CAJ welcomes end to Levant human rights complaint



    OTTAWA, Aug. 8 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists welcomes
the recent decision by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to dismiss a
complaint against Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard. The
CAJ also notes with muted satisfaction that the Canadian Human Rights
Commission dismissed a complaint against Maclean's magazine earlier this
summer. The CAJ, however, renews its call for the federal and provincial
governments to amend human rights legislation to prevent commissions from
being used by complainants to attack freedom of speech in future. The
absurdity of the current system is underlined by the fact that although
complaints against Maclean's were dismissed nationally and in Ontario, the
same complaint was heard by a human rights tribunal in B.C., which has yet to
deliver a decision.
    "Human rights commissions were never meant to act as language nannies,"
said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch. "The current system allows complainants
to chill the speech of those they disagree with by entangling targets in a
human rights bureaucracy that doesn't have to operate under the same strict
rules of defence as a court."
    Last winter, the CAJ sharply criticized the dangers of allowing
state-backed agencies the ability to censor speech based on subjective
perceptions of offensiveness. Maclean's magazine, which faced complaints for
an article on Islam and demographics by syndicated columnist Mark Steyn, and
Levant, who faced two complaints in Alberta for his decision to publish the
Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, prevailed in recent
decisions. Both, however, have had to pay significant legal expenses to defend
themselves.
    The CAJ believes that laws of libel and slander, hate speech and other
provisions found within the Criminal Code provide sufficient restrictions on
freedom of speech.
    The CAJ intervened in the B.C. case against Maclean's and renews its call
for the tribunal to quickly dismiss the case.
    "The lack of concern by elected governments across this country to a
direct assault on a cornerstone of our democracy is shameful," said Welch.

    The CAJ is Canada's largest professional organization for journalists
from all media, with about 1,400 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary
roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and
public-interest advocacy.





For further information:

For further information: Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ president, (204)
943-6575, Cell: (204) 470-8862; John Dickins, CAJ executive director, (613)
526-8061, Cell: (613) 868-5442


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