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Letter from the Publisher of The Report

Our reply to the Alberta Human Rights Commission


Posted with permission:

The Report, May 27, 2002, p. 9

Letter from the Publisher

Our reply to the Alberta Human Rights Commission

[Note to readers: The background documents relevant to this open letter are on our Web site, www.report.ca. (the link is no longer functional)]

Attention: Charlach Mackintosh, Alberta Human Rights chief commissioner; Deborah Prowse, panel chairwoman; and Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Alberta Community Development.

On April 5, we at The Report Newsmagazine received your panel's human rights decision in the dispute between our magazine and Mr. Harvey Kane of Calgary. Styling himself the Jewish Defence League of Canada. Mr. Kane complained that a story in our October 13, 1997, Alberta edition was anti-Semitic. We disagreed. The matter was investigated and dismissed as groundless by your commission on August 13, 1999. Mr. Kane appealed. You, Mr. Mackintosh, chose to send the matter to arbitration by a human rights panel; and you, Ms. Prowse, chaired that three-person panel and have now signed its decision.

The decision is ambiguous, unjust, ill-considered, prejudiced and destructive of constitutional free speech, free media and democratic liberty.

You have asked us to continue our longstanding offer to Mr. Kane of a page in the magazine to express his unhappiness with our 1997 story. We advise you and Mr. Kane that our offer is now withdrawn. If Mr. Kane asks for the space (after having spurned this offer for four years) we will not give it. If he offers to pay for the space we will not sell it.

It saddens me to take this step, because Mr. Kane is a sincere and lively antagonist, and because any suspicion of anti-Semitism, no matter how mistaken, deserves thorough discussion and resolution. Even though Mr. Kane represents himself alone (having been left unsupported in his action by anyone else from the Jewish community) we made our offer in good faith. However, the decision of your panel could be construed as ordering us to provide space to him. (We do not read it that way, but others well might.) A gesture appropriate in an atmosphere of goodwill in one case can set a dangerous general precedent when coerced. We must therefore rescind our offer, not because of Mr. Kane's actions but because of yours.

You people have so over-reached yourselves in this ruling I am almost at a loss for words.

For instance, on page 13 you say that to describe someone as we did (wearing big rings and a gold chain on a hairy chest with an open shirt) amounts to a caricature of Jews, There is nothing particularly Jewish about such a style. You received no such evidence, you simply presumed it. Well, at the risk of sinful "stereotyping," I think if I were a similarly-attired Italian or Greek or Lebanese waiter in a taverna or pizzeria, I would charge discrimination against you for saying I dress like a caricature. People who wear loud clothing have a right to equality and respect!

On page 21 you tell us that the one allegedly discriminatory quotation in our story (about Jewish families having a dominant position in commercial real estate) is not relevant to the topic. Actually, it could be quite relevant. However, this point about relevance was not even discussed in the hearing, no evidence was led, and no argument exchanged—you just pulled it out of thin air.

Moving from the ridiculous to the dangerous, you state that principles of human rights are "basic law," and are not "tentative notions or vague public policy." So say you. This too amounts to an arbitrary and false assertion. As you know, the guidance we got from the Court of Queen's Bench listed no fewer than 10 factors, most of them amounting to subjective guesswork, to be weighed singly and in aggregate, before someone publishes a controversial statement about any of the groups you people purport to protect.

These 10 factors are: "content of the communication," "tone," "image conveyed, including use of quotations or reference sources," "vulnerability of the [described] group," "the degree to which the expression reinforces stereotypes," "the circumstances surrounding the message, including whether the messages appeal to well publicized issues," "the medium used to convey the message," "the circulation of the publication," "the credibility to be accorded to the communication," and "the context of the publication, or for example whether it is part of a debate, or is presented as news, or as a purportedly authoritative analysis."

In conclusion, you explain that an offence occurs when a complainant in one of your client classes feels discriminated against. It is not excused by the intention of the person making the statement, nor (we are left to deduce) if the facts being complained about are true, or if the beliefs being expressed are sincerely held. Intent doesn't matter, beliefs don't matter, facts don't matter; if someone on your protected species list feels discriminated against in' public discourse, the public discourse must stop. The full implications of this legal absurdity boggle the mind.

As I cautioned you (and as I'm sure you knew anyway) you have thus raised yourselves to a position of unprecedented power over social discussion. No one may now publicly offend the feelings of those whom you decide to see as "vulnerable": Natives, single moms, gays, drag queens, wiccans, immigrants, nerds, feminists, Muslim extremists, abortionists, overly emotional teachers, violent black rap singers, incompetent soldierettes, the overweight, anorexics, drug addicts, welfare recipients and vagrants, victims of transsexual mutilation...but rather than making us all guess, perhaps you could send us a list of stereotypical victims whose feelings may never be hurt.

You may pretend that this vast field of litigation you have opened for yourselves amounts to something better than a blatant power grab. Pretend all you like. To anyone who believes in a free and open society, the precedent you have set in Kane v. Alberta Report is repugnant.

Sincerely,
           Link Byfield

ejbyfield@compusmart.ab.ca

The Report
Copyright 2002 United Western Communications Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.


Notes by FFL:

The Report Newsmagazine, a Canadian independent conservative newsmagazine, was an avid supporter of families and a promoter of pro-family discussions.  Check out a sample of articles from The Report.

White RoseThe White Rose
Thoughts are Free

__________________
Posted 2002 04 30