Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Dec. 18, 2007)


Quit Validating Professional Victims


  By John Martin

Trivial and unsubstantiated complaints to the country’s various human rights commissions have become so common place they’re barely even noticed anymore.  But it would be unwise to dismiss these as mere instances of “political correctness run amuck.”  There are those among us who would dearly love to further restrict our right to free speech. and they’ve found a powerful ally in our human rights commissions.

Originally set up to hear cases of discrimination with regards to housing, employment and accessing services, these commissions have become little more than  support groups for those who would censor and deny any speech they disagree with.

It’s ironic that they’re referred to as “human rights” commissions when in fact, they have become the champions of groups who insist others are not entitled to differing opinions, voices or expressions.  By slowly shrinking and curtailing free speech, they are legitimizing those constituencies in society who have no appetite for views other than their own.

In their most recent acts of contrition, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and BC Human Rights Tribunal have agreed to hear a complaint filed by four students from Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School.  They’re accusing Macleans magazine of subjecting Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia for reproducing excerpts from Mark Steyn’s, America Alone, in a 2006 article.

Steyn’s book sold very well and was one of the most talked about releases ever written by a Canadian.  It so impressed me that I adopted it for a third year course dealing with multiculturalism and conflict.  Numerous students, including at least one Muslim, expressed their delight at being assigned something so fresh and thought provoking as required reading.

If some people don’t like the book that’s their right.  And if they want to submit a frivolous complaint to a human rights commission, that’s their right too.  Sadly, for many people, complaining and grieving is all they have.  

But there is absolutely no excuse for human rights commissions to validate these malicious exercises in censorship.  They are not bound by legislation or precedent to entertain every yahoo that comes whining and crying about an article or book that hurt their feelings.  These type of people thrive on being offended.  They live for those moments where they can play the victim role amidst an imaginary culture of intolerance.

 It’s their narcotic.

These complaints are not about addressing hate speech.  There is a Criminal Code section that deals with hate crime.  But prosecuting under that statute requires some burden of proof and is governed by the presumption of innocence and due process.  None of these are considerations at human rights commission hearings.  This is precisely the reason such complaints are made to these kangaroo courts rather than the RCMP.

Launching these types of investigations is aimed at chilling journalists and threatening media outlets with costly legal bills and negative public attention.  They are about silencing dissenting voices and censoring the media’s ability to report from a broad range of perspectives.  

Human rights commissions have no business being complicit in such dangerous and anti-democratic thuggery.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


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