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 Posted Wednesday, February 10, 1999

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"Rights" Police Order Doug Collins and newspaper fined. Rest of Canadian Press in Uproar.

Collins interviewed by CBC team
Collins interviewed by CBC team last year

North Shore News

Vancouver, February 8, 1999

Ruling torpedoes B.C.'s free press

Timothy Renshaw, Managing Editor

IF you don't succeed: try, try again. In B.C. [British Columbia, Canada] that's the modus operandi of the province's human rights commission.

Target for today was Doug Collins and the North Shore News.

Those who put much stock in the workings of human rights commissions will see Wednesday's decision as a direct hit.

After all it upheld a complaint lodged against the News and Collins by Harry Abrams. The complaint alleged that four Collins columns published five years ago in the News violated the province's Human Rights Code by exposing Jewish persons to hatred and contempt.

But those who put more stake in democratic principles will know that the B.C. Human Rights Commission, like other such commissions across the land, is an arm of the government charged with cultivating the New Age victim industry. They will also know that the decision is another extremely disturbing sign on the road to state intervention in the free marketplace of ideas.

For example, the tribunal concluded that individually "and taken out of context" the columns at issue don't violate the code, but somehow collectively they do.

That reasoning is all part of the elastic human rights business. If you are selective in what you choose to excerpt from any body of written work the conclusions you can come up with are wide open. You can as News lawyer David Sutherland said, "make Snow White out to be Beelzebub."

The latest tribunal also claimed the right to reinterpret the already foggy Human Rights Code so that one tribunal's interpretation of the code doesn't necessarily bind another to that interpretation.

In other words: reinterpret it as needed.

And, as part of the tribunal's remedy, the News has been ordered to publish government-dictated content -- this even though the challenge to the constitutionality of the human rights legislation has yet to be heard. We therefore have a government-decreed remedy before the case has been completed.

And the Human Rights Code provides no authority for a tribunal to demand that a newspaper publish its findings. The summary is published in today's News under protest.

In addition, the tribunal ordered that the News and Collins cease to publish statements "that ... are likely to expose Jewish persons to hatred and contempt ... "

Who decides what is "likely" to expose anyone to hatred or contempt? In case you are confused, the government will be glad to fill in the blanks for you.

As media libel lawyer Roger McConchie has noted in the past, the sections of B.C.'s Human Rights Code at issue here are designed to prosecute "speech that is not criminal."

As to the human rights process itself, it is from the outset hopelessly weighed against the targets of complaints and ponderously slow.

Tribunal defendants, for example, have no recourse to traditional legal avenues of defence such as truth and fair comment.

And complainants in any human rights tribunal are automatically eligible for legal aid to fund their cases.

Complainant Abrams took full advantage of that taxpayer largesse.

The News had no such option.

Its five-year human rights battle has cost the News well over $200,000 and has held the Sword of Damocles over the newspaper for that entire time.

There is also no restriction on the number of times a human rights defendant can be tried on the same charge.

The News chose to walk out of the most recent human rights show trial because the newspaper was, in effect, being retried on the same charge that it had successfully defended itself against during a five-week hearing in 1997.

B.C.'s taxpayer-funded human rights machinery is designed to wear down the target to the point where it no longer has the will or the resources to defend itself.

Special interest pressure groups won this round. Democracy lost.

North Shore News

Vancouver, February 8, 1999

Tribunal rules against News

Victoria man's complaint over Doug Collins' columns upheld by human rights ruling

by Robert Galster

BRITISH Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal has upheld a Victoria man's complaint against the North Shore News and its former columnist Doug Collins.

Harry Abrams filed the complaint on May 27, 1994. In it he alleged Collins and the News "published or caused to be published articles that discriminate against Jewish persons and are likely to expose those persons to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, religion and ancestry" contrary to the Human Rights Code.

In addition to upholding the complaint, Tom Patch, the tribunal member hearing the complaint, has ordered the News and Collins to pay Abrams $2,000 as compensation for the injury to his dignity and self-respect.

The tribunal also ordered the News to publish a summary of its findings within a week and refrain from publishing statements that "expose or are likely to expose Jewish persons to hatred or contempt."

Abrams' complaint focused on four columns written by Collins and published in the News in 1994.

One of the four, Hollywood Propaganda, was the subject of an earlier tribunal hearing at the behest of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

In late 1997, that tribunal's chairman Nitya Iyer dismissed the complaint finding that the column in question "did not itself express hatred or contempt."

At that time, the paper launched the North Shore News Free Speech Defence Fund to offset the quickly escalating costs of mounting a defence in the proceedings and launching a constitutional challenge of the legislation giving rise to the tribunals.

The total legal costs of the first tribunal exceeded $200,000 while the defence fund raised $149,197.69.

News publisher Peter Speck said the most recent tribunal constituted the paper being "tried twice for the same thing."

He added that the News would be hard-pressed to match the deep pockets of a government agency seemingly set on pursuing the matter until it got its way.

"We don't have the resources to be taken through another excruciating court appearance," said Speck. "And we were going to be tried until the government got the result it wanted."

Collins reacted to the decision with his now customary defiance of the human rights legislation. "It's an outrageous decision and a direct threat to freedom of the press and freedom of expression," said Collins. "It's an attempt to enforce political correctness in this province which was the purpose of this legislation (Human Rights Code)."

Collins' assessment was echoed by several organizations, including the BC Press Council, which issued the following statement: "The government has no business setting up special tribunals to tell newspapers what to print, given their role as 'public watchdogs' in a free and democratic society."

Meanwhile, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission applauded the decision. The commission played an important part in the tribunal hearing, arguing that the complaint had merit and should be upheld.

"This decision affirms the notion that the freedom of expression we enjoy comes with responsibility to exercise that freedom in a responsible manner," said the commission's chief commissioner Mary-Woo Sims.

"We do not have the right to yell 'fire!' in a crowded building when there isn't a fire, and we don't have the right to incite hatred and contempt towards other British Columbians."

In a local twist, North Vancouver resident Lionel Kenner testified at the hearing that as a local resident he saw Collins as the "voice of the neo-nazi movement on the North Shore."

Original story:

WHY NOT write to express your view?

Toronto Sun

February 8, 1999

The freedom to offend


Toronto Sun ( | February 8, 1999


The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal unwittingly paid homage to 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill when it fined and censored a controversial B.C. columnist last week.

"The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people," said Mill.

Apparently North Shore News columnist Doug Collins has been making a real nuisance of himself. Seems he has bizarre opinions about Jews (that they control society's most important institutions) and the Holocaust (that the extent of suffering was exaggerated), and he's not terribly polite about expressing them. He once referred to the movie Schindler's List as "Swindler's List," for example.

Now, Collins isn't the kind of guy I'd invite over for dinner, kosher or otherwise. But he shouldn't be censored.

The tribunal, however, apparently thinks we Canadians are a delicate bunch, having expended all our strength getting through the Canadian winters, with or without the help of the army. An increasingly vocal group of once-hearty souls wants the "freedom of" provisions in the Constitution to be read "freedom from." And the tribunal is happy to comply.

To paraphrase an old saying, my freedom of speech now evidently ends at the tip of your threshold of offence. And that essentially strips me entirely of my freedom, as others have pointed out. Author Salman Rushdie - he of the bounty on his head for allegedly offending Islam - has said, "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."


But freedom to offend has become the winter frost that nips at the tender petals of greenhouse-grown Canadian sensibilities: it must be kept out at all costs.

Publishing material that may cause others to be "shocked and appalled" is no longer an accepted occupational hazard of journalism; it has become journalism's biggest crime. I always thought the biggest crime was being boring, but in the touchy-feely '90s, freedom of the press has become freedom to be as piquant as Pablum.

People who cheer the Collins decision will undoubtedly reject my characterization of them as being anti-free speech. I have 14 words for you (courtesy Heywood Broun, New York World, 1926): "Everybody favours free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground."

Clearly, Collins had an axe to grind and the tribunal didn't like the shape it was taking. But the grounds on which it ruled against Collins are themselves offensive. The tribunal reviewed four of Collins' columns and found that individually none of them violated the Human Rights Code provisions that ban writing "that is likely to expose" groups to hatred or contempt. When taken together, however, the four columns do that, the tribunal ruled. Namely, they tend to expose Jewish people to hatred or contempt. The tribunal fined Collins and the newspaper $2,000 and ordered both to cease and desist publishing such statements in the future.

This is the "four strikes, you're out" school of justice. Evidently Collins would have been off the hook had he only expressed his views three times.

Furthermore, the tribunal members arrived at their decision using a method available only to them. They read the columns back to back, and only on that basis concluded they were problematic.

Readers, however, didn't. The columns appeared over time, interspersed with other columns. Most readers probably didn't even read all four columns. So much for the "taken together" argument. Readers didn't take the columns together, so, by the tribunal's own logic, could not have been exposed to writing that violated the Human Rights Code.

There is provision in the Criminal Code to prevent hate literature. If Collins is a suspected perpetrator, let him be charged. If not, let him be.

I'd rather he be free to say his piece publicly, where his views can be debated and dismantled by anyone with a public school education.

As Lord Morley said in 1874: "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." Conversions cannot happen without dialogue.

Marianne Meed Ward is managing editor of Faith Today


WHY NOT write to express your view?

February 10, 1999

West Vancouver -- Ignore Him (editorial -- Feb. 5):

typewriterIT IS disappointing that you should engage in cheap editorial rhetoric with regard to the Collins question.

Calling me "an ancient crank" adds nothing to a situation in which I have been judged guilty by a discredited "rights" system of spreading "hate" in my newspaper columns -- a system that has been roundly denounced by the B.C. Press Council.

You allege that, "falsely and repugnantly," I deny the Holocaust. I do not, although I have questioned the six-million figure. Nor do I "crave attention." I did not ask my Jewish detractors to take me to human-rights tribunals.

The funny thing about us "cranks," especially the ancient ones, is that many of us spent six years fighting Hitler. Perhaps suffering from delusions, we thought we were fighting for a world in which cranks of all kinds would be able to peddle their opinions without being persecuted for them. Doug Collins

WHY NOT write to express your view?

Now see Collins on Kinsella.

Our opinion
 WE FIND it repugnant that in a free-speech issue like this, a citizen who was presumably ten thousand miles from both the sharp end of the Holocaust and the softer end of Schindler's List, should be able to profit, literally, from the suppression of free speech. The two thousand dollar penalty goes, not to the taxpayer who funded the action, or to the commission, but into the pocket of the complainant. Once again we fear that it is just this way that "they" seem able to convert everything they do to Gold that will generate fresh anti-semitism in years to come; it is the encouragement it will give to every petty sneak and informer to level charges under the Act, at no expense to himself and at no risk to his personal finances, because the government picks up the accuser's bill.

We know Doug Collins, and are proud to count him as a friend. During World War II, at a time when many of Mr Abrams' murderous friends in Palestine were fighting against the British, Collins was in Europe fighting Hitler.


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