Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keith Martin on Human Rights Commission Censorship

From a scrum today in the House of Commons foyer


Question:
What did you think of the Justice Department's intervention on the Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 13?

Keith Martin:
Well, I was very disappointed with the Justice Department intervention. I think they made a significant error. They were confusing hate crimes with the stated intent of the Human Rights Commission which is -- particularly Section 13-1 which refers to dealing with statements that are made that could offend a group of people. In the Justice Committee's -- in the Justice Department's missive, they spoke a lot about hate crimes but they also spoke about the issue of writing things that could offend people so they were very confusing in their submission and I think it'll be wonderful if the Justice Committee here in Parliament actually does a public examination of the Canadian -- Canada Human Rights Commission. That's what I've written to the Justice Committee to do and I hope that the Justice Committee members have a public hearing on the Canada Human Rights Commission so that those who are for it and those who are against the status quo will have their day to express their views on the Commission which I think that the Canada Human Rights Commission has gone far beyond and away from what its original mandate was intended to be.

Question:
Were you shocked to find out that the Justice Department's own filings said truth and fair comment are no defence?

Keith Martin:
Well, there were a lot of things in the Justice Department's missive which I find absolutely shocking. Not only that but about blithely talking about restrictions on freedom of expression. That has absolutely nothing to do with hate crimes, nothing to do with hate crimes and nothing to do with hate speech whatsoever. So the Justice Department's missive really was a trampling of basic human rights, human rights that are enshrined in our Charter and I was very disturbed by their intervention. So I'm hoping that our Justice Committee actually reviews the Commission and hopefully they'll be able to -- that we'll be able to bring in members from the Justice Department to be able to account for their statements.

Question:
The first thing that happened when you raised the issue of repealing Section 13-1 of the Human Rights Act was you were linked with white supremacists and you were out there for people to support the KKK. Do you think the Conservative government is afraid to even touch this issue because they're afraid of being associated with the same thing?

Keith Martin:
I think Mr. Harper has told Mr. Nicholson, our Justice Minister, to put a muzzle on their MPs. But the Conservative MPs, as many members in my caucus, have expressed deep concerns about where the Canada Human Rights Commission has gone. They have expressed a great deal of support for my motion to remove Section 13-1 from the Act. And I think that's a fair thing to do would be to have this out and open. Have a public hearing through the Justice Committee and televise it so that Canadians coast to coast can hear those who believe that the status quo is acceptable and those of us who believe that the Human Rights Act has to be amended to ensure that we have freedom of speech because in my view freedom of speech is being trampled in Canada right now.

Question:
What are the chances that the Justice Committee will take a look at this because they've been a pretty dysfunctional committee up until now?

Keith Martin:
I think -- I've spoken to members on the Justice Committee and there's a great deal of support across party lines to deal with this because members on the Justice Committee recognize that the removal of Section 13-1 and an investigation of the Canada Human Rights Commission is in support of that fundamental human right, the right to freedom of speech. And they recognize that it is our responsibility to defend this right, a right that Canadians bled for and fought for over two world wars and that it is our responsibility in this House of Commons to defend that right.

Question:
Now at the very end of the Justice Department brief it talks about how the law is settled as if to even inquire about this or to take it up to go to the Supreme Court again would be an abuse of process. What do you think of that?

Keith Martin:
Well, laws can be changed and the Human Rights Commission, Canada Human Rights Commission came about at a time with very laudable goals. The goals were to ensure that people had recourse if they were being discriminated against, against employment -- in employment or in housing. Those are laudable goals that we embrace and fully support but over time their actions and mandate have changed and some of the actions that they've been taking of late have been very disturbing I think to a lot of us and to a lot of Canadians. So that's why I put forth the motion to remove Section 13-1 but I think taking it to the Justice Committee, having a public and televised assessment of the proceedings, having an examination of the Canada Human Rights Act and the Commission will serve the Canadian public and serve the fundamental rights that are the pillars of our democracy.

Question:
Whatare you going to be also -- hope that the Justice Committee will invest some of their abuse of process as well, for instance the way they handle evidence, their allegations of (inaudible) going on line to entrap people and make (inaudible) comments themselves that are hateful, the whole idea that you're guilty until proven innocent. It's almost like a reverse of the judgment. Are you going to take a look at that if you're successful in getting this (inaudible) committee?

Keith Martin:
All these things are very disturbing and that's why I'm bringing this up so that we can take a look at the Canada Human Rights Act and also the Canada Human Rights Commission and the committee is a master of its own destiny. It will do what it feels it should do and it's up to the members. But I'm almost certain that they will take a look at all of those and do a very profound dissection of the Canada Human Rights Commission, of what they're doing, of what they're not doing in the defence of the true rights of our country.

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