Tonight’s question is: are Human Rights Commissions useful or obsolete? Something can’t be called “obsolete” if it was never “useful” in the first place.
It is commonplace to insist that the HRCs were a good idea at the time, but they’ve veered off course. Some present at the creation claim they never imagined the HRCs could have evolved into what they’ve become.
I’d argue that they were never a good idea in the first place, and that any precocious 12 year old who’d accidentally watched Truffaut’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 on “Saturday Night At The Movies” could have foreseen what they would turn into.
The original mandate of the HRCs was to deal with discrimination in employment and accommodation.
A really embarrassing female politician asked Mark Steyn about one famous example, when he recently testified at Queen’s Park about the HRCs and Section 13. She brought up the hoary old chestnut about signs in store windows that read NO IRISH NEED APPLY.
As Mark Steyn explained to this poor woman, because he’d read about it first on my blog, the real trouble with No Irish Need Apply signs is that they never existed.
Richard Jensen of the University of Illinois studied the issue and wrote:
The fact that Irish American vividly “remember” NINA signs is a curious historical puzzle. There are no contemporary or retrospective accounts of a specific sign at a specific location. No particular business enterprise is named as a culprit. No historian, archivist, or museum curator has ever located one; no photograph or drawing exists.
The complete absence of evidence suggests that probably zero such signs were seen at commercial establishments, shops, factories, stores, hotels, railroads, union halls, hiring halls, personnel offices, labor recruiters, anywhere in America, at any time.
(…) However, the professor continues:
Irish Americans all have heard about these signs—and remember elderly relatives insisting they existed. The late Tip O’Neill remembered the signs from his youth in Boston in 1920s; Senator Ted Kennedy reported the most recent sighting, telling the Senate during a civil rights debate that he saw the signs when growing up.
(And we all know how reliable Senator Kennedy’s accounts of his personal experiences can be.)
I’d be happy to speculate later about what this says about Irish psychology, but for now, let’s concentrate on the fact that the politician who confronted Mark Steyn with that would-be zinger merely showed herself to be terribly concerned about a hundred year old case of job discrimination that was completely make believe.
But then again, the Left draws most of its motivating energy from imaginary problems, like global warming, DDT, back alley coat hanger abortions, and the chronic boredom of American housewives in 1950s suburbia.
The Left is very concerned about something they like to call “social justice”, which I define as the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems.
Like Spinal Tap’s second drummer, who famously “choked to death on someone ELSE’s vomit,” Canadian leftists have always resented their neighbors in the United States for having a romantic, large scale Civil Rights Movement during the 60s and 70s.
So the HRCs became the Canadian Left’s state-sponsored version of the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit ins but, without the stirring LIFE magazine photos and crappy folk music soundtrack.
Going against that tide, in the US, Barry Goldwater bravely voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act on principle.
As one author explained:
Most of the twenty-seven senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act were Southern segregationists. Goldwater was not a segregationist, nor was he any kind of racist. He was, in fact, a lifelong opponent of racial discrimination. He desegegrated his family’s department store back in the 1940s; he was a member of the N.A.A.C.P.
But Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act because he believed, as a conservative, that the federal government did not have the power to compel states to conform to its idea of racial equality, or to dictate to individuals whom they must associate with.
Such “Love One Another Or Else” laws, from the Civil Rights Act to our own Section 13, inevitably bend under pressure from that other, higher, law: the Law of Unintended Consequences.
The fallout ranges from forced busing and white flight to those everyday resentments that simmer just below the surface as people cluster themselves into victim identity groups and complain about each other in whispers.
Human Rights Commissions were supposed to HELP the multicultural causes of tolerance and diversity. Instead, they pit groups against each other as they vie for favored victim status and the pitiful spoils that such status imparts.
Today, gay Canadians likely outnumber Muslim Canadians; when that balance shifts, and it will for obvious reasons, it will be interesting to see which side Canada’s liberal establishment decides to take, or is obliged to.
Again, the goal of the HRCs in particular and the Multicultural project in general were doomed from the start, because they contain the seeds of their own destruction, like a faulty gene in its DNA. You can have either tolerance OR diversity, but after a certain population mix is reached, you can’t have both.
The problem with the HRCs is most commonly presented as an issue of freedom of speech. However, I’d like to raise two additional aspects that don’t get as much play.
First, the HRCs are engaged in class warfare. The majority of “hate speech” cases are brought by highly educated, highly privileged white liberals — against less educated, working class, blue collar “reactionary” whites, who insist on speaking to each other about topics like immigration, using old fashioned, politically incorrect language.
Therefore, the enforcement of Section 13 is an expensive exercise in state sponsored snobbery, in which citizen’s own hard earned tax dollars are used by their “betters” to scold and shame them. Worse, the process silences people who already feel linguistically, politically and educationally disenfranchised, angry and powerless.
We often compare the tribunals to 1984, but to me they’re more like Pygmalion.
As British writer Brendan O’Neill wrote:
Today’s top-down ‘anti-racism’ has nothing whatsoever to do with ensuring equality of opportunity for all); rather it is about policing people’s behaviour and etiquette, especially amongst the lower classes. Accusations of ‘racism’ are no longer about indicting someone for their views on ethnic minorities but rather have become a snobbish judgment on their lack of breeding. ‘Racist’ has largely become code for ‘underclass’: uneducated, uncouth, thick, fat, ‘not one of us’.
Thus, the impact of official ‘anti-racism’ is not to make society more free and equal, but more authoritarian and censorious.
So last year we all heard about the African American city councilor in the US who declared that the phrase “devils food cake” was racist.
And so it came to pass that Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 so that almost 50 years later, a black man could not only vote but get elected to public office, only to feel compelled to comde
mn the folkloric names assigned to chocolate pastries.
In Canada, meanwhile, a politician has been fighting a five year battle with the HRCs for using “racist” ink colours on a pamphlet.
The other problem rarely discussed in terms of the HRCs is that besides being an affront to freedom of speech, many cases violate the right to private property.
But conveniently enough, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does NOT recognize the right to private property anyhow. Thank you, Ed Broadbent.
Canadians therefore had to endure the spectacle of, for example, a man claiming the “human right” to smoke marijuana on the premises of someone else’s restaurant. The difference between that and insisting on being served at a Woolworth’s lunch counter is only a matter of degree.
Again, Barry Goldwater warned about this sort of thing but of course he was just an “insane” fascist right winger…
Then we have an imam with no capital investment or connection to Ezra’s magazine demanding the right to be published in its pages, presumably spelling mistakes and all.
And then the attempted hijacking of Canada’s oldest magazine by a gang of young Muslims, with Mark Steyn and Ken Whyte manning the drink cart.
I was pleasantly surprised that Ken Whyte and his crew fought back because, well, they’re Canadians. To continue the metaphor, I’ve often said that had United 93 been an Air Canada flight, the passengers would have held the cockpit door open for the terrorists — then said “sorry” when they stepped on their feet.
Ezra likes to say that the HRCs and Section 13 are “unCanadian.” I respectfully disagree. I can’t think of anything more Canadian. They perfectly embody the Trudeaupian, “Centennial celebration” Canada I was born into.
I recently read Gerry Nicholl’s book Loyal to the Core, which I recommend highly, and was reminded of the many asinine rules against political speech that the NCC fought to overturn back in the 90s. Incidentally, some of the judges’ reasoning for retaining those laws make today’s HRC “judges” sound like Clarence Thomas.
Because the HRCs embody everything that is wrong with Canadian establishment culture, the only way to truly defeat them is by defying political correctness at every opportunity in our everyday lives.
There will be no point abolishing the HRCs and Section 13 if we are still too timid to say “Merry Christmas” at our place of work, or challenge the latest polticially correct terminology when our children bring it home from school. We complain about stupid, far away bureaucrats, but we would never have reached this point in the first place had the average Canadian not been too frightened, or unprincipled, or preoccupied, to allow them to flourish.