Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ending Human Rights Commission Censorship

Alan Shanoff, who acted for three decades as the Sun media chain's newsroom lawyer, writes a convincing column on the need for reform of the Human Rights Commissions, saying, as I have, that real hate speech should be prosecuted under the Criminal Code. Human Rights Commissions have no business censoring the press. The most blatant and reckless example was the Ontario Human Rights Commission's drive-thru "verdict" on Mark Steyn, in which his writing was condemned as racist and Islamophobic without the benefit of anything remotely resembling due process.

3 comments:

warren said...

Fair enough. But I have enrolled in your class, and am asking you this question:

"Prof. Bourrie, should the media be made legislatively exempt from the reach of certain aspects of the law - criminally, administratively, civilly? Is that fair?

"More particularly, would it survive for one minute after a Charter challenge?"

Ottawa Watch said...

Do you have a receipt for your fees?

NThe media are not above the law. Censorship of sorts will always need to exist, but there must be due process and there must be a weighing of the benefits of press freedom (especially the public's right to be informed) against the rationale for the censorship.
As in wartime censorship, there must also be clear rules, not ad-hoc rulings made without any public discussion and fair dealing. This was not the case in the OHC press release in the Maclean's complaint. There were very good reasons why the wartime censors opposed censoring opinion. You can read them in my next book.

MJMartin said...

This is a touchy subject. But I don't think the intention was to presume any media exemption from law.

Being an American I'm kind of on the outside looking in but that may serve as a constructive angle. And I agree with Mr. Bourrie that Human Rights Commissions have no business in hate speech. Let them deal with real human rights issues.

In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms it states:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

This statement seems to leave an awful lot of gray area for political influence and subjective manipulation in dealing with potential violations. What are "reasonable limits" and what can be "demonstrably justified"? Whomever is interpreting potential violations against the Charter is at liberty to decide, on their own prejudices no less.