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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disappointing news on the CRTC

Disappointing news item number one regarding the CRTC: Advocates of the free market and free speech who worked so hard to get Harper and his candidates elected close to three years ago still have to wake up to the CRTC ruling over the airwaves every morning without any talk of the government standing up to the Commission or working towards dismantling it. (At least since Bernier was transferred out of Industry.)

Disappointing news item number two regarding the CRTC: Advocates of the free market and free speech who worked so hard to get Harper and his candidates elected close to three years ago woke up today to the news that Harper will enshrine bigotry into the selection of the CRTC chairman by passing regulations requiring the position to alternate between English- and French-speaking individuals.

Don't worry, though. Conservatives believe it will win votes! French votes! In Quebec! That makes everything A-OK.

Posted by Janet Neilson on September 18, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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"In fact, Harper is the first prime minister since Pierre Juneau became the chairperson of the CRTC in 1968 who did not honour the practice of alternating between French and English Canadian chairpersons."

Hardly earth shattering news. When will people awaken to the fact that a government's mandate is not to protect your freedoms, but, as Hobbes outlined, to keep peace and order.

"...because the purpose of the commonwealth is peace, and the sovereign has the right to do whatever he thinks necessary for the preserving of peace and security and prevention of discord, therefore the sovereign may judge what opinions and doctrines are averse; who shall be allowed to speak to multitudes; and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they are published."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-18 3:28:15 PM

Janet, excellent comments and spot on. Just like the HRCs there is no justification for the CRTC in a free society. Sorry, I forgot that we do not have a free society.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-18 3:55:20 PM

DJ: Hopefully we don't all take our beliefs of what government should do from Leviathan. Even if we were to do so, I have a hard time believing that mandating what Canadians can and can't watch or listen to and who dictates that has much to do with either peace or order.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-09-18 4:34:49 PM

"Even if we were to do so, I have a hard time believing that mandating what Canadians can and can't watch or listen to and who dictates that has much to do with either peace or order."

Why so naive Janet?


"On August 24, 2006, Canada's telecom regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, rejected an ex parte application by Richard Warman and Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress to censor foreign websites, by blocking Canadian Internet users from accessing them. It was an attempt to replicate the Orwellian "Great Firewall of China" that the Chinese Communist Party uses to stop politically incorrect websites from reaching that country. I wrote about this unsuccessful but terrifying assault on our freedom here.

The CRTC's rejection of censorship was polite but clear: such a radical infringement of the rights of Internet users, and such unprecedented government regulation of the content of communications, was not something that could be done in a quick, private legal application. If it were to be done at all, it would need to be a big public discussion, including all stakeholders.

Needless to say, a transparent, public discussion of censorship isn't exactly Warman's style. So, some two months after the CRTC had given Warman and the CJC the bum's rush, the CJC approached Warman's old employer, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a group that likes to operate without the hassle of public accountability.

Here's a letter from the CJC to Harvey Goldberg, the chief of section 13 thought crimes investigations over at the CHRC. It's dated November 1, 2006 -- barely two months after the CRTC's decision.

The letter is pretty clear: the CJC wanted the CHRC to find other ways to "provide ISP's [Internet service providers] with the motivation and the ability" to block foreign sites. That is, to do exactly what the CRTC -- and section 36 of the Telecommunication Act -- forbids them to do: tamper with content on the Internet.

There's an element of lawlessness here. The Act specifically states that "a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public", and the CRTC confirmed that, yet the CJC wants to proceed in the face of those rules. So, naturally, the CHRC would be the perfect agency to help skirt those rules -- they've shown quite often that they don't give a tinker's damn about the rule of law.

But if the CRTC won't do it, what does the CJC have in mind? And what do they mean by giving ISP's the "motivation" to do what their own customers and the law won't abide?

The answer is hinted at in the CHRC's "strategic initiatives" outlined on this page of their website. There is a lot of government-as-nanny talk here that would offend most Internet users, but one of the "initiatives" proposed stands out: Canada's existing Internet "hotline", www.cybertip.ca.

Cybertip isn't about censoring politically incorrect thought crimes. It's about blocking child abuse and child pornography sites. Child exploitation isn't a thought crime, it's a real crime. But to the CHRC, Cybertip is their loophole to get past the nasty CRTC with all of their rules and procedures.

Cybertip doesn't play police themselves -- they pass tips of child abuse on to real police who take action. In six years, that has meant 32 arrests. But the CHRC isn't interested in passing anything on to the police, who are bound by all sorts of rules, like the Criminal Code, real trials, and innocence until guilt is proven. Cybertip blocks websites because those websites are part of the crime of child exploitation. But the CHRC is only interested in the final result that Cybertip can achieve: blocking websites. There is no crime being committed by the CHRC's enemies.

Bernie Farber and Len Rudner of the CJC have both written to the CHRC, encouraging them to do an end-run around the CRTC, and to set up a political Cybertip site. Here is an appalling couple of letters to this effect. Look at the second paragraph of Farber's letter:

Indeed, CJC, more [than] 10 years ago, observed that the internet might have the appearance of a wild frontier, but that it could be -- and must be -- tamed.

Oh, really? I know that throttling dissenting views is Farber's personal fetish. But does anyone at the CJC -- or its funders -- know the kind of things this man writes? Do the two figurehead presidents, Reuven Bulka and Sylvain Abitbol? What do they think of Farber's dream of "taming" the Internet?

We will of course not be satisfied until the number of "Canadian [hate] sites" has been reduced to zero, but the work is well underway.

Well, we know the kind of sites that the CHRC considers to be "hate sites". They investigated Free Dominion, a mainstream conservative site. Maclean's magazine's website was specifically named in a section 13 "hate site" complaint to the CHRC. And the Western Standard magazine itself was hit with an Alberta HRC complaint for publishing the Danish cartoons. But Farber and the CJC won't be satisfied until they're gone."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-18 5:24:29 PM

"Most Canadians strongly believe that freedom of speech is a value and a principle that is the lifeblood of democratic society.

The Jewish community shares this appreciation and places a premium on free thought, discourse and open debate. Freedom of speech is consistent with our tradition of lifelong learning, questioning and discussion.

But throughout history, Jews have been victims of hate, repression and discrimination. That is why the organized Jewish community, through such governing organizations as Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), has also recognized that most freedoms are not absolute. When necessary, there must be limits on freedoms in order to protect the integrity and security of minority communities from harm.

This harm can follow as a result of hateful, vicious or even disrespectful expression – particularly when that expression encourages others to target minority communities and cause physical, emotional or psychological distress. There are different kinds of harm – but the effect of hate on survivors of the Holocaust and their children can be particularly traumatic.

This explains why more than 40 years ago, the organized Jewish community responded affirmatively to the creation of the Cohen Commission, following anti-Semitic rallies in Toronto’s Allan Gardens."

According to Levant the whole threat at Allen Gardens was, at least in part, fabricated by the CJC. However, freedom to listen means freedom to listen to "hate" speech which, according to the CJC, means potential insurrection, which means a threat to peace and order.

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-18 5:30:56 PM

Censorship of speech remains censorship. It must be fought at every level. Hate laws are the Trojan horse for further censorship and discrimination.

Those pushing for the eradication of our traditional freedoms are not only professional Jews and must be resisted at every turn. They may be well intentioned but the worst oppression is most often driven by the best of intentions.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-19 10:09:09 AM

The CJC is correct. Freedoms are not absolute. "...the sovereign may judge what opinions and doctrines are averse;" The question is who is the sovereign? Even, Mill recognised that liberty cannot exist in a multi-nation environment. It's the common group that decides. Freedom to discriminate is the paramount value. The homogeneous society decides what restrictions work for them and those ideas evolve over time. In homogeneous Japan, the display of "Japanese Only" signs are of little significance.

Posted by: DJ | 2008-09-19 1:11:53 PM

DJ: "But the CHRC is only interested in the final result that Cybertip can achieve: blocking websites. There is no crime being committed by the CHRC's enemies."

yep, the true enemy of the people.

Posted by: reg dunlop | 2008-09-19 7:01:33 PM

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