Thursday, September 24, 2009

Alberta HRC gets one right right

Dismiss 9 Complaints Over 2002 Editorial

The Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, two Southam Newspapers ran a corporate editorial on April 2, 2002. The editorial was titled "Apocalyptic Creed", and was summed up in an article yesterday in the Journal as follows:
The 670-word editorial used strong language in condemning the use of suicide bombers, and in suggesting the death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy might have been used in a propaganda campaign urging children to martyrdom.
The Edmonton Chapter of the World Lebanese Cultural Union reprinted the article on their web site here.

It is a hard hitting read, but makes no mention of any person or persons in Canada or who are Canadian. It is therefor considered by the newspapers to be a world news opinion piece. However, it received considerable response from readers, and 9 complaints to the AHRC.

There was also a complaint to the Alberta Press Council sent my Mr. Nizar Ali, on behalf of the Coalition for Media Fairness, of Edmonton. The response of the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal is here, also from the WLCU Edmonton site. As no surprise, the Coalition for Media Fairness is composed of various Muslim groups.

The Journal's Lawyer, Fred Kozak had some reasoned comments to make about the decision, and about free speech:

(He) said the editorial expressed the opinion that delegates attending a meeting in Malaysia should condemn the use of suicide bombers as an inappropriate way of bringing about political change.

"Free expression must always include the right to criticize people, organizations and governments," Kozak said. "It should also include the right to publish a wide variety of views and opinions and perspectives, especially concerning political events in the international community.

"(This decision) recognizes that language is, and will always be, an imperfect way of communicating, and that the expression of opinion will always provoke other expressions of opinion — but that is highly valued in a democracy."

He said the editorial sparked a huge debate and the Journal's decision to publish two dozen highly critical letters to the editor is evidence that the system of democratic discourse is working.

"That is the whole reason we cherish free expression," he said.

But the most telling comment was from Mr. Kozak here:

"Political speech can't be the subject of provincial human-rights legislation," he said. "This was political speech, and the Supreme Court of Canada settled that issue many years ago with the Alberta Press Bill case."

What influence the Lemire case had on this decision that comes 7 1/2 years after the fact is hard to tell, but timing is everything.

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