Human rights verses freedom of speech
Four groups are split over British Columbia’s human rights
Roberta Staley, Staff Reporter
Four British Columbia organizations have been granted
intervenor status in a human rights hearing for _North Shore
News_ columnist Doug Collins.
Spokespersons for the groups say they are not intervening
either on behalf of or in opposition to Mr. Collins, whose
five-week hearing starts May 12. Rather, they will be
submitting evidence and presenting arguments for or against
Section 2 of the B.C. Human Rights Code.
The four groups granted intervenor status include the B.C.
Press Council, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the
B.C. Human Rights Coalition and the Chinese Benevolent
Association of Vancouver.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that will hear the complaint
will also hear arguments whether Section 2 goes against the
Charter of Rights and Freedom’s free speech guarantee.
A complaint against Mr. Collins was launched by Canadian
Jewish Congress, Pacific Region, under Section 2, which
prohibits the public expression of hate messages that are
likely to expose a person, group or class to hatred or
The complaint was filed in response to a March 9, 1994
column by Mr. Collins titled _Hollywood propaganda_, where
he referred to the Steven Spielberg _Schindler’s List_ as
_Swindler’s List_ and predicted it would win Academy Awards
because “what happened to the Jews during the Second World
War is not only the longest lasting but also the most
effective propaganda exercise ever.”
The B.C. Human Rights Coalition and the Chinese Benevolent
Association both support Section 2 of the code.
Susan O’Donnell, executive director of the B.C. Human Rights
Coalition, an umbrella group representing 75 human rights
organizations throughout the province, said the section “is
necessary and does not violate the charter.”
“Even if sometimes you have to limit individual rights, it
may be appropriate in a free and democratic society,” Ms.
Bill Yee, president of the Chinese association, said the
media must be leashed because it perpetrates racial
stereotypes. “We believe the media has a lot to do with how
people behave in society. They set a norm. Many people
believe what they read,” said Mr. Yee.
Gerald Porter, executive secretary of the B.C. Press
Council, which represents 125 daily and community
newspapers, said the organization has opposed Section 2
since it was introduced. Mr. Porter said the council will
present arguments opposing the section based upon the
charter. “We believe that the new human rights act as it
pertains to newspapers isn’t constitutional and violates the
charter,” said Mr. Porter.
Kay Stockholder, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties
Association, said her group will also oppose Section 2 on
the grounds it is unconstitutional. “As a civil liberties
organization, we’re devoted to freedom of speech, not to
making moral judgements on the content of the speech,” Ms.
A location for the hearing had not been finalized by
deadline last week.
Extensive background information on this issue can be found
in the Supreme Court of Canada decisions relating to John
Ross Taylor and James Keegstra, via URLs
Source: Western Jewish Bulletin, May 9, 1997, p. 19