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Show Trial

By David Warren

The writings of Canada's most talented journalist, Mark Steyn, went on trial in Vancouver on Monday, in a case designed to challenge freedom of the press. It is a show trial, under the arbitrary powers given to Canada's obscene "human rights" commissions, by Section 13 of our Human Rights Act.

I wrote "obscene" advisedly. Before Canada's "human rights" tribunals, a respondent has none of the defences formerly guaranteed in common law. The truth is no defence, reasonable intention is no defence, nor material harmlessness, there are no rules of evidence, no precedents, nor case law of any kind. The commissars running the tribunals need have no legal training, exhibit none, and owe their appointments to networking among leftwing activists.

I wrote "show trial" advisedly, for there has been a 100 percent conviction rate in cases brought to "human rights" tribunals under Section 13.

Take this in:

A group of Islamist fanatics, claiming to speak for every Muslim in Canada, charged Maclean's magazine with "spreading hatred against Muslims" for having printed a lucid and reasonable (if controversial) excerpt from Steyn's bestselling book, America Alone. This is a news story that should be on the front page of every newspaper in Canada, every day until it is resolved.

Everything about this case stinks to high heaven. It was brought before three different "human rights" tribunals simultaneously. The British Columbian venue was openly "jurisdiction shopped" because the province's human rights tribunals have an especially egregious record for ignoring respondents' most basic charter rights. The charges were brought more than a year after the article appeared. There was an open attempt at extortion, when representatives of the complainant called a press conference in which an offer was made to retract the charges for unspecified considerations. And so on: a layering of affronts to the most elementary standards of justice and decency.

The case is the more ludicrous because the allegations brought are semi-literate (for instance, Steyn's quotations of lunatic Islamist imams are confused with Steyn's own assertions). The remedies sought keep changing; the arguments keep changing; the explanation of why the complainant has brought the case and what he hopes to gain from it has kept changing. And now the show trial has begun, the prosecution is presenting a parade of entirely irrelevant testimony. (Has Steyn properly understood the Koran? Etc.)

A farce, but a farce that has huge consequences for Canada: for by such methods free speech and free press are being snuffed out. The Left may think they have found the ideal method to silence anyone who challenges their insane, "politically correct" ideas, but have instead created a monster that can as easily eat them next.

This is a disaster also for Canada's Muslims, for the views of fanatical Islamists are being presented as representative of them all. No single person has done so much to advance contempt for Islam in this country as Mohamed Elmasry, president of the "Canadian Islamic Congress," the complainant in this case -- whose public assertions have included e.g. the view that every Israeli citizen is a valid target for Palestinian hitmen.

The bland acceptance of this jackass, by mainstream Canadian media, as the definitive spokesman for Muslim interests in Canada, cannot be blamed on the Muslim community. Innumerable Muslims have disavowed him, and yet are entirely ignored. Indeed: Mark Steyn has been among the few journalists distinguishing between camps. He would be: for he has plenty of Muslim supporters.

There is some good news. It appears the Harper government has finally been goaded into calling a public inquiry into proceedings of at least the federal "human rights" commission. Some good may come from public confirmation of the outrageous, often sick behaviour of its members and hangers-on -- which Canada's leading bloggers have been documenting.

But the problem is at once more urgent and much broader than any carefully-focused inquiry can present. For what radical activists have achieved through "human rights" commissions is now endemic, in all kinds of "star chamber" and "kangaroo court" operations, in everything from the tax system to provisions of family law.

Another crucial point:

While media attention to Mark Steyn's show trial is inadequate (it is getting more attention in the United States than up here), it is nevertheless the best publicized case ever to come before our "human rights" bureaucracies. Most of the victims of these neo-Maoist tribunals have been "little people," with nothing like the resources Maclean's magazine has put in play to defend itself and Steyn, and no media reporting whatever. They have been persecuted, stripped of their livelihoods and savings, demonized among their neighbours, made to endure humiliating "re-education" programmes -- without lawyers, without assistance of any kind -- all for exercising rights that any Canadian would have taken for granted a mere generation ago.

I want justice for Mark Steyn. But I also want justice for all these little people, who have been crushed under the jackboot of "political correction."

otiosus@sympatico.ca

© Ottawa Citizen


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