THE BACKGROUND Monday, May 26, 1997 potentially marks yet another assault on the rights of Canadian men and women to use and access cyberspace through the Internet. On that day what promises to be prolonged hearings before a tribunal convened by the Canadian Human Rights Commission begin in Toronto. Publisher and broadcaster Ernst Zundel stands accused under section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act:
- “It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons … to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated repeatedly… by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or ridicule by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discriminatrion.” (race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc.)
The complaint refers to Zundel’s Webpage, the Zundelsite, which is written by another person and originates in California. The Zundelsite is one of the leading historical revisionist sites on the Web and challenges the establishment interpretation of World War II, which tends to dump the bulk of guilt for those events at the feet of the German people. Thus, the action against Zundel would seem to be frivolous and vexatious. The Website complained of isn’t even located in Canada.
The complainants are longtime political antagonists of the celebrated publisher. One is Sabina Citron of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Committee who has initiated numerous other unsuccessful legal actions against him. The second, more disturbingly, is the taxpayer-funded Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations. The complaint by the Mayor’s Committee was initiated by Marvin Kurz, counsel for the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith, a leading pro-censorship group. Kurz was then a sitting member of the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations.
First, these procedings themselves are a slap in the face to natural justice. The Canadian Human Rights Commision is judge, jury and executioner. The Commission investigates a complaint and then appoints a tribunal of its choosing. There is no judicial independence or remove. It’s as if the chief of police investigated a complaint and then appointed the deputy chief of police as judge at the trial. Secondly, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in this case anyway, has expressed such bias and prejudgement that the entire proceedings are tainted in advance.
Outgoing head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, on whose watch the complaint was accepted, Max Yalden expressed repeated bias. In a story written by Kim Bolan of the Southam newspapers (October 23, 2995), we learn: ” Max Yalden said the messages of neo-Nazis are promoting through computer technology are no different from the telephone [messages] that his commission have successfully challenged in the past. ‘The Internet, after all technically, is no more than a series of computers that are connected to one another using phone lines or eventually fibreoptics or satellite or whatever.
Therefore, we have jurisdiction over the Internet. And we’ll move very vigorously just as we’ve done with telephone hatelines.’ … He acknowledged there isn’t much the commission can do to stop hateful material originating in other countries.” However, a year later, Yalden had changed his mind. “Max Yalden … believes that the commission has jurisdiction to shut down Zundel’s Website, even though it’s based at a Web server in California. ‘The signal’s being picked up here, and where it’s originating doesn’t make any difference.'” (Canadian Press, November 22, 1996) Thirdly, truth is no defence! Sounds bizarre, but it’s true. In the Court of the Star Chamber world of “human rights” proceedings, the truth of one’s argument is no defence.
The wording of the Act is so vague that any persistent minority group crying hurt feelings has a good chance of gagging its opponents. Weasel words, such as ‘likely’ and expose to ‘ridicule’ are so vague as to cover almost any criticism of the usual privileged groups. Finally, repressive as it is, Section 13 (1) clearly refers to telephone messages. The Internet is not a telephonic message. It is a series of electronic signals, usually without sound component. Also, it does not rely exclusviely on telephone wires for transmission.
Specifically, in this case, the Website isn’t even in Canada. It is located completely within the jurisdiction of a foreign country where its contents are legal under the laws of that country. This costly prosecution is a shameless power grab by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Thus, should this attack on Zundel’s Website succeed, all Canadian Internet users, whether using a Canadian or foreign server, may find themselves prosecuted and gagged should they post controversial opinions that run afoul of the vigilant thought control freaks in our midst.
WHERE ARE THE INTERNET PROVIDERS?
You might think that the organizations representing Canadian Internet providers would be in the forefront opposing the Zundel prosecution. Not so. Despite being asked to send supportive affidavits or to apply as intervenors on behalf of the defence, these groups have answered with deafening silence.
Worse, some seem to be actively collaborating with government efforts to bring the Web under the same stultifying control already applied to other areas of electronic media. Bernard Klatt, owner of Fairview Technologies in Oliver, B.C., writes: “Margo Langford of iSTAR has provided an affidavit to the government regarding this case in support of the CHRC’s position that is has jurisdiction to regulate the Internet. Langford seems to be in the forefront of ongoing efforts to regulate the Internet in Canada. …
There are new amendments tabled during the last session of Parliament to increase penalties under Section 13 from only a ‘cease and desist’ order to now include fines in the thousands of dollars.”
These amendments died before the election but show the long range goals of the thought control forces in our society. Klatt continues: “Electronic Frontier Canada has apparently refused any help in opposing this power grab by the CHRC.” If you’re an Internet user, write your server and let him know you’re concerned. After the election, call your MP and insist that government keep its Hands Off the Internet.