Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Canada's Conservative government tries to avoid free speech debate

It seems Canada's Conservative government doesn't have the stomach to deal with Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act that deals with hate speech and has led to Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant being the subject of complaints before human rights commissions.

Two weeks ago, a Liberal MP, Keith Martin, announced he would table a motion to have section 13 removed. His motion was met with derision from a Canadian Press story that focused on white supremacist support for the motion.

Martin's motion has raised questions with grassroots conservatives about whether the minority Conservative government in Ottawa would back Martin's motion when it comes up for debate. Now a Canadian blogger has obtained the government's talking points and it appears the Tories are whimping out.

It appears the Harper government doesn't have the political stomach right now to engage in any kind of major defense of free speech rights in Canada. NoApologies.ca has obtained a copy of a document circulated to all Conservative MP's from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's office late last week.

The document is entitled "Talking points re: CHRA & CHRC", and it basically instructs MP's to keep a very low profile on any discussion surrounding Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

. . .

As for the specifics of Martin's motion, the MP's are instructed to say that the motion was "just recently tabled and will not be up for debate in the near future," and that they should assure their constituents that if and when the issue "comes before the house for debate, (they) will follow it closely and.. arrive at a position at that time."

The document also instructs MP's to essentially shift the focus away from the Section 13 discussion by talking about the government's ongoing efforts to repeal Section 67 of the Act. That section essentially exempts First Nations from any and all provisions or enforcement of the Act in cases where discrimination happens on native land. Nicholson's document says that Section of the Act essentially prevents First Nations people "from receiving the same legal protection against discrimination that is afforded to all other Canadians," and that MP's should use the line "My Canada includes First Nations" when discussing the Section 67 issue.

Ezra Levant, who worked for one of Conservative legacy parties in Ottawa once, is not happy with his party's talking points.

I say again I don't know who wrote these empty talking points, or when. But when every medium in the country, from the Globe and Mail to the Toronto Star to the National Post, are united in calling for an amendment of section 13, surely a little bit of political courage can be expected from a government calling itself Conservative.

I've had enough contact with various MPs and staff in Ottawa to know that these talking points do not reflect the whole picture of the government's thinking. At least I hope they don't. I have one talking point of my own that I'd send over:

"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack o­n our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff." -- Stephen Harper, B.C. Report Newsmagazine, January 11, 1999

Don't want to say I told you so, Ezra, but I told you so.

1 comment:

Marc L said...

Talk about trying to make something out of nothing, and looking for a needle in a haystack against the government.

It's of no use supporting this motion if any changes that it would bring would get stalled in our undemocratic Senate.