B.C. Journalist Doug Collins writes to
craven publisher Conrad Black|
July 22, 1999
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- The Hon. Conrad M. Black, P.C.
- Chairman and Chief Executive
- Hollinger Inc., 10 Toronto
- Toronto, ON. M5C 2B7
cc: Ms. Barbara Amiel.
Black's reply, dated July
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
Collins's response to Mr. Black's
Thank you for your letter of July 13
and for extending to me the courtesy of a
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
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
Once again, I want nothing from you. I
simply seek to put the facts on the
on Doug Collins:
Doug Collins, Phone and
Fax 604--926--0052 e-mail