By Dr. MUNYONZWE HAMALENGWA
Now that the dust has long settled on the fracas about the human rights complaint and investigation of Ezra Levant and the Western Standard (a right wing publication), it is time to take another look at what that noise was all about, from a sober perspective.
A human rights complaint had been lodge against Levant by some Muslims who felt that the publication by Levant of demeaning cartoons of Prophet Mohammed was hate-mongering against the Muslim religion. The negative response against this complaint and the following investigation was thunderous. It was claimed that human rights commissions were now overstepping their mandate, they were now tools used by malcontents to trample on deeply held Canadian values of freedom of expression, speech and thought. It was as if the skies had fallen on Canada.
The negative reaction against the complaint, investigations and protection was orchestrated by high profile lawyers, journalists, newspapers and others – all from mainstream society.
The overblown negative reaction was found to be much ado about nothing when the prosecution of Levant came to … nothing. Levant was too big for them to touch.
Indeed that is the experience of almost every complaint lodged against powerful individuals and institutions. They amount to nothing.
I invite anyone who cares to do research on the success and failure rates of complaints against powerful individuals and institutions at the human rights commissions to come up with serious examples of successes other than a few cases involving the police perhaps. The research will disclose that Human Rights Commissions across the country are paper tigers when it comes to complaints against powerful entities. Research will further disclose that complaints based on race, racial profiling and cultural and religious discrimination invariably fail and or are not pursued at and by Human Rights Commissions.
But complaints based on gender, sexual orientation and disability are pursued vigorously by Human Rights Commissions. They also have a high success rate. And they involve White claimants whereas the former claims involve non-Whites in the main. It is therefore easy to tell the state of human rights commissions and prosecutions in Canada.
Further, most Human Rights Commissions in Canada – and Ontario in particular – do not consist of any Black adjudicators or investigators, as far as I know. I stand to be corrected on this. We need diversity in that field in order for Blacks to have a fighting chance.
Between 1995 and 1998, Margaret Parsons of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and I were Members of the Board of Inquiry under the Ontario Human Rights Code appointed as Adjudicators by Premier Mike Harris. But for three years we were never assigned any cases by Gerry McNeilly who was the head of the Tribunal at the time. McNeilly is now the Head of the Ontario Independent Police Review Director. Were we appointed as window-dressing? I have never been told by Gerry McNeilly, an African-Canadian, why he never assigned me any cases for three years until my term expired.
Prior to that, I was an Adjudicator at the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario (1991 to 1994) where I was assigned cases and travelled the entire province on a regular basis. There is more to diversity and human rights prosecutions than meets the eye. One day we shall get to the essence of it all. The truth always emerges albeit it is often delayed.
In the case of the prosecution of Levant, the mainstream need not have worried about the complaint against him and the Western Standard. It was going nowhere. He and others like him are too big to prosecute. There is no adjudicatorial diversity in human rights tribunals. It was much ado about nothing.