Blog 142: The Gross Incompetence of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

David Rand


On the website of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), there is a page entitled “Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance,” dated October 23, 2023 and indicating that it is “Anti-racism work.”

Given that its topic is religious intolerance, one would expect this publication to deal with the intolerance of religions towards non-believers, as well as towards adherents of other religions. Does it recommend the repeal of paragraph 319(3)b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, that notorious religious exception which grants impunity to religious believers in matters of hate propaganda? Does it denounce forced marriage, genital mutilation of children or religious persecution of apostates and atheists? No, not at all. The publication does not mention any of these points!

According to this CHRC publication, religious intolerance is a one-way street: only members of religious minorities experience it, never members of the majority, and never non-religious people. For the Commission, freedom of religion apparently trumps everything. It does not consider freedom from religion. Even worse, it does not even mention freedom of conscience, that fundamental freedom which encompasses not only freedom of belief, but also freedom of disbelief, thought, opinion, etc.

The CHRC fails to distinguish between the two very different aspects of freedom of religion: religious belief and religious practice. Although freedom of belief (as of unbelief) can be unlimited, freedom of practice must not be absolute because it involves actions which may infringe on the rights of others. But the Commission does not care about such subtleties.

For the CHRC, it is not enough to secularize formerly Christian holidays—a process which is already complete in Quebec. No, apparently we must also accommodate all holidays of all religions, a requirement which could only lead to an unmanageable administrative nightmare.

The Commission fails to recognize that a major source of religious intolerance is religion itself. Many religions are very intolerant of other religions. There is also much intolerance within some religions, where the more pious or fundamentalist despise the less pious. The CHRC publication cites Statistics Canada which notes an increase in the number of hate crimes motivated by religion in 2020 and 2021. However, the Commission neglects to mention that crimes targeting Jews are much more numerous (3.5 times) than those targeting Muslims, while it is common knowledge that Islamic texts contain many anti-Jewish statements.

The discussion document essentializes—that is, it racializes—religious affiliation, as if each believer were, for his or her entire lifetime, a prisoner of the religion of his or her “community” and thus deprived of freedom of conscience.

Furthermore, the document is full of dubious buzzwords and jargon, borrowed from the American so-called antiracist movement, terms such as “microaggressions,” “intersectionality,” “systemic,” “be a better ally,” etc. Inspired by this questionable ideology, some of the document’s examples of intolerance border on the ridiculous. Criticizing the wearing of religious symbols apparently constitutes violent and traumatic discrimination, because “When these symbols are attacked—whether physically or verbally—the violence and trauma is the same.” The document lapses into hypersensitivity when it asserts that “getting up from one’s seat on a park bench or train” constitutes a manifestation of intolerance if someone wearing a hijab or turban happens to be nearby!

We know that the Canadian Human Rights Commission is among those challenging Quebec’s secularism law—Loi sur la laïcité de l’État (Bill 21)—sbefore the courts. This legislation imposes modest measures to protect the freedom of conscience of users of public services and students in public schools. The Commission mentions, at the beginning of its publication, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, article 29.2 of this declaration stipulates that rights and freedoms can be limited “for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others,” which is precisely what Bill 21 does.

The fact that the CHRC opposes Bill 21 says a lot about its lack of regard for the issue of secularism. The discussion paper not only confirms this, but also reveals the abysmal incompetence of the Commission in terms of protecting fundamental freedoms. In fact, it is clear that the document constitutes an anti-secular manifesto, a sort of profession of faith for opponents of Bill 21.

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