Having an opinion in Canada still a crime. doubly so if its based on fact.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From The Redwing Report

Canadian Human Rights Commission Ignores Parliamentary Immunity

Jim Pankiw, a former Saskatchewan MP, is being prosecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for criticizing programs and privileges available to Saskatchewan aboriginals and not to non-aboriginals.

In 2002, 2003, and 2004, Jim Pankiw, then a member of Parliament, distributed a series of three brochures to his constituents. The brochures criticized special fishing and hunting privileges, hiring quotas, sentencing circles, and tax exemptions for aboriginals.

The mailouts contained slogans such as “Stop Indian Crime” and “It’s Clear Who the Racists Are” and criticized the federal government’s “two-tiered justice system …” which essentially gives Indians a “Get out of jail card”. He said at his hearing last week (week of October 20, ‘08) that he was referring to Section 718-2e of the Criminal Code, which states, “all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.”

Mr. Pankiw’s mailouts were a reaction to many factors concerning Saskatchewan aboriginals, including the fact that, while only 9% of Saskatchewan population consists of Aboriginal people, they are responsible for just over half the crime in the province.

He objects to affirmative action programs that give Indian firms special preferences when bidding on some federal contracts. He calls the “Transition Programs” offered by the University of Saskatchewan “race-based discrimination” because they discriminate against qualified white applicants. Mr. Pankiw testified that he knows of a woman who was denied entrance into law school because all remaining seats were reserved for aboriginal applicants.

When the brochures landed in Saskatchewan mailboxes, nine Aboriginals promptly hauled Mr. Pankiw before the CHRC and charged him with discrimination and “stirring up negative feelings toward aboriginals”.

One must bear in mind that the charges brought against Mr. Pankiw by the CHRC are for acts that are neither illegal nor unconstitutional. The 1990 Supreme Court’s ruling stipulated that the only complaints human rights commissions could accept had to involve evil hate messages. Although “stirring up negative feelings toward aboriginals” does not, by any definition, qualify as evil, the CHRC deemed this complaint legitimate.

And irony upon irony, in June of this year, the Supreme Court dismissed Mr. Pankiw’s application to appeal a Federal Court ruling that refused to exempt him from the human rights investigation.

If the tribunal finds Pankiw guilty – and it is virtually certain that it will, it could order him to pay up to $20,000 to the complainants for “pain and suffering” and, if it decides that he acted willfully or recklessly, could double the fine. If he refuses to pay the fines, he will likely be sent to prison.

This man broke no laws. His words, however distasteful to some, are protected by our constitution, which guarantees our right to free speech and opinion. As an MP, his words are also protected by Parliamentary immunity.

He did not slander or libel any person or any group. His words criticized a system of entrenched privilege enjoyed by a specific group of people, aboriginals, and which are not available to other Canadian citizens.

We must bear in mind that the federal government is complicit in prosecuting Mr. Pankiw based on the ludicrous notion that “stirring up negative feelings…” is a crime.

The denial of freedom of speech in Canada has become a growth industry.

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

5 Replies to “Having an opinion in Canada still a crime. doubly so if its based on fact.”

  1. Kind of an old post to reply to, but that’s okay, because these kind of treaty misunderstandings are still ridiculously common today.

    Study the treaties. As someone who lives on treaty land, you are under treaty as well. Part of the treaties entitle Status Indians on reserve land to special hunting and fishing privileges in turn for the land you’re living on. These treaties are still legally binding today, so if anyone has a problem with “special rights” given to Aboriginals, feel free to give back the land and leave.

    As well, to say that it is unfair to reserve spots in certain institutions for Aboriginals is to ignore the Canadian government’s history of attempting to assimilate and destroy Native culture. Treaty promises were broken on the side of the Canadian government, none were broken on the side of the Natives. Residential schools robbed an entire generation of children from their culture. And now, Natives are told to “forget about the past” and “move on” as if they are on equal footing — the myth of meritocracy. These pamphlets are a prime example of the kind of ignorance and racism Aboriginal people face on a daily basis in Saskatchewan and across North America.

    There’s nothing wrong with “having an opinion”. There is something wrong with having an ignorant opinion with no facts or history to back it up, and inflicting your ignorance on other people.

  2. June 9, 2009

    I am the author of the essay in the Redwing Report entitled “Canadian Human Rights Commission Ignores Parliamentary Immunity” to which you responded – and roundly criticized – last February.

    That particular essay criticizes government policies that discriminate against white individuals and companies in favour of FN individuals and companies. One would be forgiven if it appears that such policies are designed to atone for abuses our ancestors visited upon aboriginals in the past. However, balancing the scales of past injustices on the backs of modern innocents is not justice; it is a fool’s game of ‘close your eyes and hope for the best’. It’s also called White Guilt.

    Policies designed to ensure that FN companies get government contracts regardless of technical qualifications are, by definition, affirmative action. Awarding a contract to a company merely because the company is owned and operated by FN, virtually guarantees that work performed under such circumstances is, or will eventually be, inferior. If FN companies can perform contract work that conforms to specification and passes all QA tests, then preferential treatment is unnecessary, and ll companies would compete on a level field. The very fact that preferential treatment is required, strongly suggests that FN contractors do not, or cannot, build or perform to spec.

    Similarly, affirmative action programs that leverage FN students into specially reserved university seats do not, in themselves, create better students; they create mediocre graduates. Real graduates are created by long hours of study. It’s called bloody hard work and is well known to all who have graduated from university. If FN students do not, for whatever reason, meet regular minimum entrance requirements, then perhaps universities should devise alternate programs of study. But do not lower regular entrance standards for favored groups; the consequences are degraded degrees, which are detrimental to all.

    I commiserate with your bitterness at past misbegotten attempts to assimilate FN children. If we understood then what we understand now, it would never have happened. Apologies were due, apologies have been made, and reparations are underway.

    You decry treaty obligations broken by Europeans. Join the party; history is rife with broken treaties. The fact that human beings can be deceptive and treacherous should really come as no surprise; nations and individuals alike are frequently required to deal with the consequences of unfulfilled pacts and promises. But, in one way or another, they do deal with the consequences and then get on with it. Weeping, moaning, blaming others, getting drunk, and quitting are not useful options.

    The fact is that aboriginal peoples around the world are having difficult times dealing with modernity. As it turns out, aboriginals aren’t the only people being adversely affected by this unyielding monolith; Muslims have discovered that their hermetically sealed 13th century religion-based culture is totally incompatible with modernity. While they also bitch, moan, and whine, they have taken it one really serious step further; they have wheeled out jihad, a devastating 13th century weapon of hatred, violence, death and destruction. They direct their anger against all who are different – including their own. In contrast, FN people turn their anger and frustrations inward and flail themselves.

    Erica, your response is long on criticism but short on solutions. If the white man can’t get it right, what to you propose? How do you see your world unfolding? You mention the meritocracy myth, which is unfortunate because merit is a major characteristic on which life in the modern world is based. Economic and educational transactions are no longer based on tribal affiliations and if you are suggesting some kind of liberalized substitute for the pursuit of excellence, you are talking to a barn door.

    Unless, of course, you are talking to governments. Governments desperately want the FN problem to go away in the least politically offensive way. If that means yielding to demands for preferential treatment that promotes dependency at the expense of self-sufficiency, governments are more than happy to comply. Governments are into nice, not tough, love.

    If you wait long enough, Western Civilization will eventually disappear and be replaced by something else. The ‘something else’ might be a catastrophic return to earlier times inhabited by our common ancestors. Or it might be a world dominated by Islam or by Asians.

    Good luck living in either world.

    Or you can stop trying to recreate the good old pre-Columbian world where the deer and the antelope played, deal with the present, and prepare for the future. Stop using those ancient broken treaties as crutches; they happened, they cannot be unbroken.

    Discard your anger, your frustrations and your improbable dreams. Buckle down and redirect your energies to educating your children so they won’t live their lives in despair and hopelessness. Don’t rely on broken dreams; lead with courage, character, and strength.

    How many more of your young men are going to follow Christopher Alexander and Christopher Pauchay? Do they represent your future? Are these young men your fallen heroes? No, they are not.

    But speaking of FN men, I think you have been ill-served by the men who purport to be your leaders. I get the impression that if their interests, both as groups and as individuals, do not coincide with FN peoples’ interest, the peoples’ interests tend to be subverted. I think that your interests will be better served by groups such the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Women’s Council. At least some of these women are articulate and seem to be knowledgeable and honest. In fact, one of them, Jackie Fletcher, has a letter in today’s (June 9/09) National Post.

    Your future lies within yourselves, not with government bureaucrats whose policies are more often crafted to enhance their personal résumés than to do what is best for their charges, your people. As long as you seek the protection of mother government and Human Rights Tribunals, you will never make it on your own. Resourcefulness, resilience, and courage in face of adversity are qualities that movers and doers look for. You have these qualities; dig them out, polish them up, and apply them.

    Governments might show you paths on which to direct your feet, but must not be the agents to move your feet. — Gerry Porter

  3. I’m with Erica on this one. You can’t convince me that white people are marginalized in this country. Yes, they may suffer acts of prejudice at points in time but at the end of the day and the end of the year, the statistics clearly show that people who are white like me are much more privileged than Aboriginal people. In fact, all non-Aboriginals are more privileged than Aboriginal people.

    Aboriginal people are denied access to social, economic and political participation in this country and are constantly at the receiving end of hostile, fearful, and angry sentiments such as those expressed above by the author/blogger. Even educated Canadians still believe that Aboriginals receive many financial perks from our Federal government. I would like to encourage all Canadians to take the time to read up on the truths concerning tax exemption, education funding, housing availability, reservation life, and the actual rights as defined by treaties and our Constitution. You might be surprised by what you find. The notion of financial abundance for Aboriginals is a complete myth.

    I find it depressing (but not really surprising considering the constant denigration of Aboriginal peoples and communities in this country), that you imply that all Aboriginal people are unqualified business people by stating that monies are given to unqualified people simply because they are Aboriginal. I am sure there actually has been a case or two of government funds given to a unqualified person who is Aboriginal just like there are very likely cases of government funds given to and unqualified non-Aboriginal person or two. Are therefore, all non-Aboriginals or even most, unqualified to receive loans? What bothers me is the assumption that all Aboriginal people are uneducated and unqualified to run businesses is implicitly made with no support whatsoever. This is a false generalization. It also represents a false authority whereby the author talks as if he or she is an expert or authority with some sort of professional qualifications to determine and make statements on how many Aboriginals get funds and whether or not they are qualified. No evidence is provided to show this is something Canadians should rightfully be concerned about.

    In fact, most of the arguments presented above are not logical and convincing. For example, there is an attempt to justify the colonial efforts and failed assimilation of indigenous people by saying “it happened everywhere so get over it”. This is an opinion, not a logical argument. I am not convinced as no evidence or solid argument has been presented. This is like me saying “She jumped over the bridge and so should you.” Are you convinced that you should jump?

    Another of many false arguments is a false dichotomy presented again to justify the “why don’t those Aboriginals just get over it” idea. I’m referring to the either/or scenario of reverting to pre-Columbus time vs. being assimilated into ‘modern times’. This is a wildly successful myth that has been used to justify colonial assimilation and the war on terror among other things (GW Bush “you’re either with us or against us”). In the case of Bush’s statement, Canada proved the falseness of the dichotomy by both supporting anti-terrorism and refusing to join the invasion of Iraq. We did both/and, not either/or. Likewise, a person can be Aboriginal in Canada and be both someone who sings and dances in the ceremonies of their ancestors, in their languages and on their title lands, and watches tv and text messages their friends, speaks English, and drives a car to the supermarket. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    You are welcome to your opinions just as I am hopefully in this case welcome to present mine. In stead of me going on and on as a non-Aboriginal person, I would encourage you to actually get in touch with Aboriginal people in your community to really find out what their different thoughts and hopes are. You might want to begin by reading articles and book written by Aboriginal Canadians.

    And by the way, I have never met an Aboriginal person who asked me to feel guilty or asked for some sort of handout ( although I’m sure someone out there would be more than happy to cough up an example or two to be used to generalize yet again about the nature or ‘all Aboriginal people’ in Canada). Most people I have met and read about say they simply want to exercise their rights as per our existing laws to clearly define their existing (not new and special, but existing) rights and title to lands now called Canada so that they can solve their own problems in their own communities.

    We should all take some time and let Aboriginal people teach us about what they want, need, dream about, and so on.

  4. Erica and Sally:

    Sally, I did get in touch with “an Aboriginal person” and got an earful. In fact, I got several.

    I have been talking with two men; a Métis – an articulate, effervescent, knowledgeable, and successful business man; and a white guy – equally articulate, personable, and knowledgeable – who is married to an aboriginal woman. Both have had careers with the federal government, one with Treasury Board and the other with Public Works.

    Among the many things I have learned is that the relationship between Aboriginals (including Métis) and the federal government is laden with a dense, impenetrable multi-departmental maze of bureaucratic indifference, paternalism, and incompetence. These unfortunate circumstances are exacerbated by conflicting mandates, turf wars, and a stupefying inability by the government to live up to the hundreds of agreements, both contractual and cultural, that have been signed with Aboriginals in the past two centuries or so.

    There is a truckload of reasons why we have come to this dreadful impasse but much of the mess comes down to this: successive governments have made scattered attempts to fix the “Aboriginal problem” by signing agreements which, while looking good on paper, are subsequently shelved and forgotten. The embedded attitude is to keep the warts under wraps until they become someone else’s problem sometime in the distant future.

    My Métis friend writes that much of the blame can be directed at two departments; Treasury Board Secretariat and the Auditor General, neither of which has analyzed the efficacy of 20 years worth of contractual arrangements.

    In any case, the distant future is here and guess what; there is still no one willing or able to come to terms with the “Aboriginal problem”.

    Unfortunately, the current crop of politicians and bureaucrats now charged with pushing the buttons and pulling the levers that constitute the impassive Aboriginal/Fed interface are apparently as indifferent, unimaginative, and intransigent as their predecessors, and no one knows, literally, how these entrenched difficulties will be sorted out. But it seems to me that the sooner Aboriginals shed the shackles of government, the better.

    An issue that I believe needs to be looked into is the widespread public perception of Aboriginal alcohol and drug abuse, child neglect, and an inordinately high crime rate; such news items represent our main window into Aboriginal life, and it is not attractive.

    I think that Aboriginal leaders and their organizations have to take a far more active role in changing that public perception. They need to tell us about the many Aboriginal societal, corporate, and educational successes to offset the other darker bits. There are dozens of websites that could be used to encourage industriousness and promote excellence.

    And as for Aboriginal leaders, about the only time we hear from Phil Fontaine is when he is criticizing this or that federal initiative or demanding more money from the public purse. This is not the kind of PR that endears him and the organizations he represents to the folks who dig deep to keep that public purse topped up.

    It is heartening to learn that there is a growing number of Métis and Aboriginal bands across the country that are operating successful businesses. Many have forged partnerships, mostly with resource-based corporations, that are creating jobs, wealth, and with perseverance, independence for their people. My Métis friend suggests that it may take another three or four generations for independence to become reality for most of the Canadian Aboriginal population, but that prospect is becoming clearer, and nearer, each year.

    I believe I got one thing right when I said in the earlier post that Aboriginals will find their feet when their children receive an education that will equip them to work in the modern world. And that is happening; Aboriginal universities or Aboriginal studies are available in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

    Education and corporate development seem to be the best roads to the future; build them, pave them, and travel them. –JGP

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