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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

English Canada is a common law jurisdiction, with a parliamentary government. The glue of both systems is precedent. You justify what you do by what has been done before. It allows for radical change to be made gradually, so gradually that few notice. Thus over many years, in the below case half a century, something utterly unthinkable comes to pass. Like charging mainstream journalists for reporting the news.

The purpose of the original [Human Rights] legislation was equality of opportunity. It sought to achieve this by prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of defined factors -- race or colour. In other words, it forbade practices in hiring, renting, etc., that placed one individual at a competitive disadvantage to another because of some innate factor like colour over which the individual had no control. Such was the original equality-of-opportunity model.

Two decades later, the-equality-of-opportunity model gave way to an equality-of-treatment model. The objective here was to identify, and eliminate, structural barriers to equality; it was contended that human rights commissions must superintend not just opportunity but all subsequent consequences, to ensure that social benefits were equitably distributed.

The issue is not that good laws have been badly applied, or noble ends twisted to ignoble purposes, it's that bad laws have gotten worse in their application. A state whose function is to allow its citizen to live unmolested by force and fraud, cannot be allowed to discriminate about who it protects. It cannot say that one class of citizens is exempt from its protection. When the state, instead, goes into society trying to slay monsters - both real and imagined - it ceases to become a protector of rights, but a violator. 

Opportunity is a condition not a right. Forcing someone to give you an opportunity violates his rights to be left alone, to use his judgment in determining how to spend his time and resources. Even the "original equality-of-opportunity model" presumed, a fantastic presumption for the government of a free nation, to decide whether an individual's judgement was sound. Because racism - a more elastic term than often allowed - was deemed to be socially unacceptable, actions that were construed to have been made on racist grounds were now deemed legally invalid. 

In regular criminal law an otherwise criminal act can be excused if the motivations of the individual were innocent. Human Rights legislation reversed this principle, making otherwise legal acts illegal because of the motivations of those involved. Motivation, which was once a possible exemption from legal sanction, now became a litmus for ordinary behaviour. If the exercise of one's rights is conditioned by whether one's motives are pure and saintly, then the individual has no rights. Obversely the remit of the state becomes, in theory, unlimited. The fight against the HRCs is not just about Section 13 or limits on freedom of speech. That's an important first step. But the rights of Canadians will never be secure until the central conceit of the HRCs is removed from the statute books, the belief that the state may play inquisitor over the souls of Canadians. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on February 25, 2010 | Permalink


the rights of Canadians will never be secure until the central conceit of the HRCs is removed from the statute books, the belief that the state may play inquisitor over the souls of Canadians.

Posted by PUBLIUS on February 25, 2010 | Permalink

That is so true!

I was going to rent my house out for 12 months, but decided against it because of the hassles the landlord and tenant act forces upon me. So now there is one less house on the market, thereby increasing (even if slight) the price of rental properties in my area. So an act that is intended to help the renter, is hurting renters. This is how it works when governments try to help one segment of the population, even if they are honestly trying to do the right thing.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-25 5:32:11 PM

Exactly, TM. I have never met a landlord wishing to discriminate against potential renters due to their colour/race. I do know many who prefer to discriminate against those unlikely to pay their rent on time or those most likely to wreck the place, but thanks to the HRCs cannot do so.

If the state restricted itself to ensure that applicants for the public service could not be disqualified due to their race, sex, religion etc., we would not have this problem. Unfortunately what is practised is the state trying to ensure equal results rather than equal opportunity. As a result one finds employers no longer being able to hire the best qualified candidate, and being forced to hire unqualified staff based on their identity. Fire departments, law enforcement, the military and Corrections are all prime examples.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-25 6:38:51 PM

The CHRC may have started out with noble intentions but has morphed into a disease that is infecting and destroying free speech and the freedom to make decisions based on logic rather than threats. The only irony I see is that within 35 - 40 years whites will be a minority in this country and I'm not sure how the CHRC will stand up under sharia law. Food for thought.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-25 10:04:33 PM

peterj, interesting thought. It would be ironic then that a visible minority white male could lodge a discrimination complaint against a non white.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-25 11:01:21 PM

white male could lodge a discrimination complaint against a non white.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-25 11:01:21 PM

I hope that if they pick on a couple more cases like Ezra and lose, they will be eliminated through lack of funding. The government is always on the lookout for organizations that are high profile and make elected officials look weak or piss off the voting public while being funded by the taxpayer. Much like Status of Women. If Harper ever gets a majority, watch for the cuts to these professional busybodies.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-27 10:34:04 PM

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