"We probably spend three days a week, two people, just keeping up with what's going on in this," he said.

But de Valk remains calm in the face of the complaints.

"Maybe my little problem is something to be endured patiently, maybe we can say a few words of truth before this commission," he said. "Nothing is lost in the eyes of God."

Though he sees truth "under assault" in the West, especially in Europe, de Valk remains hopeful. "It may all turn around suddenly," he said. "Who knows?"

In February 2007, the magazine received a letter from Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) investigator Sandy Kozak that said the magazine was "being investigated for hate literature." Rob Wells, an Edmonton resident, had complained of material hateful against homosexuals.

Included in the letter were "three long sheets with endless quotes that Rob Wells has culled from our articles."

De Valk said the complaint contained no sources for the out-of-context quotes. Their lawyer advised them to go over every one of the more than 100 articles the magazine had posted on line. They asked the CHRC to provide the articles containing the offending quotes.

"That took four or five months," de Valk said. Eventually they received 16 articles that provided the context for the complaint.

De Valk admitted "there is vigorous language in some of them," and "strong words" about homosexual behaviour, but pointed out each article contained counterbalancing commentary in the Catholic tradition.

The articles opposed the agenda of homosexual activists, but "weren't attacking any individual persons," he said.

Catholic Insight decided to go public last December after human rights complaints against Maclean's magazine became the subject of many columns and editorials.

Maclean's faces complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) for an excerpt of Mark Steyn's book America Alone entitled 'The Future Belongs to Islam.' The CIC complained to the Canadian and Ontario human rights commissions and the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Only Ontario has refused to hear the case.

De Valk has also been following the news concerning former Western Standard publisher, Ezra Levant who faced complaints to the Alberta Human Rights Commission two years ago for republishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. His case leapt into prominence in early January when he posted a videotape of his AHRC interview on YouTube, an Internet video sharing site. His provocative videos have received more than a half a million views.

But de Valk sees Catholic Insight's battle as much more difficult because the "gay drive for equality under the guise of its being a right" has been popular. "They have achieved their triumph with the cooperation of the majority in Parliament," he said.

Steyn and Levant are perceived to be fighting Islamic extremists, and "have the wind in their sails," said de Valk, but most Canadians believe the battle for gay rights is of no consequence to them. "Many Catholics have been asleep at the switch, not interested, too preoccupied by other things," he said.

"It [secularism] is not just a neutral thing. There is no such thing," he added. "Secularism is aggressive." The rapid change in the traditional definition of marriage over a short period of time is one example, and de Valk said he worries that religious freedom and freedom of speech is next.

"The way I see it is that our case has a particular difficulty and that is because section 13 (1) [of the Canadian Human Rights Act] does not accept truth as a validating criteria," he said. "Under this section 13 (1), when my feelings are hurt, you pay; you are spreading hatred."

He is also deeply concerned about last November's Alberta Human Rights Panel decision in the case of Alberta pastor Stephen Boissoin, who wrote a letter to the editor critical of gay activists. The panel chair determined that the "right" to be protected from "hatred and contempt" trumped the Charter's guarantee of religious freedom.

In addition to the human rights complaint, Catholic Insight faces another time-consuming and costly battle. Another individual has filed a complaint with Heritage Canada and an Access to Information Request, concerning the magazine's postal subsidy and any other funds it receives from government. They have had to go over boxes of documents to make sure that information that would compromise the privacy of their personnel is redacted before the federal department releases them.

-- Courtesy Canadian Catholic News. Please do not reprint without permission.

Other stories about the Human Rights Commissions:

The right to be loathsome
Censoring Hossain would be just as unprincipled as censoring Levant or Steyn
Lorne Gunter, National Post, February 1

'Why don't you sue me?'
In their latest missive to you, Naseem Mithoowani, Khurrum Awan and Muneeza Sheikh refer to the excerpt from my book published in Maclean's, as a "defamatory article". OK, if it's defamatory, why don't you sue me? Cue crickets chirping. It's precisely because the article is not defamatory that the "plaintiffs" have had to rig the game by going to (at last count) three of Canada's many "human rights" pseudo-courts.
Mark Steyn, National Post, February 5

Free speech not just about Nazis
Any legislative measures that have white supremacists goose-stepping with joy are usually considered politically toxic. So when Keith Martin, the B.C. Liberal, introduced a motion that called for the deletion of a section of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the move was greeted with acclaim by the Nazis at Storm-front.org (slogan: "White Pride World-Wide"), you might have expected him to be in hot water before you could say "career-limiting move."
John Ivison, National Post, February 6

The fetishization of hatred
This week, Liberal MP Keith Martin put forward a private members' bill that would ensure human rights tribunals are no longer used as tools of censorship -- an initiative sparked by recent gag actions against Maclean's magazine and Ezra Levant's (now defunct) Western Standard, both of which have published candid articles about the threat from militant Islam. Just about every intelligent person in the country -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- has sided with Levant and Martin. But not Kinsella, who this week wrote on his blog: "Reading the ill-informed, ridiculous, knee-jerk utilitarian editorials in the Globe, Gazette and Post this morning-- all on MP Keith Martin's plan to excise the centre of the Canadian Human Rights Act -- it is easy for guys like me to get dejected. And then I talk to a smart and courageous Jewish friend, who tells me we can't back down, because 'free speech' does not give anyone a licence to defame and intimidate others on the basis of their race or religion or sexual orientation."
Jonathan Kay, National Post, February 8

Muslim leader drops complaint against Levant
Calgary Muslim leader Syed Soharwardy says he is withdrawing his Alberta Human Rights Commission complaint against former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant. The complaint was launched in February, 2006, after the Western Standard and the Jewish Free Press reprinted cartoons from a Danish newspaper that many in the Muslim world felt insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
CanWest News Service, February 13

Gag me with a memo
Free speech is being undermined by 'human rights.' Why is Stephen Harper averting his gaze?
Kathy Shaidle, National Post, February 13

I'll stick with the space lizards
Incidentally, although they characterize themselves as the "complainants" in these suits, they're not. In the two "human rights" complaints against Maclean's that are going forward, the complainants in British Columbia are Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and Naiyer Habib, and, in the federal case, Dr. Elmasry alone. Mohamed Elmasry is the man who announced on Canadian TV that he approved of the murder of any and all Israeli civilians over the age of 18. One can understand why such an unlikely poster boy for the cause of "anti-hate" campaigns would prefer to hide behind his fresh-faced Osgoode sock puppets. But the fact that every major newspaper in Canada has opened its pages to turgid recitations of imagined victimhood by three students who have no standing in these cases tells you everything about how "excluded" and "marginalized" they are.
Mark Steyn, Maclean's, March

Human rights make for strange bedfellows
In their human-rights complaints against Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, Muslim groups claimed that the articles the authors had written and published incited "Islamophobia." Yet these same complainants had done worse. One had claimed previously that Israel treats Palestinians worse than Jews in the Holocaust. Another claimed that all Israelis (read: Jewish Israelis) over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for terrorist groups. If that kind of discourse doesn't expose Jews to hate and contempt, I'm not sure what does exactly. In fact, Levant himself has been subject to a disgusting anti-Semitic internet hate campaign launched by certain elements (we'll call them "youths," in keeping with the euphemism used to describe those who burn cars in France) within Alberta's Muslim community. Yet in such instances, the legal advisors of the CJC and Bnai B'rith both have little to say. It's easier to go after some ignorant neo-Nazi with a bad haircut than trample on the sensibilities of media-savvy Muslim radicals.
Michael Ross, National Post, March 17

Scrutinizing the human rights machine
Next Tuesday, at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa, one of Canada's most prominent white supremacist propagandists, backed by the legal team that defended Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, will put the country's entire human rights bureaucracy on the witness stand. After months of closed-door wrangling, a constitutional challenge, an appeal to federal court and a blizzard of legal motions, Marc Lemire can now interrogate, under oath, two investigators of the Canadian Human Rights Commission about why they posted provocative comments on his and other ultra-conservative Web sites. Much credibility hangs on their answers. The curious thing about the hearing, which will make it a crucial moment in the history of Canadian human rights law, is that Mr. Lemire, the last president of the now defunct neo-Nazi Heritage Front, enjoys the qualified support of a Liberal MP, PEN Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association -- even a leader of B'nai Brith Canada.
Joseph Brean, National Post, March 22

How to turn a neo-Nazi into a free-speech martyr
You'd think that human rights types would understand the power of empathy. A short while back, I attended a Toronto awards dinner for something called the Canadian Centre for Diversity. Out in the lobby, the organizers unfurled some of their latest public service announcements. In one, a black man intones: "I am a woman when I am confronting inequality." In another, a Chinese man says "I am a Jew when I am learning about the Holocaust." An able-bodied woman says "I am a person with special needs when I am realizing how inaccessible our world is." As Lemire goes up against the HRC, a similar set of aphorisms suggest themselves: "When the law bans obscenity, I am a pornographer. When a fatwa bans blasphemy, I am an infidel. And when a human rights commission prosecutes internet hatemongers for hate speech, I am a neo-Nazi scumbag." If Lemire and his ilk have a secret scheme to render neo-Nazis into sympathetic figures, they could conceive no better weapon than Section 13.1.
Jonathan Kay, National Post, March 25

Jeers and loathing at tribunal
Critics in gallery challenge human rights bureaucracy
Joseph Brean, National Post, March 26

Justice a la carte
Encountering no significant public censure, on hot-button issues our courts routinely sacrifice individual rights to collectivist principles, favouring Quebec nationalism over individual non-francophones' rights, motherhood over individual fathers' rights and aboriginal culture over individual non-natives' rights. But amongst ideological dualists, for whom life is an unending struggle, with their valiant group's innocent vulnerability eternally pitted against the superior forces of an imperialist/patriarchalist/ colonialist oppressor, de facto privilege isn't enough; only de jure entrenchment will validate their group's moral superiority. Preparing the way: A rogue band of feminist law professionals and academics have formed the Women's Court of Canada (WCC). Their mission -- already in evidence in the current issue of Canadian Journal of Women and the Law-- is "to rewrite key Supreme Court of Canada decisions," and indeed "any judgment that could benefit from a gender-specific analysis."
Barbara Kay, National Post, March 26

A disaster for Canada's Human Rights Commission
Earlier this week, I argued that Canada's human-rights censors have managed a seemingly impossible task: They've found a way to rehabilitate the image of neo-Nazis, transforming them from odious dirtbags into principled free-speech martyrs. Case in point: At this week's much-anticipated human-rights hearing in Ottawa, a team of journalists and bloggers were campaigning openly in support of hatemonger Marc Lemire. The villains were Canadian Human Rights Commission (HRC) investigator Dean Steacy and the other apparatchik who've made a career out of parsing Lemire's phobic Web postings.
Jonathan Kay, National Post, March 28

University loses round on holiday policy
An Ontario Human Rights Commission investigation has found that York University's long-standing practice of cancelling classes on Jewish holidays discriminates against students of other religions. While the investigator's report must now go before the commissioners themselves for consideration, her findings are seen as vindication for York history professor David Noble, who has complained for years it is unfair for today's diverse multi-faith campus to scrap classes for three days and nights each year to honour one group's religious holy days, but not others.
Toronto Star, March 31

Human rights commissions behaving badly, the latest chapter
A generation ago, human-rights commissions were set up to ensure that Canadians weren't discriminated against in the provision of employment, housing and trade because of their race, religion or sex. But as with every other government program, the bureaucrats who manage the HRCs mushroomed their mandate to encompass as many aspects of our lives as possible. The latest example: An Ontario Human Rights Commission investigation has determined that York University is "discriminating" against its non-Jewish students by canceling classes on Jewish holidays.
Jonathan Kay, Full Comment, National Post, March 31

Canada caught in 'PC fever,' artist charges
In his last engagement with Canada, when he critiqued the Danish Muhammad cartoons for Harper's magazine in 2006, Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman found himself in the company of Adolf Hitler as one of the few authors to be banned from the Chapters-Indigo bookstore chain, which yanked the issue amid the global clamour. This week, as the author of the comic-book Holocaust memoir Maus arrives in Toronto for a lecture on free speech and censorship, he thinks the country is still "caught in some kind of PC [politically correct] fever," which is symptomatic of a deeper cultural illness. . . . He has been following, for example, the case of Ezra Levant, whose publication of the Muhammad cartoons in the Western Standard magazine is the subject of a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
National Post, April 2

Regulating speech that is not against any law
My misgivings about hate-speech legislation and Human Rights Commissions go back to 1977. In those days such laws seemed progressive. Only a few considered that compelling liberalism may be illiberal.
George Jonas, CanWest Publications, April 2

Far-right activist files complaint against human rights body
Marc Lemire, an online distributor of far-right propaganda whose hate-speech prosecution has galvanized criticism of Canada's human rights courts, yesterday filed criminal complaints against the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) over its alleged surreptitious use of a civilian's computer.
National Post, April 3

Rights commission accused of hijacking Internet link to log on to hate sites
A complaint to police alleges that federal human-rights investigators used an unwitting woman's wireless Internet connection to log on to white supremacist websites and make postings to chat groups. The complaint to the RCMP and Ottawa police was made this week by Toronto resident Mark Lemire, who runs a website that has been the subject of a long-standing hate case before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Canadian Press, April 3

Kangaroo court loses its bounce
Meanwhile, you can't but notice how few friends the "human rights" racket has. Almost everyone who speaks up for a system that drags Canada's biggest newsweekly into court for thought crimes turns out to be either a current or former beneficiary of the aforesaid system. Take, for example, our own letters page the other week.
Mark Steyn, Maclean's, April 4

Rights group defends itself
Facing calls for its abolition or reform, commission moves to rebut 'misinformation'
National Post, April 5

The Canadian Human Rights Commission still doesn't get it
The Canadian Human Rights Commission still doesn't get it. The problem isn't the foul-mouthed sneering racists among us; it's the CHRC.
Marni Soupcoff, National Post, April 7

The Ontario Human Rights Commission: Hey, we want to be in the censorship business, too!
In Ottawa, the attempted censorship of Canadian magazines in the name of "human rights" has caused such a backlash that some politicians are openly talking about amending the Human Rights Act (HRA). But the Ontario Human Rights Commission hasn't gotten the memo: In a politically tone-deaf statement released on Wednesday, the OHRC told Canadians that it covets the same censorship powers that have brought so much discredit to its counterparts in Ottawa and other provinces.
Jonathan Kay, National Post, April 9

April 10/2008