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Wokeism VS. classical liberal truth-based order at the root of Online Harms bill debate

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge

You can be made a criminal as a result of someone’s emotional response to what you say or write online. A successful complainant can receive up to $20,000 for that anonymous complaint from the person complained about.

Wokeism versus the classical liberal truth-based order is what the discussion on the Online Harms Bill, C-63, is really about. Although some see it as a plot to undermine free speech, it may actually represent the legitimate view of progressives—wokeism—to promote social justice, as they see it. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers—the first woke government in the history of Canada—sincerely believe in what they are doing. C-63 is wokeism at work.

I’m not talking about the sections designed to protect children from online harm. Everyone wants that. Whether or not the various digital safety commissars are necessary is questionable, but the politicians can sort that out. I’m referring specifically to the sections allowing anyone to anonymously make a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) that someone has written or said something that is “hateful.” This is defined as causing someone to feel “detested” or “vilified.” You can be made a criminal as a result of someone’s emotional response to what you say or write online. A successful complainant can receive up to $20,000 for that anonymous complaint from the person complained about. And that person, who is now $20,000 poorer, can be ordered to pay a further $50,000 to the government after CHRC bureaucrats—appointed by the government—decide that he has hurt the feelings of the anonymous complainant.

We don’t have to imagine how this will work, because we have already seen it in action with Section 13, the previous incarnation of C-63. In one famous case, Ezra Levant, now of Rebel News, was the person complained about. He had dared to republish the infamous Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Someone complained, and Levant basically had years of his life, and most of his money, consumed with trying to defend himself.

The other famous Section 13 case related to the Islamist issue involved author and media personality Mark Steyn. His case was just as gruelling, time consuming, and expensive. Steyn eventually won, but at great cost in time and money.

Largely as a result of these cases, Section 13 was repealed by the Harper government. What had happened is that a commission with a particular view about Islamic issues had relentlessly prosecuted two men who legitimately held different views about the subject.

And that is exactly what we can expect with this resurrected version of Section 13.

It could be on Islamic issues where people have different views. Or it could be on a thousand other issues where people have different views.

The trans issue is one. The prime minister famously tweeted “Trans women are women.” That is a view held by many people. It is one of the fundamental tenets of progressivism—wokeism. However, many do not accept that view. How many? According to Professor Eric Kaufman, one-third of Canadians accept woke views, while two-thirds reject wokeism. This same two-thirds to one-third ratio also applies in Britain and United States. The one-third fervently believe that they must remake the world according to the way they know it must be, and that the two-thirds who don’t see it yet must be brought along.

So, with this proposed legislation, we see the problem immediately. Complaints will be made to the CMHR about a trans issue, for example, against someone within the two-thirds majority of the population who do not accept that “trans women are women” and that complaint will be adjudicated by mainly Liberal appointees—appointed in large part exactly because of their progressive views—who believe that “trans women are women.” The people complained about can expect to be treated the same way Levant and Steyn were treated: namely, being forced through lengthy and expensive hearings, simply for holding the same views that two-thirds of Canadians hold.

This is an absurd result. And the trans example is just one of many that can be expected to generate complainants. What about the belief that all indigenous complaints must be believed? This is the woke view, namely that the truthfulness of stories told within indigenous communities cannot be questioned in the usual way. The most dramatic example of this odd belief is the claim that 215 indigenous children were secretly buried at the former Kamloops Residential School, in some cases with the forced help of children as young as six. We were asked to believe this highly improbable claim simply because of stories that circulated within indigenous communities.

The Trudeau Liberals immediately accepted this baseless claim. A cabinet minister, Marc Miller, even publicly called a distinguished professor of history, Jacques Rouillard a “ghoul” for simply suggesting that it is in the interest of all Canadians that excavations should be undertaken at Kamloops to determine the truth. If a cabinet minister says such things, it can safely assumed that many other people are quite willing to lodge anonymous complaints against truth seekers, like this professor.

The prime minister actually gave an explanation of how he views free speech in a candid discussion with a journalist during the truckers’ convoy protest. He said that some Canadians—those opposing vaccine mandates and other forms of excessive government control—had “unacceptable views.” They must be stopped. Only “acceptable views”—his—would be allowed.

The problem with this simplistic view is that there are a myriad of subjects upon which people hold different views. Trudeau sincerely believed that these protesters were wrong, while the protestors just as sincerely believed that he was wrong. Imposing the Emergencies Act over a difference of opinion was an extreme move. We now know that what he did was unconstitutional. Bill C-63 is very similar to the use of the Emergencies Act. Both only make sense to the woke.

The classical liberal truth-based order, so painstakingly constructed, was built on free and raucous discussion. And that is the only way it can be maintained. That free discussion of ideas—no matter how offensive, “hateful,” or irksome they might be to people with different views—is vital to our democratic governance.

The woke view, on the other hand, insists that there are certain fixed ideas, such as systemic racism, trans women are women, etc., that must be accepted by everyone, at any cost.

That’s the fight that is underway now with the Online Harms Bill. One side—the one-third—say that they know the way, and everyone must follow. The other side—the two-thirds—say that no one “knows” the way, but only by free discussion can we find it. That free discussion of ideas is messy. People will have their feelings hurt by discussions that will not always be polite. But that’s exactly what has built our advanced civilization.

Wokeism versus classical liberal truth-based order. That’s what C-63 is about.

Children must be protected. Genocide is bad. No one argues with those things. But free speech must be protected. The one-third of the population who hold “woke” views are absolutely entitled to hold and express those views. But they cannot be allowed to prevent the two-thirds who view the world differently from expressing theirs.

Canadians are a trusting people, as Kaufman points out in the above article. And while the roughly two-thirds of the population that does not accept wokeism is identical to the two-thirds in Britain and United States, Canada is different from them in that our Conservative Party has been very reluctant to push back against wokeism, as the Conservatives do in Britain and the Republicans so vigorously do in America. The odd result is that the two-thirds non-woke Canadians tend to trust the one-third woke who have captured the media and our other major institutions. We saw that at work in the government control wielded during the COVID years. Bill C-63 can only make that tendency towards submission worse, by allowing only woke views—acceptable views—to be discussed publicly.

There will be some brave free-speech martyrs, like Levant and Steyn, who will be prepared to soldier on regardless of what legislation the current ideological government passes. But most people who would be inclined to push back against woke mantras—such as “a trans woman is a woman” or “all indigenous claims must be believed”—won’t, even if they know that the claims aren’t true. Canada will become the worse for it.

Wokeism is authoritarian, and will not tolerate free speech.

As drafted, Bill C-63 definitely contravenes Article 2 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to their “political or other opinion.”

C-63, as drafted, is bad law. It must not be passed.

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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Trump’s trial defines justice in disrepute – A Canadian perspective

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

Canada and the US both have a problem with rogue judges

Whatever one thinks of former President Donald Trump, his criminal trial violates the jurisprudence established  by England’s Lord Chief Justice Hewart: “It is… of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

Judges too often preside over cases despite having a conflict of interest. Trump’s argument had merit, that having the Democrat stronghold of Manhattan as the venue for his trial was unfair. And the assignment of Acting Justice Juan Merchan for the trial may reasonably be said to be corrupt. The US Judicial Code says: “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik says Justice Merchan contributed to the Democrat campaign in 2020. And his daughter, Loren Merchan, is heavily involved in Democrat politics. Stefanik says her firm stood to profit from Trump’s conviction. So, one may presume the judge’s bias against Trump.

The charge against Trump was that money was paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet and not undermine his presidential election prospects in 2016. Paying money to suppress prurient assertions is not illegal. But, it was said to violate US election law if intended to influence the outcome of the election—and not merely to protect Trump’s reputation. Given what everyone knows, how could publication of Daniels’s assertions influence a single voter’s intentions?

Many other wandering public figures come to mind. Certainly, Presidents Kennedy and Clinton. Said to be expert on the bedroom ceilings of rich men, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman was Clinton’s ambassador to France.

Textbooks and case law forbid judges to hear cases where there could be a perception of bias. A landmark case involved an application by the Spanish government to extradite former President Pinochet of Chile from England. Lord Hoffmann was the swing vote in the decision that immunity did not prevent extradition. The House of Lords set aside that judgment because Lord Hoffmann had been chairman of Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Pinochet’s prosecution. The judges said that the Amnesty link was an automatic disqualification for sitting on the case.

During the 2022 truckers’ protest in Ottawa, Chief Justice Richard Wagner made outlandish comments about an incipient revolution. The Canadian Judicial Council, of which he is head,  exonerated him. By contrast, Justice Thomas Berger of the BC Supreme Court resigned gracefully after being scolded for non-partisan comment on the entrenchment of Indigenous rights in the Charter.

A typical case of conflicted judging is MediaTube v. Bell Canada, discussed at length in my book Justice on Trial. The plaintiff asserting that Bell stole the technology for FibeTV. The Federal Court’s trial judge, Justice George Locke, had been a partner in the firm of Norton Fulbright that acted for Bell. His decision in favour of Bell is gobbledygook. He acknowledged that Bell had constantly changed the description of how their system worked, as if they didn’t know that. Arguably, Bell and their lawyers McCarthy Tétrault committed the criminal offences of perjury and obstruction of justice. Justice David Stratas spoke for the appellate judges despite having previously represented Bell before the Supreme Court. In 130 words, he justified the exclusion of new evidence by citing a case that had analyzed the purported new evidence in 9,000 words.

Trump’s case follows ones described in Christie Blatchford’s book, Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting—Or how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system (Especially judges). “The judiciary,” she wrote, “is much like the Senate. Like senators they are unelected, unaccountable, entitled, expensive to maintain and remarkably smug.”

Canadians as well as Americans need outside accountability for lawyers and judges. As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, “If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Inner city shoplifting and Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”.

Winnipeg, Manitoba is being hit with an epidemic of shoplifting that appears to be out of control. Thieves openly steal expensive items, such as frozen meat, from inner city food stores. Shelves are stripped bare in what are more accurately described as robberies than shoplifting. Victims describe brazen thefts by entitled thieves who become indignant when caught in the act. One store employee, who tried to stop a theft, was told “You are on Treaty 1 territory”. The stores that are hardest hit are often owned by immigrant families who have worked very hard to build their modest businesses. Some have had to close, as a result of the unchecked criminality, and others will follow.

Police protection is weak. Even in rare cases where culprits are caught and prosecuted, sentences are minimal.

The problem of brazen theft from Winnipeg liquor stores reached such a serious level in the recent past that customers at urban liquor stores in Manitoba are now allowed to enter the store only after lining up single file, and producing identification. Liquor prices have risen as a result, because special government employees must be hired to sit at the door to inspect ID’s. Customers must line up outside, even on the coldest winter days, because freeloaders choose to steal liquor. And everyone – including the police – are too shy to confront the robbers.

Other western cities, such as Regina, Saskatoon and Thunder Bay are having similar problems. Even small cities, such as Wetaskiwin, Alberta, are hard hit.

The common element is that all of these cities and towns have significant indigenous populations who migrated to the cities from largely dysfunctional reserves, where attitudes of dependency, entitlement and victimhood prevail. Most arrive poorly educated, with few job skills, but with an expectation that they will be provided for. They proceed to live rough lives on the mean streets of these cities. Many drift to shoplifting and other crime. The inner city thieves are disproportionately from this demographic.

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”. They argue that these indigenous people are victims of a system that gives them no chance to succeed, or that they are suffering from the “intergenerational trauma” presumably caused by the fact that 1 in 6 indigenous children attended residential schools in the past.

The shoplifters readily adopt these excuses, and claim to be victims of “systemic racism”.

But, wait a minute! Isn’t the Premier of Manitoba, Wab Kinew, indigenous? Isn’t he a successful, law-abiding person? And wouldn’t most indigenous Canadians laugh at the idea that they had to steal to survive? How is it that Wab Kinew, and the many other successful indigenous Canadians manage their lives just fine while the shoplifters cannot?

The answer is that Wab succeeded the way all successful people do. He went to school, worked hard, and went where the jobs are. He was fortunate to have competent, caring parents who understood the importance of education and hard work. His parents also understood that assimilation (or, if you prefer, integration) was essential for their son to succeed. Wab’s father had a rough time in residential school, but used what he learned to raise a son who has become a provincial premier.

 The fact that Kinew is fully assimilated does not prevent him from celebrating his indigenous heritage. Recently, a video of him energetically performing a prairie chicken dance went viral. It showed indigenous youth that they too can be both successful Canadians – and proudly indigenous – at the same time.

It is clear from watching him dancing so vigorously that he would have been a formidable warrior in pre-contact indigenous hunting culture. Colonialism ended that possibility. But it is equally clear that he, and the other indigenous people who were willing to learn the new ways, received a lot in return from the settlers. He is now an articulate, literate, thoroughly modern man, thanks to “settler colonialism”. Colonialism has also given him an expected lifespan more than double that of yesterday’s hunter-gatherers. Colonialism gave at least as much as it took from him.

Kinew’s memoir, “The Reason You Walk” describes someone determined to live his life not as a victim, but as a confident indigenous Canadian.

He built his own life – making mistakes along the way – but learning from those mistakes, and is now the leader of a province – and lauded as a possible future prime minister. He offers no apologies to critics who suggest that an indigenous person who is successful is somehow “selling out” indigenous people. His famous reply to that old saw is “Aboriginal success is the best form of reconciliation”.

Don’t expect to find Wab Kinew stealing frozen hamburger from a Food Fare store anytime soon.

But here’s the lesson indigenous youth can learn from the example Wab Kinew, and other successful indigenous people have set: “If they can do it, so can you”. They should also tell the apologists who want to give them tired excuses – excusing theft as “reparations” for perceived past wrongs, or “intergenerational trauma” – that they, like Wab, refuse to live their lives as “victims”.

In short, the solution to the shoplifting problem is not to condone theft. It is not to treat criminals differently because they are indigenous. It is not to offer them excuses. The solution is to create more Wab Kinews.

And that’s up to Indigenous parents. No government can do that for them. For many families, like Wab’s, that will include the difficult decision to move from dead-end reserves.  But if they have the same commitment to their children’s education and upbringing that Wab’s parents had there is no reason that they can’t raise successful children in this country.

Long before he became Manitoba’s premier, Wab Kinew, regularly entertained listeners on CBC Radio. He was a refreshing, common sense voice, and always refused to play the victim. He never failed to remind young indigenous people that Canada worked just fine for him.

And, with a bit of grit and hard work, it can work for them too.

 

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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