Afternoon at the BC Human Rights Tribunal
Mark Penninga – ARPA Canada – June 4, 2008
The third day of the hearings for Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine wrapped up today in Vancouver and I was able to catch some of the show. The case is a result of a complaint by the Canadian Islamic Congress that Steyn’s book America Alone (pictured on the right) and a Maclean’s magazine article, which came from the book, are “anti-Muslim”. Instead of giving a run-down of what was said (check out Andrew Coyne’s blog for that) I thought I would give a brief analysis from an inexperienced onlooker’s perspective.
The court room was quite small – with the three member panel of the BC Human Rights Commission in the front (Heather MacNaughton is the Chair), the lawyers from both sides in front of them, and then about twenty people in the audience. Mark Steyn himself showed up shortly after I did. He hasn’t spoken before the tribunal yet, and it doesn’t look like he will. In fact, the Maclean’s side has not put forward any expert witnesses in their defence yet, possibly as a protest against the ridiculous nature of the the tribunal itself.
The proceedings seemed unorganized and unprofessional, which wasn’t much of a surprise given what I have read about the tribunal. People came in and out of the room, there was no order paper or agenda which explained who the expert witnesses were, and a five minute break turned into an afternoon siesta as everyone waited for the panel to return to the room.
In the end, the counsel for the complainants (Faisal Joseph) told the tribunal that they changed their mind and would not call Naiyer Habib (one of the complainants) to speak. Julian Porter, the cross-examiner for Maclean’s was visibly angry. He didn’t appreciate that neither of the complainants would even speak before the tribunal, which means that he would not have an opportunity to question them. He went so far as to call them “a pair of scaredy-pants.”
What does this mean? As Andrew Coyne points out in his blog, if no more witnesses speak (there is still opportunity for both sides to put forward witnesses), “then we will have gone through an entire hearing about Muslims exposed to hatred in British Columbia without hearing from one single, solitary outraged British Columbian Muslim.”
Stay tuned to the developments by checking out Coyne’s or Steyn’s blog in the days to come.