Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pass the popcorn before you pass the hat

I haven’t weighed in on the whole Human Rights Tribunal issues in Canada because, well, I decided to first do a little reading about the history of the human rights tribunal in Canada. Call it a case of my conservative nature asserting it self to be, well, conservative. From what I can gather the ideals of the tribunals were noble and offered a much needed balm to the ‘little’ guy in redressing a wrong or an injustice who did not have the financial resources necessary to seek a remedy through the civil court system.

The days when a citizen of the crown could appeal directly to the King or Queen to seek redress are long gone. The establishment of the Human Rights Tribunal was our meager attempt at mirroring that age old custom but as I have always said – good intentions makes for bad law.

Moreover, in researching the tribunal history, I discovered a number of instances where the Tribunals worked as designed and changed the laws of the land in much needed ways, and then, some not so needed or wanted ways. I am not yet at the point where I would support the full dismantling of the tribunal system unless a much needed tweaking was done in our civil court system to allow the ordinary Joe/Jane access to the civil system regardless of financial status. Perhaps costs for certain actions could be waived unless the court found against the plaintiff. Just a suggestion. All that being said; there is certainly room to tweak up the Tribunal system in order for the tribunal process to fall in line with our common civil laws.

In Canada, we have freedom speech with certain limitations. Any act of Parliament can certainly limit what we say within the public domain. Think our “hate speech laws’ which I believe to be as odious as those groups who would seek to promote hatred if there was no legislature prohibiting such speech. As odious as certain groups are, I would rather savage them in the public domain. But then, I prefer my enemies’ front and centre rather than lurking in the shadows or lying in wait.

There is no right of speech to make statements as fact which one knows to be false or could potentially be false. By that I mean one is prohibited under law of standing up in public forum and yelling ‘fire’ when there is no fire. There is no right of free speech to knowingly lie or spread false information.

In Canada, we are not allowed under the right of freedom of speech, to savage an individual’s character no matter how odious an individual might be by spreading false information concerning said odious individual’s character or actions. When we do this, we put ourselves in the position of being eligible for being sued under our libel or slander laws in our civil court system. This brings me to the recent spat of libel lawsuits filed in our civil court system (and not before a human rights tribunal) against our current anti-Human Rights Tribunal blogging advocates.

In a quick reading of the statement of claim posted by Ezra Levant (one of the defendants). One area of concern in this suit alleges a ‘link’ to another site carries a whole new burden of responsibility. In other words, if I linked to say Stormfront, even in a blog posting pointing out the odious nature of any claims made at that site - I can be held liable in civil law. This should be giving everyone ‘pause’ as to who and what is being said on any of the blogs we link to in our blog roll. Scary stuff to have floating around the blogsphere.

One of the defendants named in the suit who certainly merits my blogging support, is Kate McMillan at Small Dead Animals. Kate McMillan ended up as a plaintiff for the ‘link’ thingy and because of comments which were allowed to stand at her blog.

I don’t claim to run this blog as forum for free speech or allowing anyone use of my dime on my soapbox. Although, through the years I have let some pretty vile comments stand from time to time – mostly maligning my character (or lack of). Then there are the instances when I have directly challenged and issued a warning to a commenter to never post such statements again at my blog. I let the initial comment stand as a warning or guideline for others to follow.

I am not a big Small Dead Animals fan. I disagree with a great deal of what Kate publishes. I find most of the commenters who frequent not worthy of engaging but I give Kate great credit in writing a very, very successful blog. She writes well and often passionately – even if I disagree just as passionately. She can give food for thought and I would much rather have a Canadian blogsphere with her in it than her silenced under civil law for hosting a comment or a link. Let her ideas stand or fall on their own merits. If the court finds for plaintiff against Kate McMillan - there goes the Canadian blogsphere and we all might as well pack up and cancel our internet connections. Her fight is really ours because it is one thing to be sued for something you said or did and another to be sued for what a third party said or did.

As for the other defendants, free speech is not the right to engage in potentially libelous comments in a public forum, and even an alleged odious little worm is allowed to sue in our civil courts when said alleged odious little worm feels his character has been maligned with false and/or potentially false or misleading statements. Prudence in word or deed is also a conservative value. My two shekels for what it is worth – not very much in the larger scheme of things, but for long as I am allowed - there it is.


Anonymous said...

'free speech is not the right to engage in potentially libelous comments in a public forum"

Actually, it is. "Potentially libellous" covers about 90% of what gets said by everybody on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

That was me, by the way.


Kateland, aka TZH said...

Egad, do you ever have the wrong friends.