Members of the Mark Steyn Club can access SteynOnline content in whatever form they wishâ€“audio, video or written transcripts. Given the interest in Mark's recent testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa, we've decided to make available to all of our readers a transcript of the proceedings. Normally these things are done by the parliamentary clerks, but given the justice committee has already decided to expunge a member of parliament's words from the official record, we thought it was safer to do things ourselves.
MP Anthony Housefather: Good morning everyone. Welcome to the standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as we resume our study on online hate. We have a couple of procedural things to start with. We're going to be naming at a Conservative vice chair of the committee and I'm going turn it over to the clerk to be able to do that. Mister Clerk? Monsieur Greffier, c'est a vous. [It is you]
Clerk: Thank you, Mister Chair. So for the first vice chair of the committee I would like to receive nominations. Lisa Raitt. Are there any other nominations? Is the committee in agreement with this motion?
MP Anthony Housefather: Mr. Garrison?
MP Randall Garrison: Do you have an indication from she's prepared to accept?
MP Anthony Housefather: It is my understanding I've recently received an email from her saying she's prepared to accept.
Questioner: Thank you very much.
[Committee adopts motion and Ms. Raitt accepted as vice chair in absentia.]
MP Randy Boissonnault: Thank you Mr. Chair. I know that we want to get to the Conservatives' witnesses in due course. I have a motion to put on the table at that I'm asking colleague to send around. I'll read into the record so it can be in both languages. The document I'm sending around is in both languages and here's the motion: "Whereas the treatment by Mister Cooper of the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council was discriminatory, hurtful, and disrespectful and whereas reading into the record the comments from the terrorist attacker in Christchurch, New Zealand was inappropriate, be it resolved that the committee recommends that the name of the attacker in the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre, as well as any quoted portion of his manifesto be expunged from the committee's Hansard and that the committee report this recommendation to the House."
Clerk: Just give me one second please.
MP Anthony Housefather: I believe this motion is receivable and it's related to the online hate study we're doing right now since it related to a meeting that we did on online hate so the 48 hour rule wouldn't apply, so I'll rule this is a receivable and Mr. Boissonnault the floor is yours if you want to speak to your motion.
MP Randy Boissonnault: Well Mister Chair thanks very much. I think the motion speaks for itself and we've had conversations here both in camera and ex camera on this matter. It's a sensitive matter, we expect Canadians to be able to come to this committee and be heard and to not receive the kind of treatment that Mr. Suri received. At the same time we also play a role in Canada and the international community and I think it's important that this reference be expunged from our committee's record.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you, Mr. Boissonnault. Mr. Garrison, the floor is yours.
MP Randall Garrison: Very much Mr. Chair. I certainly welcome this motion. I think what we have before us is not just in order but very important. We have seen the government of New Zealand which has tried very much to make sure that the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter and his name not become infamous and so we live in an era of social media, we live in an era where things spread like wildfire and we live in an era when sometimes people confuse free speech, which is about the rational exchange of ideas with throwing gasoline on the fires. We've just seen this morning another shooting incident in Australia in Darwin. We don't know anything about the reasons but we certainly live in what I would call incendiary times and so I think we have a responsibility as a committee of Parliament to make sure that we do not contribute to that and that we respect the wishes of the New Zealand government in trying to make sure that those who engage in violent acts based on extremist ideologies do not get a public forum to spread their ideas. Just to be clear, I'm not opposed to people having ideas or people thinking ideas, what I'm opposed to is giving a public platform for the spreading of those violent ideas and for the spreading of hatred and I think by excising this testimony we would contribute in that manner.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you. Mr. Brassard.
MP John Brassard: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just for the record the leader of the opposition has dealt with this, Mr. Cooper has apologized for his comments. This is nothing more than a stunt and I call the question, thank you.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you, Mr. Brassard. I know you can't call the question but I didn't see anybody else that their hands up to speak...Mr. Garrison, I'm sorry.
MP Randall Garrison: So I guess I would say with respect to Mr. Brassard. Mr. Brassard and I have a long history of working together on things. I disagree quite firmly, this morning. It's not up to the leader of the opposition to decide when this is over. There was an attack on a witness before the committee; it's up to this committee to decide when and if things are over. While I respect the limited action which the leader of the opposition took, this is clearly responsibility of the committee itself to make decisions for itself about what the right thing is to do on this occasion. So I would not take the time to restate my remarks but it's simply the leader of the opposition's dealing with his own caucus members and who speaks for his caucus is something which he has to deal with himself. If he wishes to have Mr. Cooper to continue to be a spokesperson for him on Justice that's his decision and all the consequences that flow with that. But this is a decision which the committee must make itself.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you I saw Mr. Boissonnault's hand, Mar. Barrett's hand and then we have witnesses so I'm just...
MP Randy Boissonnault: Thanks very much Mr. Chair. There's nothing in the motion that calls for any additional sanctions on Mr. Cooper, this is simply about doing the right thing here at the Justice Committee and cleaning up the record from something that is regrettable, it should never been part of our record.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you. Mister Barrett.
MP Michael Barrett: Mr. Chair. Opposition members have limited amount of time to call witnesses during the study, the study has been going on for some time. This is our last witness panel, these are...these witnesses are under limited time to testify, I would again ask that the chair call the question so that we can proceed with hearing the testimony to complete our study.
MP Anthony Housefather: So Mr. Barrett, I appreciate that. The Chair can't just call the question as long as there's a member that wishes to speak but I don't see any other members that wish to speak at this point so we can actually move to the question. A request to record a vote? I turn to the clerk then. Yea to the motion would be yes to Mr. Boissonnault's motion and nay would be against. Mr. Clerk.
Clerk: [Calls each member's name and votes are cast.] So yeas five.
MP Anthony Housefather: Wouldn't there be six? There's nine people here. I think six yes.
Clerk: Yes, so six.
[Yeas: Randy Boissonnault, Ali Ehsassi, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Colin Fraser, Randall Garrison, Ron McKinnon; Nays: Nil; Abstentions: Michael Barrett, John Brassard, Dave MacKenzie.]
MP Anthony Housefather: Perfect, okay so the motion is adopted. Mr. Garrison?
MP Randall Garrison: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Not being the permanent representative on this committee I received a very late notice that this session was to be televised and I guess my question is that none of the previous testimony by witnesses has been televised and so it seems peculiar to me that only the last segment of this would actually be televised by the committee, so I guess I want to ask the chair why that...why that's taking place but perhaps short circuit that by simply saying that I'll move at this time that this meeting not be televised any further.
[Low mostly inaudible discussion between chair and clerk]
MP Anthony Housefather: So it is a receivable motion which is non-debatable and non-amendable according to the clerk. On a point of order Mr. Barrett?
MP Michael Barrett: I guess I would just for my clarification. What what's the problem? My understanding is that the committee doesn't decide, committee members don't decide which meetings are televised and which are only communicated by audio only. So if we don't make the proactive decision to televise, why would we make the reactive decision out of committee to cease the broadcast?
MP Anthony Housefather: Let's call that a question of information. To be fair I thought I thought because there was interest that I'd seen in this meeting I suggested it be televised but if there's a receivable motion on the floor that's non debatable and non-amendable at this point to not televise...[inaudible] I was allowing it because Mr. Barrett was genuinely curious. You put forward a motion which is non- debatable, non-amendable, Mr. Garrison, we probably should get to get a vote so we can get to the witnesses one way or the other, if that's okay, since it's non-debatable and non-amendable.
MP Colin Fraser: With respect just based on Mr. Garrison's point that he raised, I just want to make it absolutely clear that the meeting is public that the motion isn't to go in camera.
MP Anthony Housefather: Yes I totally understand. In case there's any confusion, I totally understand your motion is simply the meaning remain completely public and simply have an audio recording and not be televised. Yes I think that's understood. So again this is a non-debatable, non-amendable motion. We will go to a vote. Is there anyone that wants a recorded vote? Mr. Garrison wants a recorded vote. I'm again going to turn over to the clerk. Monsieur Greffier.
Clerk: [Reads off names and members vote] So in favor 10, against zero.
[Yeas: Michael Barrett, Randy Boissonnault, John Brassard, Ali Ehsassi, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Colin Fraser, Randall Garrison, Dave MacKenzie, Ron McKinnon, Nays: Nil.]
MP Anthony Housefather: In favor 10 so we will not televise the rest of this meeting and I will suspend for one minute and we will move to an audio recording and we will hopefully start with witnesses.
Start of audio only portion after 2.5 minute break
MP Anthony Housefather: Today as individuals we have Miss Lindsay Shepherd, welcome. Mr. John Robson, welcome. And Mr. Mark Steyn, welcome. Each of the witnesses will speak in turn. Miss Shepherd, you're on the list first. We're will be going in order of the agenda. The floor is yours ma'am.
Lindsay Shepherd: Honorable Members, thank you for the invitation to appear today. Earlier this year I received a seven day suspension from the social media website Twitter for violating their rules against hateful conduct. According to the Twitter rules you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. So what was my tweet that supposedly promoted violence, threatened, or harassed someone? Well my tweet referenced an individual that I cannot name here today due to a publication ban in this country. This individual can only be referred to as J.Y. J.Y. is an individual that has taken 14 female aestheticians to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal because they declined to perform waxing services on his male genitalia. They are also screen shots of Facebook messages between J.Y. and others where it appears he makes very predatory comments about wanting to help 10 to 12-year-old girls with their tampons in bathroom stalls. In the tweet that got me suspended I referred to J.Y. as "a guy who creeps on young girls and vulnerable working women in the Vancouver area" and I posted some of the Facebook messages he has written about his plans to approach young girls in the female washrooms. Why was it deemed hateful conduct for me to write this tweet? Because J.Y. purports to be a male to female transgender person and so by alerting people to his troubling conduct I got kicked off Twitter for seven days because what I wrote was seen as a transgression against his gender identity.
Prominent Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy was permanently banned from Twitter for misgendering the same individual--J.Y.--that I have just spoken about and for tweeting, "men aren't women though." These tweets also fell under Twitter's hateful conduct policy. Murphy is now suing Twitter because as a journalist her livelihood is largely dependent on her online presence and she is being denied an online presence and being denied the ability to participate in the public square, as online spaces are today's public square. I am concerned about the potential return of legislation such as Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act because what that legislation does is punish Canadians who, in exercising their right to peaceful free expression, might offend a member of a protected marginalized group. If someone with a marginalized identity experiences commentary they find offensive they can claim the offense is an attack on their identity rather than being a legitimate expression. Human rights tribunals become the tools by which those who speak their mind peacefully and nonviolently are silenced.
Many other witnesses before this committee have discussed the need for a definition of hate and many call for need to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. As a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2017 and 2018 I woke up to how my peers and academic superiors understand hate. When the word got out that I had played an excerpt from TV Ontario's The Agenda with Steve Paikan, in the classroom that I was a teaching assistant for, an excerpt that featured psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson discussing Bill C. 16, compelled speech and gender pronouns, a PhD student at my university said at a rally that I had played hate speech in the classroom and had violated the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Likewise a professor at George Brown College, named Dr. Griffin Epstein, asserted in a letter to the Toronto Star, that I had played "hate speech in the classroom." And these are just two examples.
Recently Facebook has taken to banning white nationalists from their platform. If you poke around online tons of people call me a white nationalist and a white supremacist because I have offered criticisms of the practice of indigenous land acknowledgements and have cited the statistically backed up fact that white Canadians are becoming a minority in Canada. An instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University, Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor, used class time in his anthropology class to tell his students that I have neo-Nazi, white supremacist ideologies, which he followed by saying I shouldn't have said that, forget I said anything.
So I don't have a Facebook account but if I did, would they ban me? How many people does it take to smear you as a white nationalist or white supremacist before you get banned from certain online spaces? This committee has noted that underlying their study on online hate is a finding of by Statistics Canada reported a 47 percent increase in police reported hate crimes between 2016 and 2017. However, this increase is principally from nonviolent crimes. As the Statistics Canada website reads, police reported hate crime in Canada rose sharply in 2017, up 47 percent over the previous year and largely the result of an increase in hate related property crimes such as graffiti and vandalism. Now perhaps you caught this story in the news recently. A couple of months ago at Laurentian University in Sudbury a student found some candy arranged in the shape of a swastika on a cafeteria table. This swastika shaped candy arrangement is being investigated as an incident of hatred and intimidation by the university. However, I do not think that one single isolated incident of candy arranged in a swastika is enough evidence to indicate that anyone is trying to incite hatred, target, or intimidate. This is an example of how the bar for what constitutes hate is too low.
I have had so many encounters with the hypersensitivity around what constitutes hate that I know bringing back Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act would be a mistake. It would cast too wide of a net and extremists who are already intent on causing real world violence will go to the deeper and darker web to communicate, while whilst individuals who shouldn't be caught up in online hate legislation will inevitably get caught up in it. Thank you.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you very much, Miss Shepherd. We will now go to Mister Robson. Mr. Robson, the floor is yours.
John Robson: Well again thank you very much to the members of the committee for an invitation to speak to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. And I'm here to speak in defense of the very fundamental human right of free speech. I know that all the members here are extremely concerned about hate and intolerance and I know that you're horrified by the eruption of bad manners and loathsome opinions on the Internet. Too often social media seems to encourage our worst passions. But despite that and it is a real problem censorship is not the answer. Now I know censorship is an ugly word and it may well not sound to you like what you're considering doing, in part because your motives are good. But censorship is the right word for what happens when government restricts freedom of speech for any but the narrowest of purposes. And censorship is an ugly word because censorship is an ugly thing. There are legitimate grounds for government to restrict freedom of speech. Because the state exists to protect us from force and fraud it's rightly illegal to conspire to commit crimes. It's illegal to libel or slander people; it's illegal to incite violence and it's illegal to engage in material misrepresentation. But when government seeks to limit or prevent any communication that does anything else, including insulting or denigrating people or groups, it's censorship. And the problem with censorship is it cuts the rattle off the snake, it doesn't drain the venom from the fangs.
And I want to be very clear here that a lot of the opinions that hate speech laws target are not just factually wrong, they're loathsome. My argument here isn't that neo-Nazis are fine people who happen to be misunderstood by idiots and the hypersensitive. My argument is that in the battle of ideas, truth will prevail, and that when you limit the battle of ideas you put truth in peril. I don't need to tell you why censorship and tyranny is bad. They're trying to repress the truth and I don't need to tell you that if you go online you find yourselves call tyrants and Nazis and all sorts of stupid and moronic insults. But the response to this kind of thing is to rebut it, to refute it, to laugh at it, to shun it. It's not to call a cop.
And so what I want to do here I want to bring up the three arguments that John Stuart Mill made an On Liberty back in 1859 against censorship of unpopular ideas. And it's important to be clear that it is censorship of unpopular ideas that we're talking about. There's very little occasion for elected governments to try and censor popular ideas. But what Mill said is first and most fundamentally an idea that people don't want to hear, an idea that is unfamiliar and upsetting might turn out to be true. I know you're not worrying about that when it comes to online hate and there's no reason why you would be but we have to protect freedom of speech because we might be wrong. We've been surprised before and we don't have the wisdom to know in advance what ideas we shouldn't silence because will eventually realize they were right and which ideas we can safely trample underfoot because we know they're wrong. But of course there are ideas that we would stake our souls--if we have souls--on being wrong. Not just being erroneous but being vicious. I don't know because there are certain things you don't want in the record of the committee but I'm going to say it out loud, here's some ideas that are so wrong that you might be tempted to say no one can say them: Hitler should have finished the job; blacks are inferior; that kind of stuff.
There is no possibility that we are going to realize one day, oh yeah, that was true; we shouldn't have been so blind to it. But this brings me to the second of Mill's arguments in favor of free speech, the Dracula Effect. Of course he didn't call it that because Bram Stoker hadn't written this book yet, but it's the principle that sunlight destroys evil. That the way we get at truth is to speak out against error, denounce it and refute it. The open societies are a gigantic gamble that truth has nothing to fear in a contest of ideas. And the trouble with censoring hateful speech is that you drive it underground where it isn't exposed to sunlight, where it isn't refuted, where it isn't ridiculed, where it isn't shamed and where people are not shown the error of their ways because we want to rescue the haters as well as protect society from hate. If you keep it off the open Internet it goes into the dark web, it festers and it breeds in dank basements. So it even lets let's haters wrap themselves in the mantle of martyrdom. You don't want to do that in the name of truth.
And the third point that Mill makes is that if you live in a society where the conventional wisdom is not challenged, even things that are true tend to be accepted as kind of stale dogma, not as living truth. But when you hear correct ideas defended, when you defend them yourself, they become vital and living parts of your life, they become something that you act on, something that informs your existence and makes it better.
Now censorship doesn't really work it didn't even really work in tyrannies. I mean censorship in the Soviet Union allow communism to last longer and in the end to collapse more disastrously. But it also didn't work in Weimar Germany. Weimar Germany had laws against anti-Semitism and they didn't stop Hitler. What do people say in retrospect? They say we should have listened to what Hitler was saying. I meant to bring a copy of Mein Kampf as a prop; I'm afraid I got busy this morning and forgot it. But it belongs on every educated person's bookshelf because we need to know what hate looks like; we need to know how it could once have prevailed so we know how to fight it in others and in ourselves. Yeah I want to assign it as a university text, I thought it would make a great headline, you know right wing professor assigns Hitler text. I don't even think the kids read it because it was so long but the one thing I wasn't worried about is they'd read it and become Nazis.
And you should not worry that if Canadians are exposed to hateful speech online it will turn them into haters. It'll do the opposite. It will anger them, it will lead them to speak out against it, it will lead them to think more completely and thoroughly about tolerance and to be more tolerant people. There are a lot more things I could say but I'm not going to steal my fellow witnesses' time. But I want to quote Queen Elizabeth I. At a time when religious differences threatened bloody civil war she said I have no desire to make windows into men's souls. That the state can prohibit acts of violence is very clear and it's an essential duty. That the state can prohibit incitement to violence. If someone stands on a street corner and says kill that capitalist they're going to get arrested and they should get arrested but if someone stands on a street corner and says the only solution to the ills of capitalism is violent proletarian revolution, they should not be arrested. Because we don't need censorship to protect us from force and fraud and we certainly don't need it to protect us from truth or error. We are adults.
In the free societies in the time of Galileo and Socrates our heroes are those who challenge conventional wisdom shock reputable opinion, outrage their neighbors and question authority. Most of them turn out to be cranks and they're forgotten but some of them turn out to have been right. And when you try to silence opinions you don't want to hear we pay a huge price in truths we don't hear and we drive untruths underground and in doing so we strengthen them, we do not weaken them.
Free speech lets us discover unexpected truths, it lets us refute error, it lets us live in the truth of our beliefs. It's a vitally important human right I implore this committee to uphold it in all its messy glory. Thank you.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you very much and Mister Steyn, the floor is yours.
Mark Steyn: Thank you very much, Monsieur le president, and also to the honorable members of the committee. I am honored to be here. I would just like to say a quick word on the...as much as I always enjoy seeing Miss Raitt--about the defenestration of Mr. Cooper from this committee, which I understand is the business of the members of the committee. But I am concerned...I was driving into Ottawa listening to my old friend Evan Solomon on the radio who was arguing that in fact it was perhaps time for Mr. Cooper to be booted from caucus.
That is actually the age we live in, where people can have one infraction and their life implodes, their career implodes, they're vaporized for it and that is actually one of the most disturbing trends on the free speech issue. The surviving vice chair of this committee said recently that Jordan Peterson should not be permitted to testify to this committee. Bernie Farber, I believe just last night, said Lindsey Sheppard should be booted from appearing before this committee. Miss Shepherd and Mr. Peterson are law abiding Canadian citizens and this practice of labeling people and demanding that they be instantly deplatformed, booted from polite society is in fact more serious than some of the other matters before this committee.
I was here last time around 10 years ago, when we got rid of Section 13 because it was corrupt in absolutely every aspect of its operation from minor bureaucrats indulging strange James Bond fantasies and playing undercover dress up Nazis on the Internet to pathetic rubber stamp jurists who gave Section 13 a 100 percent conviction rate, that even respectable chaps like Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein would have thought was perfectly ridiculous.
The worst aspect of it was secret trials. Secret trials in Ottawa, not in Tehran or Pyongyang but in Ottawa. I discovered it one evening before dinner and I emailed my friends at MacLean's and the eminent barrister Julian Porter, whom I see the prime minister recently retained as his QC, that's how respectable he is. And Julian in a couple of hours wrote a motion referencing Viscount Haldane and Ambard versus Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago. Real law, not the pseudo law of Section 13 and did what John did. Julian's motion opened up that dank, fetid dungeon of pseudo justice to the public, to the people of Canada and after 20 minutes in the cleansing sunlight that John talked about, the unimpressive jurist in that case, Athanasios Hadjis, decided that Section 13 was unconstitutional and he wasn't gonna have anything more to do with it. Sunshine works.
The most important aspectâ€”while we're quoting judges--John Moulton wrote a famous essay a century ago on the realm of manners and he said the measure of a society is not what one is forbidden to do--which is to murder and steal and rape--and not what one is compelled to do such as pay the taxes or join the army or whatever, but you measure a society by the space in between. The realm of manners, where free people regulate themselves.
Canadians do not bash gays or lynch minorities because they are enjoined by the state not to do so; they do so because they are operating in Lord Moulton's realm of manners where free people, civilized people regulate themselves, and that is where the internal contradictions of a fractious multicultural society should be played out. The idea of bureaucrats once again getting into this business is deeply disturbing. They didn't have enough work last time, they had to actually shortly before the MacLean's case, which was the one I was involved in, the senior counsel of the Canadian Human Rights Commission actually went to Toronto to speak to various groups to say they weren't getting enough cases and that's why people should file more complaints.
Ultimately free speech is hate speech and hate speech is free speech. It's for the speech you hate, the speech you revile. The alternative to free speech is approved speech and that necessarily means approved by whom. Well approved by yourself as a citizen if you don't want to have Lindsey Sheppard over to dinner, as Bernie Farber doesn't. That's fair enough but once it becomes speech approved by the state and speech approved by formal bodies, it effectively means the speech approved by the powerful.
The biggest threat to free speech at the moment is a malign alliance between governments and big tech doing the kinds of things Lindsay spoke of. The photograph that sums it up is the one of Mr. Trudeau with Mrs. May, and Miss Ardern and President Macron in Paris the other day sitting across the table from the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple. Six woke billionaires who presume to regulate the opinions of all seven billion people on this planet. That is far more of a threat than some pimply 17-year-old neo-Nazi tweeting in his mother's basement somewhere out on the Prairies. And that issue is the real threat to genuine liberty in our society.
I cannot believe that a mere 10 years on we are talking about restoring this law. It was appalling and unfortunately, this committee and the House never actually confronted it in reality. But I will finally say this on a personal note. I was born in Canada; I love Canada; I would die for Canada; I am old-fashioned enough to take the allegiance of citizenship seriously, but no monarch, no Parliament, no government, and certainly no bureaucratic agency operating the pseudo-law of Section 13 can claim jurisdiction over my right to think freely, to read freely, to speak freely and to argue freely. Thank you very much, sir.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you very much to all the witnesses. We're now going to go to questions. We're going to start with Mr. Barrett.
MP Michael Barrett: Thanks Mr. Chair. Miss Shepherd, Mr. Steyn, Mr. Robson, thanks for your testimony this morning. Mr. Robson, on the 16th of May you wrote an article or an article was published that you wrote and it said, "I think it's very important to take a stand that what's dangerous isn't paintings, it's people who kill in response to paintings, books, cartoons, or a sideways glance."
Can you expand on the context of what should be done or not done in response to online hate?
John Robson: What should be done in response to online hate is that we should first and foremost not put it out ourselves, which might seem like a very trite point but I noticed that last night there was a tweet from a professor of political science, for whom I thought I had some respect, which had a clip of a political leader speaking about the fact that we are all God's children and he said keep your imaginary beep out of my public policy. And I thought to myself how we come to a place where somebody like that would not be ashamedâ€”I mean just to utter obscenities in public--can we please stop doing that but in the second place to dismiss Christianity as a word I'm not going to say into the record and this seems to me to incite hate and ridicule for Christians--at least some tension--but what it does is expose the perpetrator as contemptible. So first of all we don't tweet things like that, secondly we react to them with contempt, we can unfollow these people. We can answer them as I did in what I hope was courteous language but very firm on the substance. And I would if invited to debate a Nazi, I would not be afraid to do so. If invited to debate a racist I would not be afraid to do so.
But what you don't do is silence by force the expression of odious opinions and I was thinking actually to do with this thing about New Zealand and the manifesto, which apparently is unfit for consumption by parliamentarians although as with Mein Kampf or say Stalin's Foundations of Leninism, you need to know about this stuff because it's dangerous. In the middle of the twentieth century John Starnes, one of most eminent magicians in the United States and during World War II he went around teaching American GIs how to cheat at poker. And someone said this is strange, why are you teaching the GIs to cheat and Starnes said because the bad guys already know all this stuff and I want the guy who wants to play an honest game of poker to recognize when somebody is doing something with a deck that they shouldn't be.
And again if you think you can keep the name of that shooter or his ideas out of the dark web you are deluded as your powers. What we need to do when we encounter online hate is answer it indignantly but as I say in such a way if possible as to redeem the hater themselves because as Andrew Scheer said we are all children of God. But if you can't redeem the hater you can at least protect others by showing what's wrong with these ideas and that's what we do. We don't drive them underground; we don't drive them into the places where the Nazi party spread its message despite laws against anti-Semitism in Weimar Germany. We do not have the wisdomâ€”do not arrogate to yourselves the power to silence speech because you don't have the wisdom to know what needs to be silenced. None of us should have that power and it doesn't help, it simply gives hate a hiding place where conditions are propitious for it to breed and swarm out.
MP Michael Barrett: Thank you for your response, Mr. Robson. Mr. Steyn, one of the ideas that's been raised by the committee and by the prime minister is, as you mentioned, the reinstatement of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. So you had, as you as you mentioned, involvement in litigating the section and its subsequent repeal. Could you expand on your experience in that regard to Section 13 and the utility of legislation like that?
Mark Steyn: Well as I said the problem with Section 13 is that Canadians aren't very hateful people so there was a lack of real serious complaint. One man had his name on every complaint since 2002; a man called Richard Warman was the plaintiff on every Section 13 complaint since 2002. It's a bit like Groundhog Day for me this but I'll proceed anyway. As I mentioned last time round, some of you may know that there was a self-appointed witch finder general in England some centuries back and for whatever it was, two pounds, he'd go out and find witches. Richard Warman was the hate finder general of Canada from 2002.
One plaintiff on every single complaint. The offending material was seen by nobody. One post that the Canadian Human Rights Commission spent years investigating under Section 13 had been viewed by .8 of a Canadian or if you include territories, .6713 of a Canadian, something like that. And most of those .6713 of a Canadian were undercover agents of the Human Rights Commission whiling away their time at taxpayer expense on groups like Stormfront. In other words Dean Steacy and Richard Warman of the Canadian Human Rights Commission joined neo-Nazi groups. There weren't enough neo-Nazi groups in Canada so we had servants of the Crown pretending to be neo-Nazis, which is preposterous. They were aided by Sgt. Camp, for example, of the Edmonton police, who was also a member of Stormfront.
So if you are one of the three neo-Nazis in Canada and you go online of an afternoon thinking you'll meet likeminded neo-Nazis, you'll find that the only people on Stormfront are Dean Steacy of the CHRC trying to entrap Richard Warman of the CHRC, trying to entrap Sgt. Camp of the Edmonton Police. It was a corrupt and indefensible racket and I have heard nothing from the witnesses before this committee that would suggest we are any more capable today of preventing those abuses.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you very much, Mr...oh yeah. Mr. Fraser?
MP Colin Fraser: Thank you, thank you, Mr. Chair. I share my time with Mr. Erskine-Smith. Miss Shepherd I just want to discuss with you a couple of things that you mentioned in your presentation and also some activities that you've undertaken. One thing that I think is missing sometimes when we talk about free speech: it sometimes gets confused with consequence free speech. Meaning that people have to be responsible for what they do say and I take it...I agree obviously with the point that free speech in Canada is a protected right, that it obviously is extremely important and that we cherish it but that is subject to reasonable limits in our Charter.
Consequence free speech is something that has to be borne in mind when responsible individuals are engaging in civil society. I want to talk for a minute about a recent YouTube interview that you did with Mr. GariĂ©py. I'm sorry if I'm pronouncing that incorrectly, I'm not familiar with him but the topic of population replacement came on and I know you talked a bit in your presentation about whites becoming a minority. Now this YouTube channel hosts white supremacists quite often, neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer, former KKK grand wizard David Duke has appeared on that program and you appeared on it recently talking about population replacement. After you finished that statement, Mr. GariĂ©py then started talking white genocide and how that when whites are in the minority, like in South Africa, and in Haiti, white genocide occurs. And you said nothing in rebuttal to that. I mean don't you think that free speech comes with a responsibility, especially when you're confronted with inflammatory and inciteful rhetoric?
Lindsay Shepherd: I don't think I'm here to defend my personal track record, in fact at a previous hearing, Naseem Mithoowani, one of the witnesses, was asked about her personal activities and it was deemed that that wasn't appropriate, so I'm not going to try and defend my personal activities.
MP Colin Fraser: Because what we're here to talk about today is online hate. This was a video interview that was online, on a YouTube channel known for espousing white supremacist, white nationalist views that you appeared on just last month. So are you not willing to comment on whether or not you believe that that interview constituted online hate in a study online hatred...
Lindsay Shepherd: It did not constitute online hate, it was not hate speech.
MP Colin Fraser: Have you spoken to any member of parliament before today about your appearance here at this committee?
Lindsay Shepherd: No.
MP Colin Fraser: Okay I'll give my time to Mr. Erskine-Smith.
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Thanks so much. Eid Mubarak everyone. There are thousands of peaceful, loving and welcoming Muslims in my riding right now. I'm normally in Dentonia Park with them; I'm here with you instead. And so Mr. Steyn in light of Mr. Robson's comments about sunlight and having a more civil back and forth about comments rather than ensuring the stiff penalty of the criminal law you've said of moderate Muslims that they want stoning for adultery to be introduced in Liverpool but they're moderates because they can't be bothered flying a plane into a skyscraper to get it. Do you regret anything you've said about Muslims?
Mark Steyn: Well I'm a great believer in first principles, sir, and the question is clearly things that are said in the course of public discourse are offensive, obnoxious, are hurtful. The question before this panel is should they be criminalized?
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: No, no but my question to you is do you regret anything you've said about Muslims?
Mark Steyn: I regret many things I've said on many subjects...
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Fair enough...
Mark Steyn: ...over the years. I will say...but here's the difference. Naseem Mithoowani, who I like a lot. I've run into Naseem every couple of years and I like her enormously, I like Muneeza Sheikh, I like Khurrum Awan, who was the third of those Muslims who attempted to criminalize my writing. But I think there is a difference in this. I'm willing to debate you; I'm willing to debate Naseem. I'm not willing to go along with the big shut up, which is....
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: I appreciate that you say that because we talk about thresholds and Mr. Robson was raising great concern about any threshold to hate speech. We of course for decades, since 1970, have had a very high threshold with respect to hate speech in the criminal code. So to all three panelists give me one example over the last 50 years where the criminal code has been improperly applied to hate speech. One single example, 50 years.
Mark: What do you mean by improperly?
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Has it been...so a court has dismissed it and said that this should never been brought. You raise procedural concerns about Section 13; you lambasted it for your 10 minutes. Give me one example of impropriety with respect to the criminal code and hate speech over the last 50 years.
Mark Steyn: Well I've read the Taylor and Whatcott decisions carefully and nothing that people have complained about before this committee come anything close to the narrow definitions of the Supreme Court of Canada...
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Right the narrow definitions of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mark Steyn: Yes.
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: So my concern is an enforcement issue. I think it should be the high threshold of the criminal code, none of you has suggested a single example over the last 50 years as to why that high threshold is a problem. So my concern is enforcement and I encourage you to take that back and think are there better ways we can enforce criminal hate speech? And the last thing I will say because it's not just the end of Ramadan this week but it's also this Thursday the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Miss Shepherd when you go on YouTube and you embrace the views of population replacement with a white nationalist, just remember who the Nazis are. Thanks very much.
MP Anthony Housefather: Miss Shepherd, do you want to respond at all to that?
Lindsay Shepherd: No.
MP Anthony Housefather: Mr. Garrison.
John Robson: May I respond?
MP Anthony Housefather: While I appreciate it I asked Miss Shepherd. He made a statement, I asked her because she was referenced in the statement.
John Robson: He did ask a statement to all the witnesses.
MP Anthony Housefather: Oh on the criminal code?
John Robson: Yeah and although I am not here to debate specifics I want to say that in as much laws that censor speech are fundamentally illegitimate, it is not appropriate to figure out what the best way is to do a bad thing. On the other hand because I talked earlier about how the Internet is awash in rubbish. I run a website which actually is skeptical about manmade climate change and people are forever saying we're going to report you as fake news and get you shut down but the other day somebody put a comment on our blog that said and I quote, "Canada's environment minister, Catherine McKenna, AKA Climate Barbie in typical Nazi like screeching matter declared blah blah blah." Then at the end it said, "Joseph Goebbels would be proud."
And of course I deleted that comment as soon as I saw it because as a private matter, not a governmental matter, we are under no obligation to tolerate this kind of rubbish when it appears and I have reproached people for using that nickname for our environment minister, I think it is disrespectful, I think it is mean spirited, I think it is harmful to speaker and to audience alike. Man is not poisoned by what goes in his mouth but by what comes out of it but as a private matter we refuse to associate with these kinds of things. As a public matter it is not your place to silence us even if we want to say something like the Koran does not separate church and state and this is a serious problem in political economy.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you very much. Mr. Garrison.
MP Randall Garrison: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and I must confess I find this panel extremely challenging because I happen to live in the real world and I happen to live in this century and so when we have members of the panel talking about and saying things like there is no gay bashing in this country--that's simply not true--and when we say that hate crimes are for the most part aren't violent, unless you look at the case of transgender Canadians, when most of the hate crimes reported are violent. So we've had a lot of I think factually incorrect material but I think for me the question comes down to the minimizing of the impacts of hate speech, so I'm going to talk very personally here as someone who has been the first out gay men in a lot of different positions and I don't think any of you three understand how what the result of hate speech is for people in my position, or for transgender people, for indigenous women in Canada. I don't think you understand at all what happens in the real world, so when I was appointed to the police board some time ago, we had a discussion with the police chief about whether I had to have more police protection. Right? Because they were people online, at that time it was early, but online who were inciting violence against me as an out gay man. When I was elected to city council in a very progressive community we had to have discussions about what would happen at the public meetings because of things that were being said and posted about the fact that I... someone--my favoriteâ€”"someone should do something about me."
I took that very seriously and certainly my partner took that very seriously and when I was elected to parliament I received death threats, multiple death threats and I had to meet with the police chief and have a discussion about what was an appropriate response to those to those threats. Some were very explicit, some were less explicit and my conversation with the police chief was if I'm a member of parliament and somebody who's been out public figure by that time for almost two decades and this is being directed at me, what is being directed at other members of my community? What are they facing on a daily basis? And if we don't do something about that then we are in fact encouraging it to go on and so the police chief that I work with was very progressive saying surely you're not talking about arrests and I said of course I'm talking about arrests but I'm talking about some door knocking with those who directly threatened me, saying that this behavior is unacceptable and it needs to stop. And there was...there were a number of cases where the police did agree to do that and in my case I was not worried on a daily basis that any of those particular individuals which we'd identified would come after me, although it was possible, I was as I said worried about the impact of that kind of speech and that kind of behavior on other members of my community.
I would have to say that for me, when I first arrived in Parliament, there was an official statement done by a party which I won't name today, suggesting that I was a friend of pedophiles. Now you might say that's free speech. My argument with the speaker was that that impaired my ability to do my job as a Member of Parliament, so by identifying me with a quite reviled and justly so group in society, people were affecting my ability to act as a Member of Parliament. Unfortunately the speaker at that time never ruled on that question and I would have to say that perhaps that was a statement by an outlier because that didn't happen again in Parliament. But it was necessary for me to speak up at that point to prevent the continuation of that kind of speech. So when you--and all three of you have done this--when you minimize the impact of hate speech on people's daily lives I think you missed the entire point of these hearings. The entire point of these hearings is not about criminalizing speech, it's about deciding where in a modern society where social media have in fact become the public square, where do we draw the line? And so the old clichĂ© we all know that there are limits on speech you can't shout fire in a crowded theater, so the problem is defining where that crowded theater is these days and quite often that crowded theater is online and is the Internet. And so what this committee is trying to do in these hearings is figure out where to draw that line, what's the appropriate place. It's not trying to ban speech or ideas and I would have to say, because one of you did say it, that we need to debate these ideas so we know what's wrong with them and I would since submit we already know what's wrong with racism, we already know what's wrong with homophobia, we already know what's wrong with misogyny. What we're trying to do is to make sure that those ideas have less impact on real lives of people in our society and so I guess I reject almost everything that you said today because the context you place it in is academic, it's historical, and has no relation all what happens in the real world. And so I believe Mr. Chair that we're out of time as a committee so I will leave my comments there.
MP Anthony Housefather: There was no...he didn't ask any questions Mr. Steyn and that's a member's prerogative to just make a statement and not ask questions. Mr. Ehsassi is next. Mr. Ehsassi.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Thank you Mr. Chair. Now if I could start off with Miss Shepherd. Miss Shepherd on March 22 you were published in Maclean's, there is a quote attributed to you and it reads and I suspect you had said appearing on a neo-Nazi podcast and reciting slogans associated with Nazism is distasteful, destructive to healthy race relations, and completely deserving of harsh criticism. Do you still stand by that?
Lindsay Shepherd: Absolutely, yeah, that was March 22, 2018.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Okay would you agree that racism can be destructive to healthy race relations and deserves to be criticized and condemned?
Lindsay Shepherd: Sure.
MP Ali Ehsassi: And you would say the same thing about sexism and homophobia, they're destructive to the public order and they should be condemned?
Lindsay Shepherd: Well then I have to go into how are you defining those things but as a general, just as the question as it is, yes.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Yes, so you agree that all of these -isms can be troubling to the public order?
Lindsay Shepherd: Sure.
MP Ali Ehsassi: And should be.
Lindsay Shepherd: Sure.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Okay so do you think the public figures, Canadian public figures have a responsibility to condemn hate speech?
Lindsay Shepherd: No.
MP Ali Ehsassi: So you think it is perfectly fine. So you agree it's destructive but you don't think it should be condemned.
Lindsay Shepherd: I don't think people have a responsibility to condemn.
MP Ali Ehsassi: You don't think people have a responsibility to condemn. But I think you said here they are deserving of harsh criticism.
Lindsay Shepherd: That doesn't mean people have to be assigned a responsibility.
MP Ali Ehsassi: No but you do agree that these terrible things are deserving of harsh criticism.
Lindsay Shepherd: Sure.
MP Ali Ehsassi: So why do you think that our public figures should be spared?
Lindsay Shepherd: I guess I just don't want to go into a situation where it's you have to speak out on every single little thing that happened and if you're silent you are a culprit.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Not little things the big things. Do you think the big things they should criticize?
Lindsay Shepherd: Well then we have to go into how what's the difference between a little thing and a big thing and see how these things go in circles right?
MP Ali Ehsassi: The big things you would agree with the notion that they should be condemned.
Lindsay Shepherd: Sorry?
MP Ali Ehsassi: But the big things as you put it you think should be condemned.
Lindsay Shepherd: Yes but then the problem is the operational definitions.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Okay thank you for that. Now Mr. Steyn I think you essentially admitted to the fact that you have said obnoxious and hurtful things in the past. Would you...
Mark Steyn: I've been in this business a long time and I don't think you'd find anyone including most of my editors who would find me anything other than obnoxious, unpleasant and hurtful.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Okay so would you agree that the article you wrote in Maclean's "The Future Belongs to Islam," where you stated "it's the end of the world as we've known it." Would you would you agree that's alarmist, that's obnoxious?
Mark Steyn: Well actually that's a bit of the problem. This is what the and with respect to Mr. Garrison thinking this is all academic and mumbo jumbo that's my learned friends would call res judicata. The thing has been adjudicated. I was taken about three...
MP Ali Ehsassi: Would you say that's obnoxious?
Mark Steyn: No I was taken to three Human Rights Tribunals and I won, sir. I won. If you want to take me to court for a fourth time I won.
MP Ali Ehsassi: I asked you a very specific question.
Mark Steyn: No that's been adjudicated and I'm in the clear. I beat the rap in British Columbia at the federal...
MP Ali Ehsassi: I didn't ask whether you adjudicated but if you were obnoxious or whether you were hurtful. Were you?
Mark Steyn: No as I said it's so stipulated, sir.
MP Ali Ehsassi: No but that's not why you were adjudicated. Correct? Would you agree with that?
Mark Steyn: I sat in the Robson Street Courthouse in Vancouver and heard an expert witness flown in from Philadelphia discourse on the quality of my jokes, some of which are indeed obnoxious, hurtful.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Thank you for that.
Mark Steyn: I think that is better left for that an article in the Literary Review of Canada.
MP Ali Ehsassi: Absolutely. You also objected to Chris Cuomo, the CNN commentator saying, "the real problem is white supremacists in America, they're the real monsters." You took issue with that, why did you take issue with that statement?
Mark Steyn: Well actually I'm not sure I have any particular...here's the thing. I'm not...my. QC in that case, Julian Porter, also the prime minister's QC, he took the position...
MP Ali Ehsassi: Can we stick to Mr. Cuomo's statement?
Mark Steyn: I'm answering your question. He took the principled position that we had nothing to defend under Canadian law. I am not here, sir, to justify to you words I've used on TV in the United States, radio in Australia. And I do not intend to do it. The words I chose are the words I chose and you are free to interpret those as you so wish.
MP Ali Ehsassi: I'm asking you a very simple question why didn't you condemn...
Mark Steyn: No you're doing what is perhaps the most repugnant aspect of this...
MP Ali Ehsassi: No I asked you a question about...
Mark Steyn: You're doing what is the most repulsive aspect of this committee, which is your trying to force people to deny certain things they said five, ten, fifteen years ago...
MP Ali Ehsassi: I'm asking questions, that's my job here.
Mark Steyn: ...as if there is only one correct position on Islam, on immigration, on climate change, on transgender bathrooms, on same sex marriage. We cannot keep going on saying this is the correct line and if you don't and you're not willing to sign on to that you're a hater.
MP Ali Ehsassi: I completely agree with Mr. Garrison this isn't an abstract exercise, I'm just asking you simple questions.
Mark Steyn: Well I'll tell you something that with respect to that too. I'm not going to bandy death threats with Mr. Garrison, I take it he's had them. I appeared on stage at the Danish Parliament, I had to be protected by Danish secret police, security service, the secret service. The British Foreign Office and the United States Department of State said it was not safe for British nationals or U.S. citizens to go near that event when I appeared there five years before. I was onstage with four other people, one of whom had her restaurant firebombed, the other of whom had the same shut up. I'm telling you all kinds of people who get death threats and if the alternative is surrendering our liberty over death threats to hell with that, sir.
MP Anthony Housefather: Thank you, thank you, the time has elapsed. I want to thank all of our witnesses today. One of the important parts of discourses is that we try to do so reasonably even if we strongly disagree and hopefully we continue to do that. I really appreciate very much all of you being here today.
We have an in camera meeting that comes up to discuss a report. Sorry Mr. Barrett did you have something before we do that?
MP Michael Barrett: Yes, Mr. Chair. Just for consistency's sake. If there are any other meetings today that were televised at your prerogative that we could...I'd move a motion that we don't televise the rest of our proceedings for today and have them broadcast in audio only. Just on the basis of the same basis of consistency that I supported the previous motion.
MP Anthony Housefather: So that would be related to the Google meeting this afternoon?
MP Michael Barrett: Right.
MP Anthony Housefather: So that's a non-debatable, non-amendable motion. Sorry witnesses I will thank you in a second. It's a non-debatable, non-amendable motion to not televise the meeting this afternoon with the representatives of Google.
[Vote recorded seven in favor of not televising, one in favor of televising.
So the motion carried and we will not televise the meeting with Google. So again I want to thank the witnesses. We will now take a short break, clear the room and we will reconvene in about five minutes, committee members.