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.

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