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 Posted Tuesday, May 18, 1999

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May 17, 1999

North Shore News 1139 Lonsdale Avenue North Vancouver, B.C. V7M 2H4 Canada [phone (604) 985-2131]



Ministry's lawyer targets Collins petition


By Kevin Gillies News Reporter

THE provincial government is seeking to short-circuit an appeal of a human rights tribunal decision against former North Shore News columnist Doug Collins before that appeal gets to court.

Collins was set to appear in a Victoria courtroom on Monday to petition for a judicial review of a ruling made against him last February by a quasi-judicial human rights tribunal. The tribunal's decision found Collins and the News guilty of breaching B.C.'s Human Rights Code by expressing opinion "likely" to expose a Victoria man to hatred or contempt through four columns published in the News back in 1994.

But on Thursday, attorney general ministry spokesman Kate Thompson said the Crown was seeking to quash the petition before it gets to the courts.

Collins was incensed.

"It's quite obvious to me that they don't want this thing to come to court because if it comes to court, they will lose," he said Thursday.

"I have never written hate literature," Collins said. "My opinions may be fairly strong and not politically correct. But hate literature is a different thing."

Because B.C.'s human rights tribunals offer no avenue to appeal, Collins is turning to the courts.

On Thursday, Collins' lawyer Doug Christie received a letter from fellow Victoria lawyer Lisa Mrozinski, who represents the attorney general's ministry.

The letter advised Christie of Mrozinski's intention to strike down the petition "on the grounds that it discloses no cause of action, is otherwise unnecessary, and may constitute an abuse of process."

When asked to explain the grounds, Mrozinski refused comment but referred questions to Thompson, the ministry's media relations manager.

"We don't talk about anything before the courts," Thompson said. "The government never does that."

Christie was confident the petition would be heard.

"It's a stall tactic," said Christie, who expects Monday's hearing to go ahead, although with a different focus.

"They want to delay setting a date for the (court) hearing until they have made their motion to quash, which would be in the fall."

But Thompson refused to reply to the suggestion.

"We're not going to discuss what's going on before the courts in newspaper headlines," she said. "If Mr. Christie wants to make some comments, that's entirely up to him."

Collins said B.C.'s human rights legislation is seriously flawed.

"They know that the thing is absolutely unacceptable to any ordinary or reasonable person," he said. "The people who passed the legislation themselves were unscrupulous. They passed this legislation in order to get me and they don't want it to get to a real court of law."

Mrozinski's letter also states that the attorney general's office has the support of the human rights tribunal, B'Nai Brith Canada and Harry Abrams, who lodged the human rights complaint back in 1994.

Abrams' human rights complaint was the second filed over columns written by Collins. In 1997, a different human rights tribunal found that the Collins column at issue did not constitute hatred under the Human Rights Code. However, the tribunal in the Abrams case found that, while the four columns at issue individually did not violate the code, collectively they did.

Our opinion
  THIS is a very real Free Speech issue. We urge our readers to support Paul Fromm's appeal on behalf of Douglas Collins legal action . . .

If you write to a newspaper don't forget: 1. keep it short; 2. add your mail address and a daytime telephone number; they will not print it otherwise.

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