Thursday, January 10, 2008

Calgary's Bishop Henry Adds His Own to the Voices Crying out Against Canada’s Human Rights Tribunals

. Canadian human rights laws that were intended to shield the public, “are now being used as a sword,” says Calgary Catholic bishop, Fred Henry. Bishop Henry has added his voice to the chorus of voices, national and internationally, that are pointing to the deteriorating political and social situation in Canada as government-funded attacks on freedom of speech continue.

Bishop Henry wrote his comments in an e-mail to the Western Catholic Reporter, responding to the Human Rights Commission complaints against conservative columnist Mark Steyn and Maclean’s Magazine and Catholic Insight magazine.

Maclean’s, one of Canada’s longest running and most respected news magazines, ran an excerpt of Mark Steyn's bestselling book America Alone, that outlined what Steyn calls the growing “Islamification” of Europe.

Bishop Henry’s comments describe the “bizarre turn of events” that has ended with the Human Rights Commissions being used by special interest groups such as the homosexual lobby, to stifle opposition and criticism.

“The issue,” Henry wrote, “is rarely true discrimination but rather censorship and enshrinement of a particular ideology through threats, sanctions and punitive measures.”

In 2005, two complaints to the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) against Henry for what was called “discriminatory” comments in a pastoral letter, were eventually dropped by the complainant. Henry had written about the Catholic doctrines on marriage and the nature of the family.

“I challenged one by one the standard arguments used to support same sex unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage,” Henry said. He described the Human Rights Commission process as “fundamentally flawed,” and closely resembling “kangaroo courts.”

Bishop Henry listed the HRC’s legal flaws: “presumption of guilt until you can prove your innocence; the open-ended time lines for dealing with a complaint; and unjust incurring of financial expenditures for the defendant in the simple event of a complaint being lodged.” In the HRC procedure, the complainant’s expenses are absorbed by the tax payers but the defendant must pay his own costs.

The Steyn case is receiving increasing attention both within Canada and the US, where many are not aware of the existence of these extra-judicial courts.

David Warren, a conservative columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, writing in December, described the procedure as heavily weighted in favour of the complainant:

“After long delays that are costly only to the defendant and the taxpayer (and justice delayed is justice denied), you will have the satisfaction of making your enemy squirm, in a kangaroo court where he is stripped of the right to due process, in which there are no fixed rules of evidence, in which the ridiculously biased 'judges' make up the law as they go along, and impose penalties restricted only by their grimly limited imaginations -- such as ruinous fines, and lifetime ‘cease and desist’ orders, such that, if you ever open your mouth again on a given topic, you stand to go to prison.”

John Martin, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley, wrote yesterday in The Province newspaper, calling on the government to abolish the BC Human Rights Tribunals. He wrote that BC’s Commission “had become an expensive farce dedicated to promoting political correctness and demonizing independent thinkers who didn't bow to liberal orthodoxy.”

“And now the tribunal has entered its most shameful phase by agreeing to hear a complaint brought forward against Maclean's magazine...By agreeing to hear the case, the tribunal has positioned itself as the arbiter in charge of deciding what the Canadian media may publish and what the rest of us are permitted to read.”

“With our guard down, somehow we allowed them to assume the role of state censor and thought police. It is an abomination that a star chamber is allowed to function in this day and age.”

So great are the threats from government against freedom of speech in Canada, that the website Free Dominion, a conservative news site and forum, announced that it had taken steps to protect the site from further attacks by “individuals and government organizations determined to attack freedom of speech.”

The site’s owner, Mark Fournier, wrote this month, “Back in 2002 Connie and I made some decisions designed to protect Free Dominion and its members if the political climate worsened in Canada.” The Fourniers transferred ownership of the website to a US corporation that sold Free Dominion to Liberty News Service Inc. of Panama City, Panama.

“Liberty News Service’s corporate mission is to buy websites from individuals and corporations living in countries where free speech is under attack, and protect those websites from being shut down or seized by oppressive governments.”

In July 2007 a Human Rights complaint was launched against Free Dominion for posting material that was claimed to be discriminatory against Muslims.

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