By John Jalsevac
TORONTO (October 10, 2008) - The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal today handed down a not-guilty verdict in the case against Maclean’s magazine and its columnist Mark Steyn.
Maclean’s and Steyn faced charges of "Islamophobia" in the wake of Maclean’s decision to republish an excerpt from Steyn’s best-selling book "America Alone." In the excerpt Steyn argued that Europe, and Western post-Christian civilization on the whole, are experiencing a civilisational exhaustion that has led, in particular, to a demographic crisis. This demographic crisis, contended Steyn, exposes the West to the ambitions of an increasingly vocal and increasingly violent Islamic minority in Europe.
Following the publication of the excerpt Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, the National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), and Dr. Naiyer Habib, filed nearly identical complaints with the human rights commission arguing that the article exposed Muslims in British Columbia to "hatred and contempt."
The tribunal that reviewed the case, however, "has concluded that the complaints are not justified because the complainants have not established that the Article is likely to expose them to hatred or contempt on the basis of their religion."
The tribunal wrote that, in its opinion, "The Article may attempt to rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims, but fear is not synonymous with hatred and contempt."
The high-profile Steyn/Maclean’s case had become a rallying point for the movement in Canada to reform or to abolish entirely the Canadian human rights commissions. Members of this movement, including Steyn, claim that the commissions have become arbiters of politically correct thought in Canada and a serious threat to freedom of speech.
Columnist Andrew Coyne, writing on the Maclean’s blog today, wrote that the tribunal’s ruling merely protected the human rights commissions from a public relations disaster. "This ruling only preserves the tribunal from utterly discrediting itself," he said, "and as such keeps alive the possibility that some other complainant can drag Maclean’s or any other media organization through yet another travesty half-a-continent away, at great expense of time and money."
The Steyn/Maclean’s trial, along with other lesser known cases, are chronicled in a new book The Tyranny of Nice: How Canada crushes freedom in the name of human rights, written by HRC critics Kathy Shaidle and Pete Vere.
Shaidle and Vere commented today on the verdict.
"Unfortunately," they said, "this decision is only a partial victory for Mark Steyn, Maclean’s magazine and every other writer and publisher in Canada.
"This Kafkaesque trial cost taxpayers dearly, while many Canadians struggle to make ends meet.
"More importantly, it cost Canada its international reputation as a free, just and tolerant country. While Steyn and Maclean’s won, most defendants are found guilty; the HRCs boast of a nearly 100% rate of conviction."
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