Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of June 16, 2008)

Steyn could decide election


  By John Martin

The next provincial election is slightly less than a year away but it would appear both major parties are in full campaign mode. The Liberals, in particular, have been rallying the troops and warning that despite a healthy lead in the polls, this is no time for complacency. At a recent fundraiser, Gordon Campbell reminded supporters that just seven seats separated the Liberals and NDP after the last election.

Actually, it was a heck of a lot closer than that. As political commentator David Schreck recently pointed out, the Liberals won seven ridings in which their combined margin of victory was a mere 2600 votes. More than anything else, this explains the desperate attempt by the government to limit third party advertising a full five months prior to the next election. Facing near unanimous outrage, they relented somewhat and eased the restrictions but it is still indicative of a government that is well aware of their vulnerability. That the Liberals would even contemplate such a blatant violation of free speech is testament to how wide open the next election actually is.

And thereís another free speech issue that could ultimately be the Liberalsí downfall next year.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently held a hearing investigating hate speech allegations against Macleans magazine for printing an article penned by best selling author Mark Steyn. The complaint was brought forward by the Canadian Islamic Congress and represents an assault on free speech that is pure barbarianism.

While many commentators are justifiably outraged at the complainants in this case, thereís another place to direct their anger Ė Gordon Campbell and his government. Itís the BC Human Rights Act that legitimizes this attack on fundamental rights of speech and it is fully within the governmentís authority to reform the section in question.

Much of the legislation is completely legitimate and having a government body mediate in instances where someone may have been denied a job or apartment based on their race or religion is quite appropriate. But there should be no provision in the legislation to haul publishers and authors before an expensive kangaroo court to be censored by a panel of buffoons pretending to be judges.

I had the opportunity to sit in on some of the hearings during the Mark Steyn inquisition and was thoroughly disgusted. In short, the hearings were disgraceful and made a mockery of the law. The circus was held in a real courtroom but thatís where any similarity to a lawful hearing ended. Documents and evidence were sprung on the defendants with no advance notice or disclosure. They had no opportunity to study the evidence to be used against them, one of the most basic fundamental tenets of the common law.

In a real court, an expert witness has to demonstrate their expertise in a particular subject matter before their testimony can be entered. Nothing of the sort happened during this witch-hunt. One so called expert witness who repeatedly confirmed the alleged racist content in the Steyn article ended up being an authority on Bollywood films and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You couldnít make this rubbish up if you tried.

The major complainant in the case, Mohamed Elmasry, was apparently so hurt and offended after being subjected to the supposed hateful article that he couldnít even be bothered to show up for the hearing. Instead, he sent a semi literate sock puppet to give testimony on his behalf.

But the only reason this perversion of justice took place is because the BC government authorizes and apparently approves of such a process. They could change the legislation and reform the hearing process tomorrow but clearly have no interest in doing so.

They better hope 2600 or so Mark Steyn fans arenít thinking about this case come the next election.

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008