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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Another speech-warrior meme bites the dust 











You've heard this one before, haven't you? Until recently, no one stood a chance of defending successfully against a Section 13 complaint before a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. There's been a 100% conviction rate. Everyone dragged, hauled, or otherwise transported to these kangaroo courts, Inquisitions and Star Chambers can be assured that the upshot is never in doubt.

But now, the kangaroos are blinking. You'll see that b-word used a lot in this connection on the right side of the aisle. First, the CHRC dismissed the infamous complaint against Maclean's magazine. And then it dismissed another one, against Catholic Insight. The usual suspects, once they got over their initial disappointment, began to claim victory.

It reminds me of a hoary old joke. A man goes to a psychiatrist. He keeps snapping his fingers during the session. Finally the psychiatrist asks, "Why are you doing that?" The man replies, "To keep the elephants away." "But," says the shrink, "there aren't any elephants within miles of here!" "Works pretty well, eh?" says his patient.

The sound of speech-warrior finger-snapping is getting deafening these days. They're making the kangaroos blink. But it ain't so.

Between 2001 and May 9 of this year, there had been 70 Section 13 complaints lodged with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Yes, you read right. 24 of these were either under investigation or were awaiting the conciliation/hearing stage. Since then, the
Maclean's and Catholic Insight complaints have been disposed of, leaving 22 unresolved complaints. That makes 48 resolved complaints. What happened to them?

Well, most of them, like
the Maclean's and Catholic Insight ones, didn't make it as far as a Tribunal hearing. 26 have now found themselves in the "closed/dismissed/no further proceedings" category. 7 more have been successfully mediated. One was closed at the Tribunal stage. Another was dismissed by the Tribunal. Complaints in the remaining 13 cases were upheld by the Tribunal.

So, to sum up: 13 of the 48 cases that the Commission dealt with ended up with "convictions" (a term best reserved for criminal, not civil cases, but most speech-warriors either don't know the difference, or don't care). This tells me that the efficacy of the preliminary screening processes and mediation options is pretty good. Nearly three-quarters of the complaints were weeded out before the hearing stage. The wheat was well and truly separated from the chaff.

None of this, of course, will deter the speech-warriors from claiming a dubious political victory. After all, there aren't any elephants (or, for that matter, kangaroos) within miles of here.
Keep snapping, guys. You could have taught Frank Sinatra a thing or two.

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