Conservative MP Calls for Justice Committee Investigation into Human Rights Commissions

Thu Jun 5, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

OTTAWA, June 5, 2008 ( - As the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case against Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine continues in Vancouver, more attention is being paid in Parliament to the incursions by the Canadian Human Rights Commissions on freedom of expression. Last week, Rick Dykstra, a Conservative MP, brought a motion before Parliament’s Justice and Human Rights Committee asking for an investigation into the practices of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions.

The motion specifically refers to public "concerns" that have been growing about the CHRC’s "investigative techniques" and their "interpretation and application" of the Section 13 hate crimes provision in the Human Rights Act.

Dykstra, a Conservative MP from St. Catharine’s, Ontario, was acting with the knowledge and approval of the Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson. Blogger and free speech activist Ezra Levant published an email in which Nicholson indicated his approval of the move and said, "Freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which, in a free and democratic society, may be limited only when such an action is justified."

Dykstra, in an email published on the conservative news and comment website Free Dominion, said, "I know that I have the support of my Conservative colleagues on the committee for this review, however in order for my motion to pass I need the support of at least one other committee member. If my motion passes the committee will study these matters and submit a report to the House of Commons, which will include any proposed amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act that arise from the Committee’s deliberation."

Until the Steyn and Maclean’s case, the issue of the abuses of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions was largely limited to being a hot button topic of conservative bloggers, both in Canada and below the border. But the publicity raised by the complaints against two of Canada’s journalistic icons and by the media appearances by Ezra Levant, who has led the charge, has launched the issue into the limelight of the mainstream media and into Parliament.

Dykstra’s motion comes at the same time as a motion in the House of Commons from Liberal MP, Dr. Keith Martin calling for a public examination of the Canada Human Rights Act and the Commission and Tribunal that stems from it. The motion calls on the federal government to hold public hearings across Canada on this matter. In January, Martin put forward a Private Members’ motion to abolish Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act that deals with "hate messages". 

Subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act makes it a "discriminatory practice" for individuals or groups to communicate messages that are "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt". Critics of this section of the Act have long said that the clause creates the precise equivalent of a "thought crime".

Read related coverage:

Mark Steyn Human Rights Tribunal "Show Trial" Opens in Vancouver

Prominent Canadian Publisher Denounces Human Rights Commissions at HRC Hearing

Liberal MP Launches Motion to Stop Human Rights Commission Squelching of Free Speech

Liberal MP Motion Calls for Public Examination of Human Rights Commission

Dissent in Conservative Ranks over Unruly Canadian Human Rights Commission

MP Calls Canadian Government Defense of Human Rights Subsection 13(1) "absolutely shocking"

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