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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The irony of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission is in its name

Human Rights Commissions (HRC’s) were originally set up to protect, well, human rights.  They were set up to allow citizens to express their human rights concerns to the government, to seek damages when their human rights were violated.  And they were given quasi-judicial status so that ordinary citizens could seek relief from these Commissions in an efficient manner.  The Commissions could process cases faster than real courts, which have high standards pertaining to the acceptance of evidence, testimony, and so forth.

HRC’s were set up as a shield, used to defend citizens’ human rights, and given jurisdictional leniency to operate efficiently.  “Human rights” was universally understood to be actual human rights, such as the right to “life, liberty, and security of the person.”

But the recent trend has been to abuse HRC’s, to use the Commissions as a sword to extract money and revenge, not a shield to protect against legitimate human rights abuses.  People are using this sword to gain the ugliest, most unfair victories, far from the original intent of HRC’s.

Infamously known is the case against Ezra Levant, who was brought before the Alberta HRC for publishing the photos of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.  Syed Soharwardy, an Islamic imam, said that the cartoons offended him, and demanded that Levant be charged and fined.

Also well known is Mark Steyn’s prosecution before the British Columbia HRC for writing an article in Maclean’s Magazine, titled The Future Belongs to Islam.  This time the complaint wasn’t that someone’s feelings were hurt.  It was that the Canadian Islamic Congress wasn’t allowed equal space in Maclean’s for a rebuttal.  The CIC said Maclean’s choice to not give them the same space violated their human rights!

Then there was Guy Earle, who was dragged before the British Columbia HRC because, as a comedian, he traded a few choice words with hecklers disrupting his show.  The hecklers, two lesbian women, won $22,500 from Earle for his choice of “discriminatory” words.

Now another outrageous case is before the Ontario HRC.  Sinem Ketenci is bringing her Ryerson University professor and senior faculty staff to the Ontario HRC.  What human right did they break?  The right to not be offended.

Ketenci is pursuing a Masters degree in Social Work.  Her degree requires that her dissertation be, you know, about Social Work.  But Ketenci wanted to write about animal rights, so she made a request to do her project on how maltreated animals were the same as marginalized people.  When the university disagreed and her professor called such a suggestion “inhuman and racist” (which it is), Ketenci wanted revenge.

Any student knows that professors are supposed to challenge students’ thoughts and ideas.  Sometimes professors are intentionally pushing you to reach a conclusion; other times students just say something unintelligent and the professor wants the person to explain himself or herself.

But Ketenci didn’t have a human right broken.  She had her feelings hurt.  So she drummed up some fancy legal language and filed a complaint against her professor, saying that “this systemic discrimination and harassment that silences marginalized minority peoples’ voices, such as me as a Racialized Ethical Vegan, is a serious threat towards freedom of speech and freedom of belief.”

She says her veganism is her “creed,” no different than a religion, and demands $15,000 in compensation because she couldn’t write about social work for her degree in social work.

To say that her choice to eat plants over meat makes her a “marginalized minority” is incredibly offensive.  It obliterates the real definition of marginalized minorities who really need special protection provided by the government, such as aboriginals and the homeless.

As outrageous as her complaint is, even more outrageous is that the Tribunal accepted to hear this complaint.  Ontario taxpayers are now spending tens of thousands of dollars on determining whether a vegan is a “marginalized minority" that needs special governmental protection.

Ontario Human Rights Commission.  The irony is in its name.