British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal Abrams v. North Shore News & Collins B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Decision Summary On February 3, 1999, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal released its decision in Abrams v. North Shore Free Press Ltd. doing business as North Shore News and Doug Collins. The Tribunal held that Harry Abram's complaint against Collins and the North Shore Free Press Ltd. (the "North Shore News") was justified. As part of the remedy for the human rights violation, the Tribunal ordered the North Shore News to publish this summary. Abram's complaint alleged that Collins and the North Shore News violated the Human Rights Code by publishing four of Collins' articles in 1994: * "News flash! Daily press discovering free speech" (January 12); * "Hollywood propaganda" (March 9); * "Pondering far better than pandering, folks" (March 23); and * "Some value freedom of the press, some don't" (June 26). Collins and the North Shore News chose not to present evidence to the Tribunal or to participate in the hearing. The Deputy Chief Commissioner of the B.C. Human Rights Commission presented evidence in support of Abrams. B'Nai Brith Canada and the Attorney General of B.C. also participated. All of the evidence before the Tribunal supported Abram's allegation that Collins and the North Shore News violated the Code. The Tribunal found that the columns are likely to expose Jewish persons to hatred or contempt because of their race, religion or ancestry contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the Human Rights Code. That section prohibits, among other things, the publication of any statement "that is likely to expose a person or a group of persons to hatred or contempt" based on certain listed grounds of discrimination. Those grounds are race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age. The Tribunal ordered Collins and the North Shore News to cease publishing statements that expose or are likely to expose Jewish persons to hatred or contempt and to refrain from committing the same or a similar contravention of the Code. The Tribunal also ordered that Collins and the North Shore News pay $2,000 to Abrams as compensation for the injury they have caused to his dignity and self-respect. In determining whether the columns violated section 7(1)(b), the Tribunal applied a two-part test: ú First, would a reasonable and informed person understand the message as expressing hatred or contempt? ú Second, is the likely effect of the publication to make it more acceptable for others to manifest hatred or contempt against the person or group concerned? For the purpose of section 7(1)(b), hatred and contempt mean "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification". Both parts of the test require a consideration of the message's social and historical context. Individually, and taken out of context, each of the four columns at issue might not convey messages that meet the high threshold necessary to prove a violation of section 7(1)(b). However, collectively they do. The columns repeatedly reinforce some of the most virulent forms of anti- Semitism, and perpetuate the most damaging stereotypes of Jews: that they are selfish, greedy and manipulative; that they conspire to manipulate society's most important institutions for their own gain, and that, through control of the media, they have perpetrated a massive fraud to exaggerate their suffering during the Holocaust. The columns express these hateful and contemptuous messages indirectly and subtly. The publication of these messages in a credible community newspaper that is delivered to almost every home in the community increases the likelihood that others will manifest hatred and contempt against Jewish people in a more directly harmful manner. Therefore, the four columns collectively contravene s. 7(1)(b) of the Code.
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