Writers call for probe into human rights commission
Two writers appeared before the justice committee on Monday, repeating their call for a repeal of a controversial section of the Human Rights Act, and asking for a probe into the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn are also calling for the elimination of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which allows the commission to investigate allegations of hate speech.
"I think a very practical, doable thing for this committee and for Parliament would be to repeal Section 13 of the Human Rights Act altogether, to leave any hate speech prosecutions to the Criminal Code with its proper checks and balances, and frankly, to bring in a forensic audit to the Human Rights Commission to examine the allegations that I have made," Levant told the commission.
Levant is alleging that employees of the commission belong to neo-Nazi organizations, an accusation he made in July in a National Post column.
Some committee members, like New Democrat MP Joe Comartin, seemed incredulous at the accusation.
"I think I like everybody sitting at this table are at some disadvantage, Mr. Levant and Mr. Steyn, in terms of the accusations that you're making against members of the commission and their staff."
Levant offered to give MPs documents to back his accusations and come back to testify once they had read them.
Levant was subject of a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission under the act for reprinting the provocative Danish Muhammad cartoons in his magazine in 2006. He published the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the now defunct Western Standard, arguing that they were "the central fact in the largest news story of the month."
A complaint was launched by the Canadian Islamic Congress against Steyn for an article he wrote titled "The Future Belongs to Islam" and posted on the magazine's website in October 2006.
The article, an excerpt of a book authored by Steyn, talks about Islam being a threat to North American institutions and values. It used statistics to show higher birth rates plus immigration mean Muslims will outnumber followers of other religions in Western Europe.
Both complaints were eventually dismissed.
But Levant and Steyn argue that they should not have been investigated in the first place.
Steyn said it is hard to defend against a complaint to the human rights commission.
"Truth is no defence, so you can make a statement, every aspect of which is factually accurate, and if certain people decide they are going to be offended by it, the factual accuracy of that is irrelevant."
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh asked why they were recommending the abolition of Section 13, instead of amending it.
"So you believe there then should be nothing between absolute free speech and the Criminal Code provisions?" he asked.
But Steyn said society can deal with hate speech.
"I prefer social disapproval, activist parents, a school board firing, to a law restricting what individuals can say and think."