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Abolishing Canada’s Human Rights Commissions


Rebecca Walberg’s piece on the problem of Canadian Human Rights Commissions is a must read. Like a couple of other Canadian columnists I’ve linked to, Walberg would like to see the case against Mark Steyn and Maclean’s become an occasion for the abolition of Canadian HRC’s. She also admits that this will not be easily achieved.

Alright, other than merely wishing it so, how could the case against Steyn and Maclean’s be turned into a moment for putting an end to Canada’s Human Rights Commissions? Well, how about a stance of total non-cooperation? Important as Mark Steyn himself is in all this, strategically speaking it seems to me that Maclean’s is the key player. It is, after all, the most important magazine in Canada. So, what if Maclean’s were to refuse to acknowledge the authority of any Canadian Human Rights Commission? That is, what if Maclean’s were to refuse to formally answer charges, appear before hearings, participate in mediation, etc.? In effect, what if Maclean’s dared Canada’s HRC’s to impose the worst conceivable penalties, call in the regular courts…whatever, then just went on ignoring it all? What if the editor-in-chief were willing to go to jail?

In the meantime, Maclean’s could continuously make a public case that the very existence of complaints such as the one brought against it–and commissions that take such complaints seriously–is incompatible with free speech. That would force a choice between the Human Rights Commissions themselves and the very existence of Canada’s leading magazine of public affairs. This, in turn, would force the issue of the existence Human Rights Commissions into the public glare.

My sense is that in any such showdown, Maclean’s would win. Would Canada dare shut down Maclean’s, or jail its editor, over this complaint? I doubt it. Even floating these possibilities would turn the attack on Steyn and Maclean’s into the top public issue in Canada, and would thereby force the country to reconsider the very existence of Human Rights Commissions.

Obviously, this is a high-risk strategy. It’s easy to advise, but tough to carry out. As an outsider, my judgement about who would actually win the sort of ultimate showdown precipitated by total non-cooperation might be off-base. I simply put the idea out there for the consideration of those who know Maclean’s and Canada better than I.

One thing I feel pretty confident of at this point, however, is my reading of the stakes in this conflict. After taking in the complaint against Steyn, Canadian columns on this case, the broader background (especially this horrific and debilitating decision) and Walberg’s article today, it’s obvious that Canadian freedom of speech has entered its final showdown. I’m only a little bit joking when I say that if the Steyn case is even given a serious hearing, Freedom House may need to consider taking Canada’s ranking down a peg. Sadly, the stakes at this point are huge. And for that very reason, it seems to me, a high-risk strategy of total non-cooperation by Maclean’s may be both justified and necessary.


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