The Attack on Human Rights Commissions

AuthorRichard Moon
Chapter 4
The Attack on Human Rights Commissions
Richard Moon*
A. Introduction
In the fall of 2008 I prepared a report for the Canadian Human
Rights Commission (CHRC)1 in which I recommended the repeal
of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act2 — the provision
that restricts Internet hate speech. As I was writing the report, I
became aware of what can only be described as a disinforma-
tion campaign against human rights commissions (HRCs). I am
sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that there are Internet
blogs that post things about the CHRC that are false and mali-
cious. The problem is that the claims made in these blogs have
seeped into mainstream discourse — they have been taken up
by members of Parliament, they have been adopted in edito-
rials in the National Post and columns in The Globe and Mail
and Maclean’s magazine and in a host of other publications,
* A longer version of this paper was published in the Saskatchewan Law
Review: Richard Moon, “The Attack on Human Rights Commissions and
the Corruption of Public Discourse” (2010) 73 Sask L Rev 93 [Moon,
2010]. The House of Commons voted to repeal s. 13 in June 2012, after
this paper was written.
1 Richard Moon, “Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission Con-
cerning Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Regula-
tion of Hate Speech on the Internet” (CHRC, 2008).
2 RSC 1985, c H-6 [CHRA].
Richard Moon
and they have been repeated on radio and television current
affairs programming. They have created in the larger public, or
is a fundamental problem with HRCs, and in particular the Cana-
dian Commission, that needs to be addressed.
There is a serious debate to be had about the regulation of
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and there are many reasonable positions one can take on the
issue. I do not agree with those who argue that the CHRC should
be involved in the regulation of Internet hate speech, but I do not
doubt their good faith in taking this position. The most vociferous
interested in this debate. It is easier, and it seems more effective,
to exaggerate the case — to invent injustices, and engage in per-
sonal attacks. This approach has several related strategic advan-
tages: (1) The case against the CHRC becomes clear-cut. All com-
plexity is washed away. There are no longer competing interests
or trade-offs that need to be addressed. (2) The attack on hate
speech regulation, when based on the corruption and incompe-
tence of the Commission, undermines the entire human rights
commission process and not just the regulation of hate speech.
(3) The attack on HRCs can be made without having to defend
unpopular ideological positions. The regulation of hate speech
can be attacked without having to rely explicitly on a libertarian
free speech position — the claim that speech should never be
subject to limits. And a broader challenge to anti-discrimination
law can be made without having to defend the view that the mar-
that should not be subject to any form of regulation. (4) And, of
course, it appears that this style of attack (personal and extreme)
gets attention and is an effective means of self-promotion.
Why this style of attack is effective I will consider in a
moment. First I want to look at three claims made by the critics
and recycled in the mainstream media: (1) that the CHRC has

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