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Thursday, November 27, 2008

New B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director supports repealing Section 13 of CHRA and opposes extradition of Canadian publisher Marc Emery

David_ebyThe British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) announced this week that lawyer David Eby was named Acting Executive Director. Eby will be taking over the role effective December 1, 2008.

“We are confident that the addition of David Eby to our team will enable us to continue advancing the interests of the association, including providing the education and information about civil liberties and defending the rights of Canadians,” said Robert Holmes, president of the BCCLA.

Eby joined the BCCLA board in 2005 and is the author of the organization’s Arrest Handbook, a legal handbook that outlines the rights of people who have been arrested and accused of a crime.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to deepen my work with the BCCLA at this stage of historic growth and impact for the organization,” said Eby. “I can’t wait to get to work with the staff, the membership, and the Board on ensuring Canada’s democratic commitments are met.”

Eby has been a legal advocate for police accountability and the rights of the accused, but what does he think of the issues that are especially important to the Western Standard editorial team? In an interview with the Western Standard, Eby shares his thoughts on freedom of speech and expression and the looming extradition of libertarian publisher and marijuana seed distributor Marc Emery.

Western Standard: I was hoping to get your thoughts on the recent Moon report calling for the repeal of Section 13 of the CHRA. This is the provision in the CHRA that governs so-called “hate speech” on the Internet. The Western Standard and our former publisher Ezra Levant faced an Alberta human rights complaint for publishing the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Maclean’s magazine also faced a complaint for publishing excerpts of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone. How do you feel about these restrictions on freedom of speech and expression? Are they reasonable? Dangerous?

David Eby: The BCCLA supports repealing Section 13 of the CHRA and its equivalent in the BC and other provincial legislation. We oppose restrictions on freedom of expression generally and any exceptions to that have to be clearly defined and strongly mandated by the facts. Obviously, restrictions are dangerous as they chill more expression than they intend as people seek to shy away from crossing the line and incurring a criminal or other penalty. While for some forms of speech we may disagree with and condemn the content, we still support the right to speak.

WS: Another issue that the Western Standard spends considerable time on is the extradition of Marc Emery. Emery is the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and a drug policy reformer. His marijuana seed business financed his activism, which attracted the attention of the DEA. DEA agents arrested him in Canada and want him extradited to the US to face a possible lifetime in jail. The punishment in Canada for this “crime” -- when it is punished -- is a fine. Would the BCCLA oppose the extradition of Marc Emery?

DE:  The BCCLA opposes the extradition of Marc Emery in principle; however, we do not have an active file on that particular matter. BCCLA director Kirk Tousaw is acting for Mr. Emery in the extradition hearing, but not on behalf of the organization. The “mirror” principle of Canadian extradition law holds that if something is not criminal in Canada, we would not extradite a Canadian to a foreign state where that same activity is criminal. Accordingly, given that we hold the position that the criminalization of marijuana in Canada is problematic; the extradition of Mr. Emery to the United States to face marijuana trafficking charges is similarly wrong-headed.

WS: What is your priority for the BCCLA as the new acting executive director?

DE: My first priority is to continue the high standard of political critique, analysis and litigation coming out of our office through supporting our hard working staff and volunteer board members. Our organization’s policy and direction is set by our board, and my role is to support that as best as possible. In these difficult financial times, I can foresee that much of my role will involve ensuring that the finances of the organization remain on track so that we may maintain our current level of service to the public.

WS: Do you have any thoughts on the distinction between civil libertarians and libertarians of the Walter Block-variety, who I believe was once a director with the BCCLA? What policy priorities do you think would best embody this distinction?

DE: Walter Block was before my time, but I know the distinction you’re referring to. Between libertarians and civil libertarians, while we share a number of concerns and principles, the civil libertarian view that a larger government role is required around due process, non-discrimination and equality rights being observed probably sets us apart from strict libertarians.

(Picture: David Eby is Acting Executive Director of the BCCLA)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 27, 2008 in Current Affairs, Marc Emery | Permalink


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The very idea of repealing Section 13 of CHRA is unacceptable because it shocks my conscience.
There, done deal..no further explantion required

Posted by: 419 | 2008-11-27 4:57:31 PM

Another recent post on the Shotgun about the BCCLA is here: http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2008/11/bc-civil-libert.html

Yep. These guys walk the walk.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-27 4:57:46 PM

I'm sorry that it shocks your conscience, 419, but that isn't enough to decide the matter for Canada and it shouldn't be for you. Your conscience will recover from its unwelcome wake-up call before this problem is solved.

There are deep, important reasons to have a hate speech clause like section 13 in the CHRA. There are also deep, important reasons not to have one. There are no easy answers to this conflict of goals, including the chirping of your or my cricket conscience. The best answer available will come when we've had enough dialogue to figure out how, in the context of current or conceivable law, we best protect the positive and negative freedoms we desire on both sides of the issue.

In the end laws themselves aren't important, but the social goals that create them are. When someone points out that a law is straddling a tough line somewhere, you're being asked to think about the problem more - not less.

Posted by: NN | 2008-11-27 5:17:57 PM

In the end laws themselves aren't important, but the social goals that create them are.
Posted by: NN | 27-Nov-08 5:17:57 PM

Disagree. The laws themselves are in place to protect us all if they are moral, natural laws.
But when they are man made laws of "control" they should be regarded with great suspicion, especially when you seem to be talking about court mandated "social goals". Since when is it alright for the courts or the government to engage in social engineering? That simply isn't the job description of an administration that is in place to gaurd our rights as a free people.
On the other hand...if we're talking about a Communist government, then I guess "social goals" would be on the menu, wouldn't they? :)

Posted by: JC | 2008-11-27 6:38:19 PM

Congratulations are in order for Mr. Eby on his new position. I wish him success.

Though we may have our occasional differences, it's great to have principled allies in the struggle for the individual rights of Canadians.

The BCCLA has been raising the alarm about the speech-restricting activities of the HRCs longer than most.

Once upon a time, before I read Milton Friedman (then Hayek, Hazlitt and Bastiat), I too was a civil libertarian...

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-28 1:40:04 AM

Yo NN- I thought this was exactly the place to chirp our views. BTW- That was excellent waffling on your part, you big lawless pirate ..

Posted by: 419 | 2008-11-28 2:40:31 AM

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