Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free Mark Steyn!

Here's a link to a blog dedicated to the British Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal trial of Mark Steyn, which was covered in a strangely convoluted article on the front page of today's New York Times. Mark Steyn has his own account on his blog:

A note to our readers
Now that the first show trial is behind us, SteynOnline is going on hiatus for a while. I have to do some far-flung traveling in connection with a forthcoming project that would have been coming forth a whole lot sooner were it not for these thought-police investigations.

Thanks to everyone who's swung by these parts to read a column, enter a competition, buy a book or drop a missive to Mark's Mailbox, and in so doing helped make this last year our most successful yet. I'm especially grateful to all those who chose to express their support by buying America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It and much else during last week's farce in Vancouver. We don't have a legal defense fund and, to be honest, I far prefer it, if you want to chip in, that you get a book or a T-shirt or a mug in return. That way we all win.

However, if you are anxious to help the cause, a good way to do so is to donate to the Freedom Five - the handful of bloggers targeted by Richard Warman, the man who embodies what's gone wrong with Canadian "human rights". Please feel free to toss a buck or two the way of Ezra, Kate, Kathy, and Connie and Mark at Free Dominion. They could use some help.

In the meantime, check the Binkmeister at Free Mark Steyn! for daily updates on the campaign to restore free speech to Canada. And check in with my pals at The Corner for all the fun, frivolity and sheer despair of Campaign 2008.

See you soon,

For some background, here's an excerpt from Rich Lowry's June 10th New York Post column about Steyn's case:
The piece was obviously within respectable journalistic bounds. In fact, combining hilarity and profound social analysis, the article could be considered a sparkling model of the polemical art - not surprising, given that Steyn is one of North America's journalistic gems.

The Canadian Islamic Congress took offense. In the normal course of things, that would mean speaking or writing to counter Steyn. But not in 21st century Canada, where the old liberal rallying cry "I hate what you say, but will fight for your right to say it" no longer applies.

The country is dotted with human-rights commissions. At first, they typically heard discrimination suits against businesses. But since that didn't create much work, the commissions branched out into policing "hate" speech. Initially, they targeted neo-Nazis; then religious figures who'd condemned homosexuality; and now Maclean's and Steyn.

The new rallying cry is, "If I hate what you say, I'll accuse you of hate." The Canadian Islamic Council got the Human Rights Tribunal in British Columbia and the national Canadian Human Rights Commission (where proceedings are still pending) to agree to hear its complaint. It had to like its odds.

The national commission has never found anyone innocent in 31 years. It is set up for classic Alice-in-Wonderland "verdict first, trial later" justice: Canada's Human Rights Act defines hate speech as speech "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt." That language is so capacious and vague that to be accused is tantamount to being found guilty.
Unlike in defamation law, truth is no defense, and there's no obligation to prove harm. One of the principal investigators of the Canadian Human Rights Commission was asked in a hearing what value he puts on freedom of speech in his work, and replied, "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." Clearly.
Here's a question that I haven't seen asked anywhere: What's the position of international activist groups like Human Rights Watch regarding this case? For the Right to Free Speech--or against it?

UPDATE: I sent this email to Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the Committee to Protect Journalists:
Dear Press Officer:

Has Human Rights Watch issued a report on the Canadian trial of Mark Steyn in today's NY Times? There are human rights claims on both sides of the case, so I would think it would be of interest to your organization.

If not, why not?

Thank you.

Laurence Jarvik
So far, I have received only one reply, from Reporters Without Borders (RSF):
Yes Sir, we are following the case with our canadian section in Montreal. Best regards
Benoît Hervieu
Despacho Américas / Americas desk
Reporters sans frontières
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris - France

tél. : +33 (0) 1 44 83 84 68
fax : +33 (0) 1 45 23 11 51
e-mail :
Will keep readers posted, should any further responses come in...