Diatribe read by unintended recipient costs man $8,000
The Quebec Human Rights Commission has ordered a man to pay “moral and punitive” damages to a woman who was begging outside a liquor store.
The case, which stretches over the past three years, involves an irate customer of the SAQ liquor stores, named Delisle, who wrote a diatribe about panhandlers outside these venues, in particular a Ms. Beaumont. In his letter sent to the store, he suggested four ways in which to eradicate and kill panhandlers. Whether or not his suggestions were serious was never determined.
When the store employees showed the letter to the police, they declined to act. So, the store decided instead to show the letter to the woman who was begging. This woman filed a human rights complaint and is now $8,000 richer.
As Robyn Urback explains, civil law and criminal law declined to act in this case. “This case may have had legs in criminal court, which would have been tasked with assessing whether Delisle’s “solution” suggestions in his letter were actual threats or mere bigoted ramblings. But that’s not what the human rights commission was assessing.”
And so the human rights commission, working on a different playing field with different rules, has stepped in with free expression being the casualty: hurt feelings trump free expression.
Curiously, but for the employees’ action of showing the letter to Ms. Beaumont, her feelings would never have been hurt. She would have been blissfully ignorant of the hurtful, bigoted thoughts and ideas of Mr. Delisle. Yet, the employees were not investigated, much less fined, for hurting Ms. Beaumont’s feelings. This sets a strange precedent: can private, yet hateful or bigoted communications between parties be shared without consent with outside parties, leaving the author fully liable for any ensuing “loss to dignity” experienced by those outside parties? It seems so.
But here’s another scary aspect to the precedent: as noted, the person responsible for the hurt feelings (the store employee) is not prosecuted in this case. This makes it abundantly clear that the only quasi-legitimate cover for the entire modern “human rights” system – that being the deterrence of demonstrable harm – is actually a farce. The system is designed to censor and it encourages censoring and it seeks out messages to censor. As demonstrated in this case, there was no intention to prevent harm. Rather, the system encouraged harm because the only way that the employee could get the authorities involved was by initiating the harm (the hurt feelings). Kinda disgusting, don’t you think?