". . . to judge from the two times they muted their line for private discussions about what they should or should not say, and from the conspiratorial whispering that could be heard in the background during the call, their confidence masked deep concern for the CHRC's public reputation.
That reputation has taken a beating in the past few weeks. Calls for the abolition or reform of the federal and provincial human rights commissions have grown as hate speech laws designed for racist propagandists have been used against mainstream journalists, notably the staff of Maclean's magazine, who are accused of Islamophobic hate messages by the Canadian Islamic Congress for, among other things, columns and a book review.
Mark Steyn, author of the most controversial Maclean's story, calls the commissions 'kangaroo courts.' Ezra Levant, who is defending himself against a hate speech charge for publishing the Danish Muhammad cartoons, has been leading a campaign of what he calls 'denormalizing' the commissions, making them seem an affront to Canadian values, rather than a buttress."
"Vulgar racists of the sort quoted by Mr. Fine are one thing, but main-stream conservative polemicists such as Mr. Steyn or publishers such as Mr. Levant seem to be of a different order, and it is on this point that the commission staff were most evasive."
It's all about power. The Commission has no trouble with destroying the lives of some young people publishing silly websites from their parents' basements, websites seen by dozens of people at most, but ran into trouble when the hate went mainstream, when the order from the Settler Movement in Israel went out and it became necessary to use the mainstream media to spread hatred against Muslims. What happens when the 'racist propagandists' are 'mainstream journalists'? That's when the discussion grows 'conspiratorial'. The Commission has been used as an instrument of the powerful for so long that it is institutionally unable to deal with the problems which arise when it offends the powerful.
There is a good argument to be made that almost all the usual targets of the Commission should be left alone, but a guy like Steyn - famous in a world that includes Bill Kristol and Richard Perle and Max Boot of being the single stupidest prognosticator of the success of the American attack on Iraq - is a real hatemonger, just the target of appropriate legal sanctions on hate speech. After all, Steyn's 'war on terror' approach - the idea that Europe's 'way of life' is being ruined by the brown army of Muslims moving in and taking over - fosters hatred of Muslims that is intended to lead to state actions against Muslims and Middle Eastern countries, the kind of violence which real anti-hate legislation should be working to stop. Based on an analysis of real power, 'mainstream' Steyn, not a handful of utterly powerless neo-Nazis, is the guy who should be sanctioned. It was only when the Commission got in the way of the campaign to promote Israeli colonialism by fostering world-wide hatred of Muslims that hate crime legislation suddenly became a political issue in Canada. The members of the Commission are learning some real lessons in power.