‘Major overhaul of human rights commissions urgently needed,’
says B’nai Brith Canada
TORONTO, July 31, 2008 – B’nai Brith Canada, an organization long concerned with the defence and improvement of Canada’s human rights system, is calling for “urgent reform” of human rights commissions. The Jewish human rights group has successfully brought cases before human rights commissions and tribunals, which it says “have historically played an important role in combating Nazism and neo-Nazi ideologies”. B’nai Brith Canada has called on the Canadian Human Rights Commission to seize the opportunity provided by the current review it has undertaken to “make real changes that will ensure its relevancy into the future”.
“We are calling for a much-needed overhaul of the protections offered by the human rights commission system,” said Frank Dimant , Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada . “We have to ensure that commissions do not become abusers of the very human rights they are charged with protecting.
“New challenges demand new solutions. Only through a process of modernization and reform can Canada ’s human rights system continue to play its vital role in protecting Canadians from hatred.”
David Matas, B’nai Brith Canada ’s Senior Legal Counsel and world-renowned human rights activist, has called on the commission system to “implement urgent reforms as a matter of top priority.”
Among the changes that B’nai Brith Canada is advocating, Matas highlighted the following:
“Commissions cannot become avenues of harassment in which complaints are simultaneously made in several jurisdictions. The remedy is to introduce rules that will allow for one jurisdiction only.
“Commissions do not operate in a vacuum and must have an understanding of the geo-political context within which they operate. The remedy for ignorance is education and training. Investigators must be required to undertake compulsory in-house courses that meet these needs. They must always be able to distinguish between hate and protected political speech.
“Costs must be levied against those whose clear aim is to abuse the system by launching attacks designed to harass bona fide respondents. This would be a deterrent against those who deliberately seek to hijack and corrupt the human rights system in pursuit of their own ideological bent.”
B’nai Brith Canada will shortly be submitting a full brief on this issue to University of Windsor Law Professor , Richard J. Moon, who was hired by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to conduct a review of the Commission’s mandate to combat hatred.