On Monday, July 20, Doug Collins, the former North Shore News columnist who first saw action in defence of freedom as a volunteer in the British Army in WW II, was again in the forefront of the struggle to preserve freedom of speech in Canada.
Collins and his lawyer David Sutherland announced that they would not be participating in the B.C. human rights tribunal to respond to a complaint by Victoria businessman and B’nai Brith operative Harry Abrams about four columns Collins had written on immigration and multiculturalism.
As Collins strode out of the hall, still with the ramrod posture of the soldier of 50 years ago, he was surrounded by admirers who broke into a spirited rendition of “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” Labelling the tribunal chaired by wheelchair-bound lawyer Tom Patch, a “kangeroo court,” Collins told a cheering crowd of 20 supporters in the lobby of Victoria’s Ocean Points Hotel: B.C. Attorney General “Ujjal Dosanjh favours censorship. … Dosanjh the immigrant is B.C.’s Big Brother, here to instruct us on British democracy.”
Earlier lawyer Sutherland told the tribunal: “My instructions are to apply to the tribunal to be excused from the part dealing with the evidence. So, I’m instructed to withdraw from the hearings,” while reserving the right the make final submissions.
“I’ll proceed in your absence and make any decision based on the evidence,” tribunal head Patch warned him.
The spirited free speech supporters, organized by the Canadian Free Speech League and the Canadian Association for Free Expression, walked into the large ballroom where the hearings were to take place. More chairs had to be brought in. Among the placards carried by the Collins supporters were: “NDP = KGB” and “No Thought Police.”
A glum Alan Dutton, a professional grant collector and full-time anti-racist looked on with two supporters. Former Victoria Mayor Peter Pollen went to sit down in a vacant chair beside Dutton. One of the anti-racists tried to grab the chair and hissed, “fucking Nazi” at Mayor Pollen.
Marvin Kurz, a lawyer for B’nai Brith, flew in from Toronto to intervene on behalf of complainant Abrams. An ad in the July 3 issue of the Western Jewish Bulletin said the Abrams case “stands an excellent chance of success. The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith is intervening with highly specialized legal expertise. Please make your generous donation payable to: The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith. … Tax deductable receipts issued.”
“This is another example of B’nai Brith operating as a political lobby, trying to squelch the rights of Canadian citizens to free speech,” said Canadian Association for Free Expression Director Paul Fromm, on seeing the ad. “Free speech supporters should call on Revenue Canada to lift B’nai Brith’s charitable status,” he added. “They’re not a charity. They’re a partisan lobby.”
During Collins’ press conference, complainant Abrams stood off at the far edge of the crowd. A lady in her sixties went up and shook her finger at him: “You ought to be ashamed, Mr. Abrams; you ought to be ashamed.” Shaken, the hefty Abrams a Hugh Segal look-alike, scuttled back into the shelter of the tribunal hearing.
The full text of Doug Collins’ remarks at the press conference follows:
A “Human Rights” Statement by Doug Collins
Victoria, British Columbia, July 20, 1998
I am not attending this so-called human rights tribunal – except to say that I am not attending. I am not defending the columns Harry Abrams and B’Nai Brith are complaining about because there is nothing to defend. The columns contain facts and opinions that Jewish organizations don’t like. But they are not hate literature. If they were I would have been charged under the federal hate laws. Instead, the Human Rights Code – B.C.’s Heresy Act – has been thrown at me and the North Shore News for the second time. It’s harassment, pure and simple, especially when you consider that one of the columns that figure in this complaint was heard last year at the first tribunal. The complaint was dismissed, so the Inquisition wants a re-match. But if I can steal a title from a book, let me say that none dare call it conspiracy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We are seeing the greatest threat to freedom of the press since the courts shot down the Alberta Press Act in 1938. But many in the media don’t understand that, or that this Heresy Act is an instrument for enforcing political correctness, so that anyone telling a Newfie joke could find himself up before a kangaroo court.
What is a kangaroo court? It’s a tribunal where truth is no defence, where opinion is on trial, where fines can be unlimited, where there is no trial by jury, where the judge – called an adjudicator – is judge, jury and prosecutor, where there is no right of appeal within the framework of the Act, where normal rules of evidence don’t exist, and where impressions count for more than fact.
If some powerful pressure group like the Canadian Jewish Congress or B’Nai Brith doesn’t like what you are saying, you can become the subject of a vicious and costly complaint. That applies even if the case leads to a dismissal. It’s a signal to publishers and writers not to have too much to say where the interests of such groups are concerned.
Where heresy is concerned the NDP has no time for the real courts and has admitted it. But the only hope lies with the regular legal system because this abominable law is almost certainly unconstitutional. Roger McConchie, the lawyer for the B.C. Press Council , had it right when he said that the Human Rights Code is an attempt to stifle speech that is not criminal.
It’s a big story, very little of which has been explained in the mainstream media. Saturated in political correctness as so many of them are, they demonize dissidents and accept handouts from people who use trigger words like “racist,” “white supremacist,” “anti-Semitic,” and “hatemonger.” But there has been some opposition. The Globe & Mail has called the law “a criminal abuse of human rights”; the Calgary Herald said it was “a tool of repression”; B.C. Report magazine has compared what is happening here with press restrictions in Nazi Germany; to its credit, even the Jewish Western Bulletin has stated editorially that this is a dangerous law, and the Writers Union of Canada asked Premier Glen Clark to get rid of it. We can be sure that its letter went into the trash basket.
The B.C. Press Council and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have performed nobly. Last year they intervened on behalf of the North Shore News. They’re not doing it this time because we are not defending ourselves unless we get to the real courts.
The Human Rights Code is a legal atrocity. Anyone who says anything that “indicates” discrimination can fall within its orbit, especially if they are right of centre. Left of centre is safe enough, of course. The B.C. Government Employees Union, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’Nai Brith and similar groups would never have to face the kind of action they favor for others. A double standard exists.
Recently, they tried to prevent Doug Christie’s Free Speech League from holding a meeting in a public library. If THAT doesn’t indicate discrimination, what does? But he would be wasting his time if he entered a human rights complaint, even though freedom of speech and assembly are the most important rights of all.
The Jewish Congress and B’Nai Brith are the biggest threats to freedom of expression in this country, backed as they are by governments that encourage them and even grovel to them. I am reminded of what went on in a different context in Maurice Duplessis’ Quebec.
As already stated, this tribunal is dealing with a column that was the subject of a five-week complaint last year by the Canadian Jewish Congress. That was the one on “Hollywood Propaganda.” I have it here, in case you haven’t seen it. For the North Shore News, the price of winning that one was over $200,000. So this tribunal is a matter of double jeopardy. Obviously, Ujjal Dosanjh has never heard of that. Or doesn’t want to hear of it.
The Abrams complaint includes three other columns. Fire a whole quiver of arrows and one might hit the target, you see. And there’s nothing to say that after this tribunal hands down its decision, he or one of his accomplices won’t come up with yet another bunch of columns.
There’s a word for this sort of thing – barratry – meaning constant, vicious and vexatious litigation, in this instance encouraged by the worst B.C. government in living memory.
So far, the Heresy Act has been used selectively. But don’t kid yourselves that won’t be used more widely. That’s the way of it with leftists. It’s called Fabian Socialism. The tree of freedom is being demolished slowly, branch by branch. It reminds me of an article I saw in the Atlantic Monthly, which asked whether democracy wasn’t just a moment.
One of the absurdities of the situation is that making human rights complaints can be a way of making money.
Harry Abrams wants B’Nai Brith to be awarded $5,000 each from me and the News for every column that’s found to be in fault, plus – and get this – $2,000 for himself on account of the time he spent getting his allegations together. Poor Harry. What’s HIS rate of pay, I wonder? Two thousand bucks an hour? And he wants $2,000 for himself even though he’s been granted legal aid. Legal aid, you see, is available to all complainants even if they are as rich as Bill Gates. But it’s not automatically available to those who are being prosecuted.
They have to qualify. How one-sided can you get? The forces arrayed against freedom are big time. Instead of standing up for free speech, which is what a province’s chief law officer should do, Ujjal Dosanjh favours censorship. Yet he’s the guy who’s always talking about equality. He supports leftists who have pressured hotels into denying meeting rooms for the politically incorrect. He has also organized police “hate squads.” Fascist countries have had similar kinds of police. Dosanjh the immigrant is B.C.’s Big Brother, here to instruct us on British democracy.
I am not here to plead for myself. My day is done. I am here to plead for what used to be British Columbia, where opinion was once untrammelled. I am here to plead for a free press. Barbara Amiel once asked whether there is anyone in this country who will give us back our freedoms. Apparently not. Not in Victoria and not in Ottawa, irrespective of party. So one day we may wake up to find we can say nothing unless the Dosanjhes and the Clarks tell us it’s OK to say it. And if you’re criticizing a powerful pressure group, get your copy cleared by them in advance. The same forces are now trying to control the Internet. To them, free comment is intolerable.
This is no longer a free country. Don’t kid yourselves that it is. And it will not be until we get rid of these awful human rights commissions. Everyone associated with them should be ashamed of themselves. Should be, but aren’t. Money and power are involved, and they wake up in the morning wondering who they can go after next. Well, it may be you.
One more thing. I am retired from newspaper work and am speaking for myself, not for the North Shore News. Thank you.
Re: Doug Collins, A biographical sketch:
Doug Collins was born 77 years ago in the United Kingdom.
In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered for the British Army and, while serving as an infantry sergeant, was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk in 1940.
As a POW in both German and Hungarian prisoner of war camps, Collins staged as many as 10 separate attempts to escape captivity. Upon his release from Rumania in 1944, he again fought with the British forces in Europe until the end of the war.
Between 1946 and 1950, Collins served as a political intelligence officer with the British Control Commission’s de-Nazification program in Germany.
In 1952, he emigrated to Canada.
Doug Collins’ career in journalism has included work in print and electronic media, both as a reporter and commentator. He has worked at several of the big Canadian dailies, including the Calgary Herald, the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun. For a time, he hosted an open-line radio talk show at CJOR in Vancouver, and was also employed by CBC Television.
Between 1983 and 1997, Collins wrote a popular and controversial column for the North Shore News (North Vancouver, BC).
On November 12, 1997, a complaint brought before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission by the Canadian Jewish Congress for comments made in a column Doug Collins wrote entitled “Hollywood Propaganda” (March 9, 1994, North Shore News) was dismissed.
He is the author of several books, including the wartime memoir, POW: A Soldier’s Story of his ten escapes from Nazi prisoner of war camps (New York: W.W. Norton, 1968), Immigration: Parliament versus the People (1986) and The Best and Worst of Doug Collins (1988).
Doug Collins’ work in journalism has been honoured with Canada’s National Newspaper Award (1953) and the MacMillan Bloedel Award (1975). On January 20, 1993, he was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. The medal honours Canadians “who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, their community or to Canada.
Collins concluded his historical speech of defiance outside the B.C. human rights tribunal:” I will conclude by saying that I am 77 years of age, that I defended freedom in the 1940s when Hitler was on the loose, in the 1970s when the federal hate laws were passed, and in the 1990s when those idiots in Victoria passed their misnamed Human Rights Act, and that I shall go on defending freedom until the day I die.”