Liberal MP lauded by white supremacists
A Liberal MP is being hailed as a poster boy for free speech on a white supremacist website.
Victoria MP Keith Martin was praised Friday on stormfront.org, a website that proudly displays the logo "White pride world wide" and links to radio addresses by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Martin earned the dubious distinction after giving notice that he plans to introduce a private member's motion calling on the government to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The controversial section prohibits electronic communication of anything deemed "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt." It is at the heart of investigations by human rights tribunals into complaints against former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant and Maclean's magazine for publishing material some Muslim groups found offensive.
The cases of Levant and Maclean's writer Mark Steyn have sparked much furious debate, nowhere more so than among right-wing bloggers. They point to the cases as proof that the Canadian Human Rights Act is being used to gag free speech in general and Christian conservatives in particular.
The extreme right adherents at the stormfront were clearly thrilled to find a member of the Liberal party, which introduced the act and prides itself as the party of the Charter of Rights, joining their crusade.
"The sordid Soviet-style reign of terror by the Canadian Human Rights Commission is now out in the open," declares Paul Fromm in a posting on the website.
"The CHRC reign of thought control looks like a drying pool of vomit on the dirty floor of some dingy dive. Yes, it stinks and good men are beginning to speak up."
Fromm, a controversial anti-immigration and free speech activist who has been linked to neo-Nazi groups in the past, predicts it "may be easier" for Conservative MPs to back the motion because it's being introduced by a Liberal of "white and Indian [India] parentage."
The website urges readers to join a campaign to pressure their MPs to support Martin's motion.
For Martin, receiving praise from a white-supremacist group was both unwelcome and ironic.
"I'm a brown guy," he quipped in an interview.
More seriously, Martin said: "I'm hardly their poster boy. I fight and rail against what they stand for at every turn."
Nevertheless, Martin said he stands by his motion and won't be deterred from promoting it just because it happens to appeal to "some of these crazy, peripheral groups that have extremely bizarre and often offensive viewpoints."
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's office disavowed the motion and suggested Martin will be asked to withdraw it.
"This is not the position of the Liberal Party of Canada or the Liberal caucus or Mr. Dion," said spokeswoman Leslie Swartman.
"We support the Canadian Human Rights Act and will not entertain changes to it such as this."
Martin says he won't back down
But Martin said he won't back down, arguing that it's his right and duty as a parliamentarian to introduce private member's bills that address issues of importance to his constituents.
Martin said constituents first brought to his attention concerns that the human rights act is being abused by people who lodge frivolous complaints about something that offends them, sparking lengthy hearings in which the accused are forced to defend themselves at their own expense.
Martin noted there are laws against promoting hatred or slandering another person but human rights tribunals are going further, penalizing people for giving offence to someone else.
"I don't think any self-respecting democracy can trample on freedom of speech, outside of something that is considered slanderous or hate crimes which must be pursued through the courts," he said.
"To not be offended is not a right. Freedom of speech is a right."
NDP MP Wayne Marston said he was "deeply troubled that any Liberal" would try to weaken human rights legislation. While some complainants may try to abuse the act, Marston said his party has "great confidence" that human rights tribunals can weed out the frivolous complaints from the genuine ones.
"That's the role of the human rights commission to make that determination," he said.