The former head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, launcher of the prosecutions of the politically incorrect and hapless racists dwelling in their parents’ basements, enabler of Richard Warman and his ilk, is dead.
In the long run, we all will be gathered to our Maker, but I have little sympathy for this persecuting bigot, who presented herself as an enlightened force for social peace. Bigotry is always invisible to its bearers when the views expressed coincide exactly with those held by the middle of the herd of Volvo-drivers, bien-pensants and the socially dominant.
Jennifer Lynch ran headlong into the Internet, and lost. The drastically reduced cost of information generation and transmission meant that the light of day, of rational argument, of the common decency and balance of mankind, illuminated the fetid mindset of her employees and their mission to confine speech to what they thought tolerable. In short, the Internet, coupled with the ordinary sense of people, stopped their scheme. She said as much in a speech made in 2010, which alluded to the case of the Canadian Islamic Conference versus Mark Steyn and Macleans:
The Canadian Islamic Conference alleged that the online Maclean’s article exposed members of the Muslim community to hatred and contempt pursuant to section 13 – the section of the Canadian Human Rights Act that gives the Commission jurisdiction over complaints about Internet hate messages. The CIC also filed complaints in Ontario and British Columbia.
The issue in this case was whether the expression used in the Steyn excerpt was so extreme as to fall within the narrow definition of hate messages provided by the Supreme Court.
All three jurisdictions dismissed the complaint. The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal dismissed it on its merits; the Ontario Human Rights Commission dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.
Even before the three complaints were dismissed, human rights commissions and tribunals experienced a firestorm of protest – by those who felt that even exposing mainstream media organizations to formal complaints is inconsistent with Canada’s commitment to freedom of expression.
As we worked to correct the surprising amount of misinformation that was influencing the debate, we recognized that we were witnessing – and experiencing – the new reality of social media and our increasingly connected world.
Social media has given everyone a voice. We all have equal opportunity to contribute to the exchange of ideas. And through social media, people continue to find new ways to reach out, influence and inspire people….
The Commission has seen this first hand. We have spent considerable energy trying to repair our reputation after bloggers – who misrepresented the Commission and the administrative justice system as a whole – were able to influence the tone of the discussion.
Outraged that the Commission even received the complaint, some began describing the Commission and its employees as “thought police,” “fascists,” “neo-nazis,” “totalitarian” and “the politburo.” The Tribunal was described as a “kangaroo court” and a “Star Chamber.”
Here are some examples of how the mainstream media later portrayed the Commission:
- “Human rights commissions have been set up as a kind of parallel police and legal system, yet without any of the procedural safeguards, rules of evidence, or simple professional expertise of the real thing.” – Andrew Coyne, Maclean’s, April 6, 2009 (online April 2, 2009)
- “…our human rights commissions have flown under the radar of public attention for too long, ignored by … a judiciary that has inexplicably allowed these pseudo-courts to flourish under their very noses.” – Andrew Potter, Ottawa Citizen, April 12, 2009, page B1.
- A former Cabinet Minister recently wrote: “His [Ezra Levant] story of the terrible abuse of power at the Canada Human Rights Commission is a bone-chilling horror story. God help you if you get caught in (a human rights commission’s) crosshairs, because if it investigates you, the ordinary rules of justice don’t apply, including the normal legal protections for the accused.” – Monte Solberg, Sun Media, April 14, 2009.
This new reality is also having an influence on public discourse.
And so, today, two years after the complaint was dismissed, the credibility of human rights commissions and tribunals continues to be threatened.
A fundamental misunderstanding of the issue – bolstered by unsubstantiated attacks on the human rights system – continues to guide public opinion and political debate.
However we have been able to stop some of the flow of misinformation and counter it through a strategic approach developed and implemented over the past two years.
The thrust of her speech was that the Human Rights Commission system was under unfounded, unjustified attack, and that the Commission had found the right balance between the rights to speech and the equality rights guaranteed in the Charter. These equality rights included, in her opinion, the right not to be subjected to “hate speech” and she and her high-minded human rights commissioners were just the people to determine the boundaries of “hate” and find that just balance between my right to offend and your right not to be offended. Under the terms of the then s.13 of the Human Rights Act, they were obliged to do so.
Such a waste of a life, that might otherwise have done more good than evil.