Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:26:11 AM EST
I came across this article on the BBC web page:
Speech row rocks multi-ethnic Canada
By Henri Astier
More than half-a-million Muslims live in Canada
Canada is often thought of as a land of bland consensus and multicultural harmony - the last place where you would expect to see a religious minority up in arms, and journalists accusing the state of gagging freedom of speech.
and to the innocent observer, it seems like a rather neutral account of a difference of opinion between two interested parties.
However, on closer inspection, and with the addition of some background information, the amazing bias of the BBC against Muslims' defense of their religion is demonstrated.
First, some background. Like many countries, Canada possesses a law against spreading hate. This means that there is the same freedom allowed with respect to speech as there is in the USA.
The "Hate Propaganda" section of the Criminal Code of Canada (Section 318 & 319) prohibits the expression of hatred against -- or the advocacy of genocide of certain groups of people distinguished by their "color, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ethnic origin."
This law was used in the past to prosecute Ernst Zundel, a well known Holocaust denier and First Nations' Chief Ahenakew, when he complained about the Hate Law used for certain groups over others.
Secondly, the people named in the article, Mark Steyn, and Ezra Levant, have histories of their own.
Steyn has commented on divisions between the United States and Europe, as well as divisions between the Western world and the Islamic World. He frequently criticizes the tolerance of Islamic cultural intolerance in the name of multiculturalism. Steyn has written that multiculturalism is "fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society."
As for Levant:
In 1994, he was featured in a Globe and Mail article on young neoconservatives after accusing the University of Alberta of racism for instituting an affirmative action system for hiring women and aboriginal professors. His actions outraged aboriginal law students, feminists and a number of professors and he was called to a meeting with the assistant dean who advised him of the university's non-academic code of conduct and defamation laws. As head of the U of A's speakers committee, Levant flew in controversial lawyer Doug Christie, best known for his advocacy in defence of Holocaust deniers and accused Nazi war criminals, for a debate.
So as well as being a neo-conservative, Levant has been known to debate opponents of the Hate Law.
However, the BBC article makes no mention of any of the background of these two gentlemen, although their reputations in Canada are well established on this basis, except to mention a single incident concerning Levant:
Leading the charge against the commissions is Ezra Levant, an Alberta-based publisher who was targeted by a complaint after reprinting the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in his (now-defunct) newspaper in early 2006.
The BBC correspondent also makes it seem as though this law is new or that it has been interpreted in a new way:
Canada's Human Rights Act is not an Islamic creation; Jewish and other groups have supported complaints under its speech provisions.
And the complainants against both Maclean's and Mr Levant, in BBC interviews, professed their attachment to free speech and abhorrence of radical Islam.
The core of the dispute is best understood not as a clash of civilisations, but as a conflict within the West itself.
It pits old liberal values that sanctify individuals against a new emphasis on the rights of groups.
Mr Levant regards commission officers as "new-fangled, political crusaders" bent on overturning centuries-old Common Law.
So to Mr. Levant, this is a "new-fangled" crusade, but it didn't seem to be so when he debated for its implementation.
Also, the BBC story cites a lawyer involved in the incident:
The human rights statutes were designed to deal with discriminatory acts, not discriminatory words.
without any research on the matter. A quick google would have given them this information:
Section 319 deals with hate speech:
If it can be shown that the speech was so abusive that it was likely to incite listeners or readers into violent action against an identifiable group, and if the the speech was made in a public place, then a person could be convicted.
If the speech promoted hatred against an identifiable group, but was not likely to incite a listener to violence, then a person could still be convicted. However there are many safeguards that could give that person immunity. A person could not be convicted if:
The hate speech was expressed during a private conversation.
If the person can establish that the statements made are true.
If, "in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject." This would give clergypersons immunity from conviction for a hate-based sermon, for example.
If the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, and if, on reasonable grounds, the person believed them to be true. This would give additional protection for the clergy.
If he described material that might generate feelings of hatred for an identifiable group "for the purpose of removal" of that hatred.
If the provincial Attorney General refused to give permission. The Attorney General's consent is required before charges can be laid.. 1
In this section of the Code, the term "statements" includes spoken words, written words, published text, gestures, signs and other visible representations.
So, speech does seem to be the target of section 319 of the law on Hate.
In light of these facts, I ask you, can the BBC's article on this Canadian controversy be seen as neutral, or demonstrating bias in favour of an anti-Muslim agenda?
Is the BBC following the agenda of Mark Steyn, once described by Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com as:
faux warrior" who is "one of the most extremist warmongers in our country", adding that Steyn has been "as fundamentally wrong as one can be about virtually every issue he has touched."