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 Posted Friday, July 23, 1999

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Battling B.C. Journalist Doug Collins writes to craven publisher Conrad Black

July 22, 1999

Summary: Conrad Black's Hollinger/Southam group refused to take Doug Collins' case against Canada's human rights law. Moreover David Radler, president of Hollinger, has denied funds to the B.C. Press Council to enable it to intervene in the case, which they were committed to do. Collins has now had this exchange of letters with the frightened newspaper publisher:

Dear Mr. Black:

I realize that this missive will have no effect on you, but I write it for the record. My record. I must make it clear, too, that I seek nothing from you. Hollinger/Southam are not going to enter the fray against B.C.'s outrageous human rights law on account of my being "somewhat disreputable", as you appear to have put it.

That statement is, I believe, somewhat libellous. But Conrad Black the media giant will not have to cross swords in court with Doug Collins, the media midget. His resources do not run to it.

Try not to laugh at the the following recollections. But I should like to know when I became disreputable.

Was it when I was the youngest sergeant in any front-line unit in the British Army; when I was awarded the Military Medal; when according to my discharge papers, my conduct in six years of war had been "exemplary"?

Doug CollinsWas it when I got a National Newspaper Award for exposing George Dupre, Canada's phony S.O.E. agent in France, as a fake, after Quentin Reynolds the American author had written a book about Dupre's fictitious exploits; or when the MacMillan Bloedel Award for Senior Journalism came my way for exposing big-scale corruption at the University of British Columbia?

Was it when a non-political committee on the North Shore recommended me for the Canada 125 Medal, which I duly received, courtesy of the Governor General? Or was it perhaps when the residents of the North Shore, being easily duped, contributed over $150,000 to the North Shore News Defence Fund after that newspaper and I were hauled before that first "Human Rights" Tribunal in 1997?

At the risk of appearing to be somewhat smug, I can report that none of the several employers I have had in Canada during the last half century has considered me to be disreputable. I have often been in hot water with the usual pressure groups, but it is a bland soul who annoys no-one.

I have twice been hauled before our misnamed "rights tribunals" for being politically incorrect. In the first instance, the complaint by the Canadian Jewish Congress was dismissed, the "adjudicator" knowing that the complaint would not stand up in a court of law. It is true that the carefully chosen "judge" said my column on "Hollywood Propaganda" was "mean-spirited and anti-Semitic". But, obviously, it was not anti-Semitic enough for a different verdict.

This year, after wrinkling his brow over the problem for six months, another carefully chosen rights bureaucrat found that I was indeed a sinner, following a complaint from B'Nai Brith's Harry Abrams. Adding to the absurd, that complaint included the original "Hollywood Propaganda" column that had been dismissed previously. For fanatics and rights maniacs, though, double jeopardy is unimportant.

To answer my own question, it is clear that the findings of the kangaroo courts known as rights tribunals, plus the views of axe-grinding pressure groups, are the sources of my being disreputable, although in the view of many it is they who are such.

Are you aware of what the NDP government in B.C. is up to? If you are, your position is beyond understanding. In any event, here are some facts.

Under the B.C. Human Rights Code, the truth is no defence, which means that the lie can prevail.

  • The adjudicator is judge, jury and prosecutor.
  • Fair comment is no defence.
  • Publication in the public interest is no defence.
  • Research done for academic purposes is no defence.
  • Fines can be unlimited and are awarded for "hurt feelings".
  • Newspapers can be told what to print (as happened in the North Shore News case).
  • "Adjudicators" have limited tenure, which makes them the creatures of government.
  • Complainants are entitled to legal aid no matter how wealthy they are. You could get it, for instance. But defendants are denied it unless they are virtual paupers.
  • Court rules of evidence do not apply.
  • Within the framework of the Code, no appeal is possible. Defendants, at their own cost, can only ask the courts for a "judicial review" of the law. Which is what I am doing, at great financial risk.
  • The Code makes it an offence to "indicate" discrimination against a person or a group, or to write anything "likely" to bring a person or a group into "hatred or contempt." Anyone telling a Newfie joke could be hauled before a tribunal.

Mr. Roger McConchie, the lawyer for the B.C. Press Council, has stated that the purpose of the Code is "to stifle speech that is not criminal". He has stated, too, that mine is the first time since Confederation that a newspaper and its columnist have been forced to appear before a government- appointed body to defend an opinion column.

I do not write hate literature. That is why there has been no action against me under the federal hate laws, which make "hatred" a criminal offence. So the solution for the worst government this Province has seen in living memory was to write its own, catch-all hate law.

Incidentally, I have long been an admirer of your wife, Miss Barbara Amiel. She has until now always been a fervent defender of freedom of speech. When she was writing for the Toronto Sun she -- like me -- deplored the attempts to put Ernst Zundel into jail for "spreading false news". So I was disappointed to hear from Paul Fromm that she told him, "We just can't get into the Holocaust thing," or words to that effect.

It is of course not a matter of "getting into the Holocaust thing". It is a matter of getting -- or not getting -- into the freedom of speech thing, and I can just imagine what she would be writing if the circumstances were different. It would make her National Post piece on Supreme Court Judge L'Heureux-Dube look tame.

As Federal District Judge Robert Warren pointed out in Wisconsin in 1991, "The suppression of speech, even where the speech's value appears to have little value and great costs, amounts to government thought control".

In 1928, Oliver Wendell Holmes put it even better. "The history of intellectual growth clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable and to challenge the unchallengeable."

But that is the U.S. and this is Canada. And the situation will not change as long as the Pharisees walk by on the other side of the street.

By the way, some interesting historical figures have been disreputable: Jesus Christ; Martin Luther, William Tyndale; the victims of the Spanish Inquisition, the Witches of Salem, Winston Churchill in his wilderness years, and the great Malcolm Muggeridge, who in order to get employment had to leave England for a period after writing about The Royal Soap Opera, long before such stuff became the daily diet of the media.

The role played in all this by your colleague, Mr. David Radler, is interesting.

When he was told by a reporter that the cost of the first tribunal was $200,000, he replied that I wasn't worth $2,000. (But I must have been because the fine inflicted by the second charade was exactly that!)

He is also said to have told the Canadian Jewish Congress,with which he has a clear cultural connection, that he would get rid of me from the North Shore News in ten days provided they dropped their complaint to the first tribunal.

He fired me from my syndicated column on Sterling Press over the objections of his senior editorial staff. Perhaps he also told them it was his way or the doorway, which is one of his favorite expressions.

I am informed, too, that when the Chairman of the B.C. Press ouncil, Mr. Ted Hughes, asked him recently for money from major newspapers so that the Council could intervene in my challenge to the Human Rights Code, he was met with a blank refusal. This even though the Council had publicly condemned the B.C. Human Rights Code and "deplored" the findings of the second tribunal. But there is little it can do, seeing that the dailies in B.C. are controlled by you and him. If anything is "disreputable," it is surely an action of that sort.

As stated, I want nothing from you. I just wanted to say what I have said.

Yours sincerely,

(Doug Collins)


The Hon. Conrad M. Black, P.C. O.C.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,
Hollinger Inc., 10 Toronto Street,
Toronto, ON. M5C 2B7

cc: Ms. Barbara Amiel.

Mr. Black's reply, dated July 13.

I read your letter of July 5 with interest. As you know, I agree, as David Radler and my wife do, that the antics of the B.C. Human Rights Commission have been outrageous. The publisher and editor of the North Shore News should not have capitulated to the commission and were not authorized to do so. Unfortunately, some of your editorial reflections are such that, while we don't contest your right to your opinions, we are not prepared to publish or underwrite them ourselves. This is easily distinguishable from the persecution of Zundel, to which you compared it. There is no inconsistency in the position of Mr. Radler, my wife or me.

Doug Collins's response to Mr. Black's letter:

Thank you for your letter of July 13 and for extending to me the courtesy of a reply.

With respect, I submit that you have avoided the issue, which is not a matter of whether you are "prepared to publish or underwrite my opinions". I retired from the North Shore News nearly two years ago so there is no question of your publishing my opinions. Nor can you, logically at any rate, agree that a law that threatens the press is outrageous and then hide your head in the sand. The fact is that you had a golden opportunity to challenge a major attack on freedom of speech and press and chose not to do so &emdash; for reasons, I think, best known to Mr. Radler, who appears to have had contact with pressure groups like the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Nor would a challenge to that law "underwrite my opinions". The B.C. Press Council and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association did not underwrite my opinions when they argued at my first human rights tribunal in 1997 that the law was unconstitutional.

You have also ignored the fact that Hollinger/Southam, via Mr. Radler, has prevented the Press Council from intervening in my current case. Besides being disgraceful, that is a strong argument against near-monoply newspaper control.

Once again, I want nothing from you. I simply seek to put the facts on the record.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Collins

Previously on Doug Collins: [1] [2]

Doug Collins, Phone and Fax 604--926--0052 • e-mail

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