Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What About OUR Rights?

Just a week ago Hon. Jason Kenney stated during Question Period that the Conservative Party of Canada believes in our constitutionally entrenched and protected rights to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and that it will always defend those ancient freedoms. As it turns out today, some in the Conservative cabinet may talk the talk, but they are not ready to walk the walk.

An internal memo, circulated to all Conservative MP's from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's office (titled "Talking points re: CHRA & CHRC"), asks Conservative MPs to distance themselves from the freedom of speech issues, recommending the following responses:
If asked about the Steyn / Levant cases:
  • It is not appropriate for me to comment on particular matters that might be before the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
  • The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.
Well, if the government is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, then how come one could be hauled before the CHRC for merely saying something controversial?! If the government lived up to his commitment, there would be no need for the Justice Minister to pretend that everything is the way it should be. He wouldn't have to ask his fellow Conservatives to pretend that they are not supposed to comment on the issue. And there would be no need for him to make up an excuse that the government is really really really busy protecting... Native rights.
Regarding Amending the Human Rights / reforming of the Commission and Tribunal process / section 13 (hate messages):
  • Our government is currently taking steps to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-21 (being considered by the Standing Committee) repeals section 67 of the CHRA. Repealing section 67 is a priority for the government at this time and we are working hard to see this bill pass.
I agree, protecting Native rights is important. But what about our rights? The bill C-21 is in the Senate, thus beyond the reach of any MP, including the Justice Minister. So why can't Mr. Nicholson devote some attention to subsection 13.1 and to the people whose freedom of speech is being taken away? Why is he making up yet another excuse, suggesting it's going to take a while for the motion to be voted on, rather than just fast-tracking it? Unless, of course he just wants to stay out of this altogether... But then - why would we need such a Justice Minister?

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