Monday, June 22, 2009

The National Post Editorial Board on the HRC Issue

The National Post had a great editorial today on Jennifer Lynch and her hypocritical attack on the free speech of those who disagree with her. It begins this way:

"Monday in Montreal, Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), launched a counterattack against critics who, over the past couple of years, have suggested the commission is out of control and should have its power to investigate alleged hate speech taken away from it. In an address to a conference of other human rights commissioners, an excerpt of which is posted here, Ms. Lynch claimed to welcome debate on the future of human rights legislation no fewer than five times, then proceeded to dismiss anyone who questioned the legitimacy of commissions as unworthy of listening to.

She accused many of her institution’s detractors in “the mainstream media” of clouding the facts about commissions’ roles and tactics in an attempt to discredit them. “Critics of the human rights system are manipulating and misrepresenting information to further a new agenda: one that posits that human rights commissions and tribunals no longer serve a useful purpose.”

But claiming that the commissions have overstepped their original purposes and outlived their usefulness is a legitimate argument. It is clearly one Ms. Lynch disagrees with, but she does not get to be the final arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable in debates about the commissions’ future.

Still, she can be forgiven for believing she is. The CHRC acts as investigator, prosecutor and judge of complaints of racism and hate speech. Moreover, it gets to decide what constitutes hatefulness in print or the spoken word. No wonder Ms. Lynch cannot understand why she should have to tolerate those who advocate the end of human rights commissions. In her daily working life, she gets to define away those she disagrees with, so why not in the broader public debate on rights and who should protect them?

I sense that the tide is turning. The politicians are way behind public opinion on this issue. Read the rest here.

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