Reply from an M.P.

As you know I sent an e-mail to Nina Grewal (my M.P.) a few weeks ago in regards to the “case” against Ezra Levant before the Alberta Human Rights Commission (you can read my reaction to it here).  A similar case is currently proceeding against Mark Steyn.  A few weeks later I sent a follow up e-mail (just in case my first one got lost in the ether).

Greetings; I would just like to inquire as to what your progress on the matter in the attached e-mail has been.Also.  I noticed the other day that your colleague Mr. Keith Martin has entered a private members motion: M-446 — January 30, 2008 — Mr. Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) — That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act. I was wondering where you stood on this.  While I believe that the Human Rights Act is important, I could not figure out the purpose behind subsection 13, especially after finding out that a single person brought up nearly all the cases in which it was the primary issue.I look forward to your input on this.

Noah D. Arney

Just the other day I received a letter from my M.P.  I assumed it would be one of her mailings which I receive regularly, but in fact she had taken the time to send me a letter rather than an e-mail in response to my questions.  As I posted the original e-mail to her, I also am attaching a transcript of her letter.

6 February 2008

 Noah Arney

(Address removed)

Dear Mr. Arney:

Thank you very much for your recent correspondence concerning complaints before Canadian human rights commissions.

In recent weeks I have read several news articles expressing concern over the decisions of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and several of its provincial counterparts to proceed with complaints against Macleans Magazine and Ezra Levant and the Western Standard.  In the Macleans case the Canadian Islamic Congress alleges that an article published last year, excerpted from Mark Steyn’s book America Alone, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia.”  In the other case, the Alberta Human Rights Commission is considering whether or not to proceed with a complaint over a decision by Mr. Levant to publish the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

The federal and provincial governments established human rights commissions in the 1960s and 1970s to investigate complaints of discrimination.  In the case of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Act sets out the commission’s responsibilities.  Complaints may relate to employment, or to the provision of goods, services, facilities and accommodation that are customarily available to the general public.  Complaints of discrimination may be made based on race, national and ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.  The commission also has a statutory responsibility to foster public understanding and recognition of the principles of the Act.

I believe there is still a very important role to be played by human rights commissions.  There are, however, areas where reform may be required; specifically the willingness of commissions to consider questions relating to freedom of speech.  I am worried that by censoring one kind of expression, it will be easier to start censoring others.

I feel it may be appropriate at this time for the Minister of Justice to undertake a broad review of the Canadian Human Rights Act including those sections of the Act dealing with the Human Rights Commission.  A fundamental review by Parliament is needed to ensure that the commission remains true to the intentions of Parliamentarians.

As for Mr. Martin’s private member’s motion, M-446, repealing section 13 of the Canada Human Rights Act, it was just recently tabled and will not be up for debate in the near future.  Enacted in 1977, the original purpose of s. 13 was to deal with “telephone hate lines.”  The legislation was extended in 2001 to cover hate messaging on the Internet (s. 13(2)).

Section 13 provides:

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

I can assure you that when this motion comes before the House of Commons for debate, I will follow it closely and will arrive at a position at that time after careful considering on the arguments for and against its implementation.

Thank you again for writing to me and expressing your views on this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

Nina Grewal

Member of Parliament

Fleetwood-Port Kells

Well.  That was a bit long, but important it.  It’s good to remember that our MPs are just as interested in these matters as we are.  Also, Ms. Grewal is wonderful.  Thank you.

Prep Room Discussions and Grading

I originally posted this on a Ning site that we use for classroom discussions in my Educational Psych class. Today there was an interesting discussion in the English/social studies prep room at my school. Someone brought up how grades were posted, and that most teachers posted them by student number (essentially alphabetically). One teacher though posted them that way and then highlighted in one colour those getting As, and in another colour those failing. A second teacher posts his grades sorted by grade. This lead to a discussion of the purpose of grades. Grades seem to be a motivation for students. But what we decided on was that it wasn’t just the grade, it was the competition for the grade. Competition was the motivator, not grades. I brought up that I felt it was doing a disservice to the students to assume that they can’t be intrinsically motivated. I said that in a Pass/Fail system students may start to loose their grade focus, and instead compete for doing individual assignments better than others, giving students for whom competition is the motivator more frequent chances for reward from their competition, rather than competing solely for the final grade. It’s an interesting thought about what motivates our students to do well. I think that if grades are the main motivator, then we as members of the education system have failed them. But really, think about it. What is the purpose of a grade?

Grades? What Grades?

Why do we give students grades? Wait, no, that’s not it.  I understand why we give students grades, what I don’t understand is why we use the traditional A through F system. It seems to discourage cooperation, and provide yet another thing for students to make fun of each other over. I believe that we should go to a Pass Fail system, with a few alterations.  I don’t mean that we should get rid of numerical marking.  I think that many people use this correctly.  Numerical marking allows students to see where they are in comparison to the standard.  What I do not agree with is when it is used to see where students are in comparison to others.  A pass, then, should be 60% and higher (perhaps even 70%?).  This way in order to pass you must actually have achieved a level of ability that will allow the students to move to the next level of classes. Grades should be used to help students, not to label them.  Provincial exam marks have taken the place of actual GPA in deciding if someone can attend a particular university, so why bother with them? Perhaps it is in fact to encourage competition.  Maybe people believe that students wont work hard unless there is a grade attached?  I believe that students will always find a way to compete, and that our focus on grades has simply made that the reason for competition.  But in reality we’ll see how my opinion changes as I work in the schools.  Maybe I’ll find the reason for grades.

Letter to an MP

In regards to my previous post.  I am so frustrated I just sent an e-mail to my MP Nina Grewal.  You can read the text below. 

Greetings; My name is Noah Arney.  I love this country.  I am proud to have become a Canadian.  I am proud to live in this great land.  I am proud that our country is free.  That we are not persecuted for our expressions of personal beliefs.  I am proud that newspapers are allowed to publish the truth and fact without fear of reprisal.  I am proud that if there is a news story, our news media have the right to tell us about it, to give us the facts, and to let us decide what we believe.And then I found out about the case of Ezra Levant.  And I felt shame for being in a country that is trying to take away someone’s right to publish the news. Ezra Levant is currently before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing a set of cartoons in his newspaper, a set of cartoons which made headlines around the world.  And he was publishing them so that people could see what the news was about.  They were published to illustrate an article that was about the impact of those same cartoons. Why, in our free country, is a man being persecuted for publishing the news?I do not agree with everything Mr. Levant says, or even most of what he says, but this is a free country, and he has a right to say it. Please look into this.  Please bring this up in parliament.  Please stop our system from being corrupted.  And please give our country its honor back.  Noah D. Arney

Human Rights vs. Hurt Feelings?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 2(b)  “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

I love this country.  Here we have the Charter which says that this is a free country, and we have places like the Human Rights Commission to make sure that no one’s rights or freedoms are violated. And then I read something like this.  Ezra Levant is being taken before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing the Danish cartoons that caused so much hubbub for their portrayal of Mohamed.  So apparently someone felt offended that someone would publish a news item in a news paper…. Ya know, I saw the cartoons in my university paper and they weren’t offensive at all.  Nor were they inciting hatred or anything similar.  They were just political cartoons, rather tame ones even. So this is actually being heard by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, even though they are essentially saying that the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” only exist if you’re not offending someone. So this suit has gone forward, one which would have been dismissed by any actual judge in a split second, and Mr. Levant has had his first day before the Commission, which was taped and is available on his blog.  If you don’t have much time, at least read his opening statements here.