Liveblogging the BC Human Rights Tribunal—Day I, Part II

Earlier: Liveblogging the BC Human Rights Tribunal—Day I, Part I

1:34 PM PST
And we’re back, with more gripping testimony on what my friend objected to in my friend’s representation of my friend’s deposition…

1:36 PM
The chair is reading their “ruling” on the admissibility of Prof. John Miller’s testimony—though on what basis they propose to decide is a mystery, since THERE ARE NO RULES OF EVIDENCE. They more or less have to make it up as they go along.

Anyway, they are ruling it inadmissible, because it’s irrelevant. Or is it irrelevant because it’s inadmissible?

1:39 PM
Also ruling on Khurrum Awan’s testimony, as an Ontarian. They’re going to take it, but rule on particular bits of it as they come up. Sigh.

1:42 PM
So now we’re going to hear about how the article affected him. He says Steyn didn’t distinguish between diffferent types of Muslims, painted all with a broad brush. He’s going through the more inflammatory passages in the article…

1:43 PM
He’s having trouble finding the one he wants. The chair helpfully suggests where he might find it.

1:48 PM
It occurs to me that most of the material he finds objectionable—and I’m not saying it’s unreasonable of him to take exception to it—might be found in the testimony before the Bouchard-Taylor commission…

1:59 PM
On the other hand, we’re walking through another passage—which Faisal Joseph notes is particularly significant—in which Steyn particulalry disavows any suggestion that his concerns attach to all Muslims, but rather that the trends he observes prevail in “enough” of the Muslim population of Europe to be worrisome. This strikes me as eminently arguable—but whether it is or not, it is just surreal in a free and democratic society to be calling in a government panel to decide it. Instead of, you know, arguing it. Okay, that’s the second time I’ve made that point. I warned you…

2:13 PM
Julian Porter on his feet, objecting on territorial grounds, as Awan details how the article made him feel as he read it in downtown Toronto. Overruled.

2:23 PM
Awan debated going to press councils, or pressing charges under the criminal code, but decided against. He looked at human rights legislation across the country. Differences: Ontario says you can’t post a “notice, sign or symbol” that would be discriminatory—newspapers and magazines, it would seem, are not covered (as indeed the Ontario Human Rights Commission recently ruled). But hey, worth a shot. Plus BC had more open-ended legislation. So throw it in the mix as well. So: They weren’t trying to “damage” Maclean’s by filing in multiple jurisdictions. No no no. They were just jurisdiction-shopping.

2:26 PM
Now they’re into the whole sorry history of Maclean’s coverage of Muslims. Or they would be, had counsel not objected. It would be fascinating to see some of these, since in my experience the CIC sees Islamophobia virtually everywhere…

2:46 PM
Roger McConchie is making a kind of “prior history” argument, i.e. the complainants are saying that the other 20 articles provide “context.” But the complaint has to do with just the Steyn article. Just as a defendant’s prior record cannot be used against him (except as “similar fact” evidence, to show a modus operandi), so Maclean’s prior articles can’t be used to prove the harm caused by Steyn’s piece. The common thread: you have to prove guilt based on the facts of the case at hand. If the argument is that the earlier articles provide an interpretive filter through which to read the Steyn piece, well maybe they do—but the contention in the complaint is that the Steyn article exposes Muslims to hatred by itself. So they’re contradicting themselves.

2:58 PM
Coda to the preceding: this all assumes normal rules of evidence apply. Or indeed, any. But as they don’t in this case, well, we’re about to hear the tribunal’s ruling.

3:00 PM
Glory glory—they’re ruling prior articles (i.e., prior to Steyn’s Oct. 23 2006 piece) out of bounds, but allowing subsequent articles. Solomonic, or incoherent? I report, you decide.

3:02 PM
Now we’re hearing about the Muslim law students’ famous meeting with Maclean’s—almost a year after the article appeared—when they demanded the magazine publish their reply.

3:16 PM
They met with Ken Whyte (publisher and editor-in-chief), Mark Stevenson (editor) and Julian Porter (lawyer). The students presented their complaints for about five or ten minutes. Whyte replied, according to Awan, that Maclean’s “wasn’t interested” in publishing their reply or in making “a donation” to a race relations group. Whyte said he “didn’t share” his concerns about Steyn’s piece, and that there were “important subtleties and distinctions” in the piece he was overlooking, and you can’t characterize us as anti-Muslim. Awan told him Maclean’s has published a whole bunch of anti-islamic articles. And the famous “we’d rather go bankrupt” line—as in, we’d rather go bankrupt then let someone else edit our magazine, which is what the students’ demands amounted to—not, as Awan suggests, that we would rather go bankrupt than publish any sort of reply. In fact, Maclean’s published 27 letters in the weeks following Steyn’s piece.

3:26 PM
All of this, so far, is within their rights. They have a right to be offended by Steyn’s piece. They have a right to complain about it, to denounce it, argue against it, ridicule it, and so on. They also have a right to issue whatever outrageous demands to Maclean’s they like, just as Maclean’s has a right to give these the back of their hand. What they don’t, or shouldn’t have a right to do is what happened next: taking their case to the cops. Or rather not the cops, but multiple human rights tribunals.

3:30 PM
I’m infamous! Awan just cited my own article on the case (“Got a complaint? Call 1-800-Human Rights“), as evidence of I’m not sure what…

3:41 PM
L-o-n-g discussion about subsequent backing and forthing between Maclean’s and the students, wherein they offered to withdraw their complaints if Maclean’s yielded to their demands. This strikes me as supremely beside the point. If the article was as damaging as alleged, if it was sufficient by itself to expose Muslims to hatred, that would remain the case regardless of whether Maclean’s published a rebuttal. Or if counter-arguments were sufficient to mitigate the damage, well, that’s really Maclean’s point, isn’t it? The students’ “offer,” it seems to me, is revealing: if all they want is a right of reply, then all they’re saying is that they disagree with it. Which takes it out of the realm of the courts, kangaroo or otherwise.

3:50 PM
Back from a break, as the tribunal members wrestle with yet another ruling on admissibility in the absence of rules of evidence. They’ve decided again to sort-of admit questioning about the “impact,” not of Steyn’s article, but of various, mostly obscure blogs who were allegedly “inspired” by Steyn’s piece. Understand: we’re now to be subjected to the state’s inquisition, not for anything that appeared in the magazine, but for whatever lunatic ramblings might appear anywhere in the blogosphere!

3:58 PM
And of course, as McConchie is pointing out, the tribunal has already ruled that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over internet posts…

3:59 PM

4:10 PM
Now we’re into, not even blogs, but comments left on a YouTube post. Is bathroom grafitti next?

4:27 PM
The YouTube post was of Steyn’s face-off with the students on TVO’s The Agenda. Joseph’s last flourish before we adjourn for the day: Steyn was rude to them off camera! So the tribunal is now to consider overheard comments from the green room…

4:31 PM
Good night. And I mean that in so many ways…

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