Canada

Backdoor censorship attempt finally rejected

After a year long investigation, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission has rejected (via) a disingenuous complaint by the Edmonton Council of Muslim Canadians against former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant over his re-publication of the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

Yasmeen Nizam, a civil litigation lawyer in Edmonton and a director of the council of Muslim Canadians, aid the council decided to bring a human-rights complaint because, unlike criminal hate-speech prosecutions, the publishers intent doesnt matter.

Enforcing censorship is not a human right

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has dismissed (via) a Muslim groups complaint against Macleans magazine.

The Canadian Islamic Congress had objected to an article published in October 2006 claiming that it would expose Muslims to hatred and contempt. The article, entitled The Future Belongs to Islam, by Mark Steyn claimed that Muslims are on the verge of dominating Europe and the West because of a demographic shift.

On its website, Macleans released a statement noting satisfaction with the CHRC decision.

Though gratified by the decision, Macleans continues to assert that no human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nations media, said the statement.

And we continue to have grave concerns about a system of complaint and adjudication that allows a media outlet to be pursued in multiple jurisdictions on the same complaint, brought by the same complainants.

Steyn and others including editors at Macleans have said the issue is not the articles merits or its viewpoint. They are concerned that such human rights tribunals could suppress free speech.

A Canadian cartoon controversy

Nova Scotias leading newspaper, the Chronicle Herald, is being hauled before that provinces human rights commissions for publishing the cartoon you see on the left.

The cartoon depicts 44 year old Muslim convert, Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal who said she “wants millions” in compensation from the federal government for the suffering her family allegedly went through after her husband was arrested in 2006 in an anti-terrorism raid.

The cartoon by Bruce Mackinnon was printed on April 18, and immediately drew the ire of Zia Khan of the Centre for Islamic Development who claimed that it went beyond the boundaries of free speech. Which it clearly doesnt.

According to Khan, quoting someone in a cartoon is extremely offensive and has “far-reaching implications”.

This is a horrendous thing in this day and age where you are feeding the seeds of hatred toward a whole community of 1.8 billion people.

This is clearly nonsense and the cartoon is a comment on a single individual and has no bearing on any wider community, Muslim or otherwise.

Dan Leger, director of news content for The Chronicle Herald, has said the newspaper would vigorously defend the cartoon and that investigating the editorial content of a newspaper does not fall within the commission’s mandate.

Spokeswoman Theresa Rath of Halifax Regional Police said officers are investigating a complaint under Section 318 of the Criminal Code, which deals with hate propaganda. That section says: Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The pernicious effect of legislating political correctness

A Seattle Times editorial (via) notes that author and columnist, Mark Steyn has fallen foul of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

Steyn, who is well known for his outspoken opinions, suggests in his most recent book, America Alone, that Muslims will swarm over Europe, ban alcohol and put women in veils. Macleans magazine printed an excerpt and Canadian Islamists decided to take offence and complain to human-rights tribunals in Ottawa and the provinces.

Steyns book may well be hateful in some way. The Seattle Times thought the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were hateful, and did not reprint them. That was one newspapers decision. In Canada, the law makes such questions the governments decision.
British Columbia now bans all words and images likely to expose a person to hatred or contempt because of race, religion, age, disability, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. This sounds like a libel law for groups, except that libel is a misstatement of fact that damages an individual reputation. In the United States, for a public figure to be libelled, the false statement has to be made maliciously or recklessly.

The Canadian idea of hate speech is less specific and more dangerous. Hate is like obscenity, about which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said, I know it when I see it. The difference is that a ban on obscenity does not touch political discourse, and a ban on hate does.

It also sets up government for open ridicule. Steyn is gleefully marketing his book as a Canadian hate crime and daring the tribunal to pronounce him bad.

Racial harmony in Canada would have been safer had the question never become official.

Canadian Muslims support free speech

The Muslim Canadian Congress has expressed (via) shock and disappointment at the move by Islamic countries to bulldoze the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) into approving a resolution curtailing freedom of speech under the guise of protecting religion.

The resolution approved at the UNHRC and initiated by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is disingenuously titled Combating Defamation of Religion.” However, the fact is that the OIC resolution is nothing more than a cover to silence opponents of Islamist oppression inside Muslim countries, as well as in the West.

The MCC in a statement said the UNHRC resolution instead of protecting the right to freedom of conscience and religious expression, will become a tool in the hands of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the world jihadi movement to strike fear among the opponents of Islamic extremism. The move is a retrogressive step greatly undermining the rights of individuals who believe in questioning, evaluating and challenging religious dogma. Many Islamic countries have no qualms in executing their Muslim citizens on trumped up charges of apostasy and using it to instill fear in the hearts and minds of Muslims who reject the tyranny of man-made Sharia law of the 12th century, and it being applied in the 21st.

The MCC is also calling on the Canadian government to follow Britains example and repeal the countrys blasphemy laws. They rightly point out that these laws exist purely for the benefit of the Church of England and have no place in pluralistic societies guaranteeing freedom of belief and conscience.

Canada cracks down on film

Canadian Heritage officials confirmed (via) on Thursday they will be expanding slightly the criteria used for denying tax credits to include grounds such as gratuitous violence, significant sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group.

Arts groups are planning to fight the change and director, David Cronenberg is among those warning that the edgy, low-budget films that have garnered Canadians international acclaim will be at risk. Novelist Susan Swan, chair of the Writers Union of Canada, has also pledged to lead her 1,600-strong membership in a protest.

The groups claim the changes violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees certain political and civil rights of people in Canada from the policies and actions of all levels of government.

According to Cronenberg: The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation [that] would be most at risk because they are the edgy, relatively low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel.

Inevitably, the moral minority have been quick to claim credit for the changes. Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and numerous meetings with officials in the Prime Ministers Office.

Were thankful that someones finally listening, he said yesterday. Its fitting with conservative values, and I think thats why Canadians voted for a Conservative government.

McVety, as is common with so many on the religious right, seems not to understand that he is not obliged to watch any films that he doesnt want to.

A violation of 800 years of common law

On January 11th, at 2:00pm, Canadian publisher Ezra Levant appeared before an Alberta human rights officer to be questioned about his having published those Muhammed cartoons two years ago.

He was not permitted to take anyone other than his lawyer and his wife along - all other observers, including officers of the magazine about which the complaint had been raised - had been barred from attending. Levants lawyer, however, insisted that he be allowed to record the exchange for use when they appeal the commissions decision to a real court. The officer allowed a video camera, but asked that recording be kept confidential.

Over a year ago, Levants lawyer served notice on the commission that they reserved the right to publish any communications to or from the commission whatsoever, and that they should govern themselves accordingly. His opening statement is online and more can be seen at Levants web site.

Hat Tip to David Thompson.

Banned in Canada

Movie website, Twitch, have started providing downloadable PDF files of the seven most recent issues of the Quarterly List of Admissible and Prohibited Titles of the Prohibited Importations Unit (PIU) of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Each of the issues contains a list of titles - including books, magazines, comics, CDs and DVDs - which have been reviewed by the PIU who determine whether the material is admissible or prohibited, based on whether or not it deemed the material to be obscenity or hate propaganda.

For those who may be wondering what an article on material deemed by the PIU to be obscenity or hate propaganda has to do with the kind of movies normally discussed here on Twitch, it should be noted that on Friday September 10, 2004, CBSA arrested a man for importing into Canada a copy of Bo Arne Vibenius Thriller - A Cruel Picture (Thriller - en grym film), and on Monday July 28, 2003, CBSA - then Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) - arrested me for importing into Canada a copy of Catherine Breillats Cannes-prizewinning Fat Girl (À ma sœur !).

You can find the lists here.

Offended without knowing why

An untitled, anonymous piece of art featuring a black panther on a background of mathematic equations sparked controversy after an official thought the drawing could be offensive.

On Sunday evening, the artwork display was in the process of being erected as part of a Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination’s (CARED) ‘Art in Colour’ event at Queen’s College when AMS Deputy Human Rights Commissioner Bavidra Mohan raised concerns because he felt the drawing could be seen as offensive because it might possibly have something to do with the US Black Panther movement.

If Mohan ever finds himself in front of Steve Martins most recent film, I fear that his brain will explode.

(via Index on Censorship)

Help your little sister while you can

The Melon Farmers report that Little Sisters, the Vancouver gay and lesbian book store that has been fighting government censorship rules for 20 years, is back before the Supreme Court of Canada this week, asking for financial help to pay for its latest court challenge.

The cost of the stores fight against bureaucrats who label books and magazines obscene and block them at the border is far beyond its resources, says Jim Deva, co-owner of Little Sisters.

A lower-court judge in British Columbia ruled that the case was important enough to deserve federal financial aid, but the provincial court of appeal decided otherwise last year.

The store won a key Supreme Court ruling in 2000, with a decision that said Customs had a right to censor material, but had to change the way it did so.

Little Sisters, though, says Customs has not changed. Its latest censorship case involves four publications that were ruled obscene in 2001 and 2003, including two series of comic books and two books on bondage and sadomasochism.

But that fight is on hold while lawyers argue the financing. What were after is some financial help so we can actually get the court case to court, Deva said. Precedents say that people can get government funding for court challenges deemed to be of major importance. Deva is upset that the appeal court didnt see his case as important.

The latest case has drawn a flock of intervenors, including the Canadian Bar Association, Egale Canada, the Canadian Aids Society, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund and Environmental Law Centre and the attorneys general of both Ontario and British Columbia.

The bookstore also has a defence fund, according to which:

Since we started this court challenge in 1986, through the various levels of court, and in preparing thousands of pages of research and evidence, Little Sisters has spent over half a million dollars.

Much of the money spent was generously donated by individual Canadians, by institutions and companies, and by concerned readers, writers, and defenders of intellectual freedom worldwide. Without this moral and financial support, this trial would never have been heard in the first place.

The battle is not over though, and Little Sisters must now raise funds estimated around $150,000. What lies before us is the historic first test case in the courts against Canada Customs since our Supreme Court of Canada victory. Your donations help us to continue the fight against censorship in Canada, and to let our government know that its citizens will not be branded obscene in word, picture, or deed.

Donations of any amount will help us to confront and critique the censors under new laws, in a new century. Little Sisters has already shown that the laws of this land have been used to oppress the expression rights of some Canadians. Now is the time for all Canadians to end this clumsy and paranoid interference at the hands of bureaucrats supposedly intended to protect our border from the more pressing issues of our times.

Your donation goes directly to cover costs associated with our continuing censorship battle against Canada Customs. Donations are forwarded directly to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, who will provide a tax receipt for donations of $10.00 or more.

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