Thursday, August 13, 2009

The CHRC is ethically challenged

Recently, Canadian Human Rights Commission chief Jennifer Lynch criticized me for relying on "one source that is full of misinformation," in my parliamentary study of the CHRC ( "Canadians 'misinformed' on hate speech," June 22). It may surprise Ms. Lynch to learn that the source of my "misinformation" is her own commission and its companion body, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Every question I raised in committee about the lack of due process and an ethics code for commission employees, and the absence of rules of evidence, came from commission and tribunal documents, many of which are currently available on the commission's own website ( transcripts of tribunal hearings provide telling evidence of the wayward approach the commission's investigators take in prosecuting their cases. Recent hearings, such as the Marc Lemire case, have revealed that current CHRC investigator Dean Steacy and former CHRC investigator Richard Warman regularly posted neo-Nazi diatribes under assumed names on white supremacist web-sites. Further, uncontradicted expert evidence presented before the hearing demonstrated that investigator Steacy illegitimately used an unsuspecting private citizen's wireless Internet service to post his offensive comments.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the commission asked the tribunal to exclude the media from the hearing that day. Fortunately, for the sake of accountability, a secret hearing was rejected and we know more about the CHRC's inner workings.

However, other hearings have been held in secret, as Ms. Lynch has admitted, supposedly for the "safety" of a witness but contrary to the ancient right of being able to face one's accuser in court. Indeed, in the ongoing case of beachesboy@aol.comvs.,the commission hasn't even revealed the identity of the complainant. Interestingly, the commission's website does name the complainant for 12 of the 14 hate speech cases that have come before the tribunal in the last eight years: Richard Warman. Ms. Lynch's deputy appeared before my committee in Parliament recently and admitted that the commission does not have to follow rules of evidence or legal procedure, but merely has "operating procedures" that identify the timelines for addressing complaints. To put that in plain English: defendants have no guarantee of a fair hearing.

A 2003 internal government review of the CHRC found that the commission scored only 2.5 out of five on an ethics test. The review recommended the commission adopt an ethics code, which it has still not done. Given the questionable activities of its investigators, perhaps it is time for Ms. Lynch to revisit this recommendation.

I'll let the readers decide who is "misinformed." - Russ Hiebert is the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale.

Source: The National post

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