Magazine article The Quill

British Columbia's Hate Literature Laws Targeting Journalists

Magazine article The Quill

British Columbia's Hate Literature Laws Targeting Journalists

Article excerpt

British Columbia has a new law, intended to stem the spread of hate crimes, but effectively gagging the press.

The publishers of hate literature-defined loosely as anything anyone finds objectionable in a printed medium-are subject to injunction and limitless fines.

The B.C. Human Rights Commission has this incredible and seemingly limitless authority. "It's a quite different system than yours," said Gerald Porter, executive secretary of the British Columbia Press Council. "A parliamentary system with no checks and balances can pass whatever it damn well wants to."

In 1993, the current B.C. government came into power. With it came a new and powerful Human Rights Commission and "the worst abomination of an anti-press law," according to Porter. Four years later, the attorney general started a hate crimes task force. Charges have been filed only against journalists.

Porter is a towering soft-spoken man. At a recent SPJ regional conference in Spokane, Washington, he spoke to an astonished audience.

Columnist Doug Collins of the North Shore News, based in North Vancouver, was the first to be brought before a one-person tribunal.

Collins had written about the movie Schindler's List. He called it a filmed form of "hate literature" aimed at Germans and propagated by Jewish influences in Hollywood. He also made insinuations about the numbers of people who died in the Holocaust.

Not many respect Collins for his writing, least of all Porter: ". . . he just has an odious opinion no one likes" Porter, being a reasonable man to opinions not his own, said he finds himself turning the page to avoid the column entirely.

After 91 days of public hearings, $200,000 spent by Collins' newspaper and another $100,000 spent by intervening press groups, it was decided Collins hadn't gone far enough to violate the code. But the column was found to be anti-Semitic.

Tribunal Chair Nitya Iyer "concluded it was not sufficiently vitriolic to warrant action under the B. …

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