Saturday, May 3, 2008

Just what kind of order can the BC Human Rights Tribunal make against a publisher?

Mark Steyn quotes this report in the National Post about Faisal Joseph's press conference earlier this week. Joseph is, of course, counsel for Mohamed Elmasry and the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) in their legal fight with Rogers publishing and Maclean's magazine. He and the law students who helped initiate the many human rights complaints were offering the magazine a shot at a compromise. It was as good a time as any to try and strike a deal, one supposes, since time is getting short and the hearing is coming up. Here is the BCHRT's hearing schedule - just scroll down until you get to June 2, the Maclean's case is the one with "Habib, Elmasry on behalf of Muslim residents in the province of British Columbia" as the complainants (as a side note, the next case down on that list, Brar v. British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association, Osborne also seems to have something to do with s. 7, the hate-speech provision. When I went to one of the hearings in that case, though, there was nothing about that aspect of the complaint, and I couldn't find anything in subsequent research).

Anyway, the CIC has a response sketched out, something they want to run in Maclean's as a response to Mark Steyn's piece from a couple of years ago, "The Future Belongs to Islam." Said Joseph, speaking about the rebuttal,

"We're not going to say how long it's going to be, but it has to be long enough, and give the opportunity to be able to properly give a reasoned, analytical approach to the 5,000 word article [by Mr. Steyn]," Mr. Joseph said.

Mr. Joseph then noted that one of the remedies available to the BCHRT, should it find in favour of the complainants, is to order Maclean's to run the rebuttal. Mark Steyn addresses such a scenario in fiery fashion:

As I always say, I can't speak for Maclean's, but, were I the publisher, I'd say: Go ahead, make my day. You'll order us to print the turgid drivel ordered up by Mr Joseph, and we'll say no. What then? You get the RCMP to kick Maclean's doors down. At that point, even the Dominion's somnolent media might wake up to the kind of Canada Elmo and his enablers are constructing. I wonder if Jack Layton, apparently auditioning for chief eunuch of the new caliphate, even read the dossier of Maclean's systemic Islamophobia before giving Elmo the tongue bath.

Reading about this, I remembered that the Tribunal has, in fact, used its power to order a publication to print certain things. The second Doug Collins case had such a remedy as part of its outcome, as well as the Boissoin case in Alberta and the Owens case in Saskatchewan. In Collins, which was the case of a holocaust denier disseminating his beliefs in a newspaper column, the Tribunal ordered the offending publication, North Shore News, to run a summary of the tribunal member's reasons. The tribunal member did not cite any specific subsection of the Human Rights Code in support of this remedy, stating only that"[t]he Code also provides the Tribunal with broad discretionary powers to remedy the effects of conduct that contravenes the Code."It's only too bad that the name of the publication was not called the "North Shore Free Press," because the irony of the Tribunal making an order that "the North Shore Free Press publish in one of its next three editions the summary that accompanies these reasons" would have been delicious.