Three steps forward, one step back

Bill C-30 flies in stark contrast to Conservative legislation promoting greater freedoms

The Conservative majority in Parliament has passed or introduced three significant bills that go a long way to reducing government intrusions in our day-to-day lives.

Dismantling the Wheat Board and giving western farmers the freedom to choose where, and at whatever market price, they can sell their grain is a significant step forward for those farmers and the country. While the Wheat Board is not a child of the Trudeau Liberals, the notion of creating different classes of citizens, and entrenching different rights and privileges based on which class of citizenry one belongs, is a hallmark of the Liberal world view.

If there was ever a demonstration of the disdain with which the federal Liberals and their bureaucrats in the civil service hold individuals, it is the long gun registry. The premise of the long gun registry was that individual citizens, if left to their own devices, could not be trusted to own and use firearms in a responsible manner.

Despite the annual wailings of the media celebrating the “Montreal Massacre” as evidence guns need controlling, there is no evidence that anyone other than crooks or deranged nut cases are interested in gunning down groups of people. They’ll do it whether or not the guns they use are registered.

Whether plough shares or firearms, individuals have the right to make choices and the right to acquire and enjoy property. There are still some outstanding issues wrapped up in Canadian gun legislation, such as unwarranted search (and seizure) of firearms and onerous regulations regarding the acquisition, use and transport of weapons, but scrapping the registry is the key first step.

Bill C-304 will begin to remedy the abrogation of the protections individuals are granted under common law by repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 13 allowed the Human Rights Commission Tribunal to cast a wide net to snare people who communicated “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” In Section 13 this “hate” would essentially be “communicated” via the Internet.

The broad interpretations of the phases “likely to…”, “hatred or contempt” and “persons are identifiable on the basis….” applied by the Human Rights Commission resulted in every case brought before HRC under Section 13 ending in a successful conviction. Given the zeal with which HRC pursued cases through the application of the vague wording in Section 13, every journalist, commentator and blogger in Canada who voiced an opinion about religion, language, sexual persuasion, or posted links to others who did, could be in contravention of Section 13.

The HRC Tribunal enjoys the powers of a real court of law, but affords none of its protections to defendants. Under the act, individuals are presumed guilty prior to being charged, do not have access to legal counsel and have little right of appeal. Every presumed act of “hatred or contempt” towards individuals, regardless of the special group to which they belong, can be dealt with under existing common and criminal law. The entire Human Rights Act should go, but the repeal of Section 13 is a good start.

It is surprising that at the same time the Conservatives championed legislation promoting freedom, they would introduce Bill C-30, the “Legal Access Bill”. C-30 would empower law enforcement to gain access to any individual’s Internet identity without warrant and without probable cause. Supporters of the bill claim it would assist police in tracking down child pornographers, although no mention of child pornography is made in the bill.

Various police forces have demonstrated on any number of occasions that they cannot be trusted with the kinds of powers contemplated under Bill C-30 without constant court oversight. As unsavory as it may be to some, in a free society, even criminals have rights.

Whether firearms, hate speech or child porn, we have laws to deal with individuals who commit crimes. On three fronts, the Conservatives have made progress rolling back Liberal policies that reduced individual freedoms through pervasive administrative intrusion. On Bill C-30, we can only hope Harper is wise enough to table the bill for discussion, and let it meet a quiet and deserved demise.

Progress is often made in steps — in these cases, it’s three steps forward and one step back.

 

 

 

Mark Walker is the publisher of the Penticton Western News.

 

 

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