Here there be kangaroos

Fans of free speech and Canada might not want to read Andrew Coyne’s blog. Coyne has been blogging the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s proceedings in the Maclean’s case.

A while ago, Maclean’s, a Canadian news magazine, printed excerpts from a Mark Steyn book, America Alone, that suggests that the world might have something to worry about in radical Islam. Some Muslims got very mad, and demanded the right to write a rebuttal (with full editorial control) to be printed in Maclean’s. Unsurprisingly, Maclean’s said no.

End of story, you think? Ha! Not at all, because this is Canada. In Canada they have Human Rights Tribunals with the power to police content in speech and the press. The angry Muslims shopped around for a venue and settled on British Columbia, where they filed a complaint for “incitement of hatred.”

The particularly sad and yet strangely funny aspect of the proceeding is that the Human Rights Tribunal is not a real court. Unlike a real court, its members are not judges and there are no rules of evidence. Therefore, they can and do “admit” all manner of irresponsible “evidence,” such as expert testimony from non-experts, blog posts by third parties (even non-Canadian third parties), and even comments on YouTube videos. Everything short of bathroom graffiti, as Coyne puts it.

Unfortunately, this kangaroo court can assess real penalties. Indeed, it has already done so, simply by taking the case and forcing Maclean’s to stand “trial.” Too bad freedom of speech is just an “American concept.”

NOTE: The link above is to Coyne’s front page, where he liveblogged the proceedings. Here are permalinks to parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Last updated 6/7.)

POSTSCRIPT: It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week for free speech abroad, with Canada, Britain, and France censoring people for offending Muslims. Ironically, this sort of thing only supports Steyn’s thesis in America Alone.

UPDATE (6/4): Coyne reports that the “plaintiff” has actually made explicit in writing that censorship is their goal: “We anticipate that success in this case will provide the impetus for prohibiting discriminatory publications in the other provinces.” Not that there’s been any doubt, but it’s striking to see it admitted in writing.

UPDATE (6/7): As the proceedings neared a close, a court official informed Coyne that liveblogging is prohibited.  In a proceeding that centered around repression of the press, it seems appropriate.

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