OCLA Calls on the Government and Media to Exercise Calm, Reason and Objectivity

Posted on August 20, 2017

The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) calls on the government and media to exercise calm, reason and objectivity in civil rights matters.

Civil rights are unjustly abated by reacting governments and opportunist media corporations in times when terrorist events have a potential to cause widespread outrage.

The breadth and intensity of public outrage are often disproportionate to actual danger, have a biological origin in the collective fright and flight response of social animals, and are exploited and amplified by media using narrow and selective coverage.

Frenzies can result, which lead to witch hunts, free rein of enforcers of social norms, and hastily drafted unwise legislation. In addition, society-wide artificially induced outrage and fear can alter an insecure or vulnerable individual’s view of society, in a direction opposite to trust and community.

Several cases of such “cooperative outrage” are listed below, which are presently playing out in Ontario, in which civil rights are threatened and violated.

In all cases, unpopular individuals and groups are supressed by the state. Dominant popular positions are not suppressed and do not require special interventions of civil-rights protection.

  • Professor Jordan Peterson (University of Toronto) organized political resistance against laws that enforce socially correct language and the government cut funding to his internationally recognized scientific research.
  • Editor James Sears (Your Ward News) publishes a satirical political magazine that offended influential individuals and the government barred him from using the public postal service.
  • Social-media pundit Kevin Johnston organized against Muslim accommodation in public institutions and was charged pursuant to section 319(2) of the Criminal Code, a “hate speech” provision that violates the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Canada. Johnston was also sued by a wealthy government supporter, pursuant to civil defamation law, a common law that is also non-compliant with the ICCPR [1].
  • A memorial was organized to be held at a Toronto public library following the death of civil rights lawyer Barbara Kulaszka and the Toronto mayor asked the library to cancel the event, trustees motioned a school board to bar its venues from memorial organizers, while the media presented one-sided characterizations of Kulaszka’s “holocaust-denying” former client [2].
  • Toronto-based journalist Faith Goldy (The Rebel News) reported on relative reactions of the state to anti-fa (and Black Lives Matter) and alt-right (and white nationalist) demonstrators and was summarily fired following media-reported high-profile expressions of outrage. The particular pretext given by her employer was not anything she said but rather an asserted unacceptability of the social-media venue in which she said it.
  • Long-time Canadian resident Issam Al-Yamani made a political comment at a Palestinian rights rally in Toronto and the government actuated a deportation procedure that would separate him from his home and family [3].

These Ontario events occur in a background where the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is under attack for defending the civil rights of white nationalists, and where Manitoba politician Steve Ashton has recently called for a bill to criminalize “racist and homophobic slurs”, thus bringing us full-circle back into the Middle Ages when governments and powerful individuals could prosecute insults.

The OCLA calls on the government and corporate media not to act so as to degrade civil rights, and instead to recognize that strong civil rights are a necessary condition for democratic social contracting.

The OCLA calls on public intellectuals to resist an emerging pseudoscience of “a scientific basis for hate”, as a eugenics-like artifice in the service of state oppression and disastrous social engineering.

Endnotes

[1] “Release: OCLA Asks Attorneys General to Make Canadian Defamation Law Compliant with International Law”, 2016-02-05, http://ocla.ca/release-ocla-asks-attorneys-general-to-make-canadian-defamation-law-compliant-with-international-law/

[2] The media was silent on relevant international civil rights law: “Laws that penalize the expression of opinions about historical facts are incompatible with the obligations that the Covenant imposes on States parties in relation to the respect for freedom of opinion and expression. (116) The Covenant does not permit general prohibition of expressions of an erroneous opinion or an incorrect interpretation of past events. Restrictions on the right of freedom of opinion should never be imposed and, with regard to freedom of expression, they should not go beyond what is permitted in paragraph 3 or required under article 20.” – General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf , para. 49

[3] “Letter: Canada’s record regarding the civil rights of Mr. Issam Al-Yamani”, 2017-07-04, http://ocla.ca/letter-canadas-record-regarding-the-civil-rights-of-mr-issam-al-yamani/

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