Using references to past issues of Freedom Flyer, Queen's Park correspondent Timothy Bloedow brings Freedom Party's warning of the dangers inherent in so-called "Human Rights Commissions"(HRC) to the Ottawa area and beyond. Citing Fp president Robert Metz's successful defence of London landlord Elijah Elieff before an HRC Board of Inquiry, the article also helps bring the plight of individuals like Elieff to the public's attention. Most importantly, the article reaffirms that opposition to HRCs is shared by other groups and individuals.
"The Ontario Human Rights Commission (HRC) is possibly the closest thing Ontario has ever had to its own official Gestapo. With the exception of shooting people on sight, the HRC already has virtually most of the powers that were exercised by the Gestapo," said Robert Metz.
Having become embroiled in part of a four year, eight month HRC hearing from mid-1993 to the end of 1994, the president of Freedom Party Ontario believes he has a solid foundation from which to speak about the Commission. His most earnest message at present is for Ontario's Premier, Mike Harris, to reconsider his support for the institution.
"[Mike] Harris [possesses a] lack of commitment to conservatism," charged the latest issue of Freedom Flyer, Freedom Party's official newsletter.
The Flyer reported on a closed-door meeting between Mr. Harris and "organizational leaders, writers, and public advocates," including Mr. Metz. It stated that "PC organizers repeatedly emphasized that their 'Common Sense Revolution' was strictly a FISCAL plan." It adds that "they were incredibly vague on social policy, referring only to a 'sharing of common values' that were left undefined." The Ontario government's support for the HRC is cited as an example of its rejection of social conservative ethics.
Mr. Harris' election campaign literature documented the PCs intent to increase government spending on the Commission and makes a commitment to introduce "reforms... to make [it] more effective vehicle for the promotion and development of equity in Ontario." Additionally, "the Commission will be given the added mandate of providing advice and expertise to employers for hiring and promoting practices."
According to Mr. Metz, Mr. Harris has not reneged on this promise. In the closed-door meeting he stated that he supports the HRC because it "keeps the courts unclogged," and because it "prevents discrimination."
Mr. Metz, on the other hand, believes the preservation of individual rights and freedoms depends on preventing the "government (not citizens) from discriminating along certain criteria."
The power and influence of the HRC grew significantly under the past five years of NDP leadership in Ontario. In 1992, a task force was set up to review the Commission. It reported on June 26 of that year with 98 recommendations. Recommendation 8 attributed to the HRC the role of "public conscience" in discrimination matters.
Recommendation 29 was that "a permanent, full-time Equality Rights Tribunal be established to deal with human rights, pay equity and employment equity cases."
Recommendation 38: "...it will not be bound to follow strict legal precedent."
Recommendation 46: "The Tribunal should be able to accept any evidence which it believes is reliable and relevant whether it is allowed as evidence in a court or not."
Recommendation 54: "Compensation for mental anguish should be provided to victims of discrimination."
The HRC is faced with a "lengthy backlog" of cases, according to Mr. Harris; a backlog caused by the Commission's effective activism and the greater breadth of authority it has gained over the past five years, reports REAL Women.
Mr. Harris, throughout his election campaign and subsequent to his Ontario victory, affirmed his commitment to abolish the NDPs employment equity legislation. His pre-election alternative proposal was a six-point plan that was marketed as a merit-based program and led many to believe Harris would champion the cause against what Mr. Metz calls "reverse racism."
The PC plan, however, maintains an active role for the government in the oversight of "employment equity" practices. Point two commits the government to "help employers develop plans to ensure equality of opportunity in their work- places and remove any systemic barriers to employment." Point four is the affirmation of the HRC as an institution that has a legitimate role to play to "educate" and "help" employers run their businesses in a just and equitable manner.
The Freedom Party officially advocates the abolition of the HRC and has used the PCs' support of it to buttress its allegation that Mr. Harris' party are only "semi-," if not "pseudo-conservative."
Mr. Metz' defence of a London landlord against allegations of racism affirmed, in his mind, the need to rid Ontario of the Commission. Elijah Elieff was alleged, in the London Free Press, to have stated that his Asian tenants were "little pigs." Professional lobbyist and United Church minister, Susan Eagle, immediately used the allegation to advance what the Freedom Party called "a coldly calculated plan to ruin his reputation and devalue his business." Mr. Elieff denied making the remark and the Free Press was unable to produce the evidence, eventually denying its existence. Mr. Elieff's nine witnesses, including two former superintendents and four former and present tenants, defended the landlord's character.
The complainant had three witnesses. The first was the complainant, Chippeng Hom, herself, whom Mrs. Eagle admitted to pushing into that role. The second was Mrs. Eagle, "whose interest in Elieff's Cheyenne Avenue apartment buildings included self-admitted plans to have them turned into co-op housing," reported Freedom Party's Freedom Flyer. The third witness was Greg Van Moorsel of the Free Press, whose article included the unverifiable quote from Mr. Elieff.
Mr. Metz chose to represent Mr. Elieff at no charge. In his arguments he accused the HRC of changing basic word definitions and using "illogical assumptions and non sequitur arguments." As an example of the latter, Mr. Metz stated that the HRC did not prove that Mr. Elieff's behaviour towards any race of people was "measurably different" from his behaviour to anyone else and did not even attempt to do so because its mandate does not require a verdict of "guilty" in order to prescribe a penalty.
He pointed to several aspects of the case that would have led to a dismissal of the charges in a court of law. The HRC eventually ruled on the matter with chairman Alit John concluding that "the Commission and the Complainant were not able to prove that the Respondents breached section 2(l) or 2(2) of the Code by failing to provide equal treatment without discrimination based on race in accommodation at the Cheyenne (Ave.) apartments." But even though Mr. Elieff was found innocent of racism, Mr. John did not dismiss the complaint. Mrs. Eagle pushed Ms. Hom to complain and the HRC prolonged a twelve day tribunal over a four year, eight month period, waiting ten months instead of the prescribed thirty days to bring down a ruling after closing arguments were heard. Nevertheless, Mr. John, deciding that "Ms. Hom has suffered injury to her dignity and considerable mental anguish ever since she filed her complaint with the Commission," ordered Mr. Elieff to pay her "$2,500 as general and punitive damages."
Mr. Metz accused the HRC of being "a blatantly racist organization [that] regards all members of 'visible minorities' as being weak, vulnerable, and intrinsically inferior to whites, and proceeds to enact legislation based on this racist belief." He added that human rights legislation is responsible for the divided state of Canada today "with French against English, English against French, each of these against Aboriginal groups, East against West."
REAL Women also advocates the abolition of the HRC, claiming that it is militantly activist, while advancing causes that violate the values of mainstream Ontarians. It has documented statements and rulings of the HRC that it believes reflect strong feminist sentiment, pro-homosexuality bias and left-wing ideology.
Reality, REAL Women's publication, reported that HRCs "are almost exclusively composed of left-wing social engineers." It pointed to Rosemary Brown and Carmen Paquette (1991 - 94) of the Ontario HRC as examples. The former is NDP and a "self-described lesbian activist." The latter was quoted from the homosexual newspaper Capital Xtra as saying that the HRC displays "an atmosphere of dispassionate neutrality, even though the commissioners are passionate activists." Reality also reported that "those charged with Human Rights violations are required to establish their innocence at their own... expense, while the complainant's costs... are underwritten by the taxpayer," adding that "members of the HRC are unaccountable to the electorates.
In Alberta, the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families (AFWUF) is leading a campaign to abolish the Alberta Human Rights Commission. It has found support from a variety of sources including the weekly magazine Alberta Report and several members of the Alberta PC Legislature.
The Ontario HRC is in the hands of Marilyn Mushinski, Minister of Citizenship. Her office refused to comment on the provincial plans for the Commission, saying no mandate has been developed regarding human rights. The Premier's office redirected questions to the Minister of Citizenship.
Two HRC rulings have generated publicity in the past month The latest involved Imperial Oil and an employee. The other addressed a conflict between a dentist and an HIV-positive patient.
In August the HRC ruled against a dentist for donning an extra - disposable paper - gown for protection while treating an HIV-positive patient. Most details of the matter have been kept confidential including the name of the dentist. The Ottawa Citizen did report, however, that she was ordered to pay the patient $8,000 for "mental anguish" and to fulfill eight other requirements.
Dr. Stein, spokesman for the College of Dental Surgeons, said "our recommendation to our dentists is that you can not tell someone is HIV-positive simply by looking at them, so you have to treat every patient in your practice as if they are an infected patient using high level precaution." The international standards, established by the World Health Organization, are considered sufficient, thereby making it unnecessary for the dentist in question to add additional clothing to her uniform.
Barbara Selkirk from the office of Jim Wilson, the Ontario Minister of Health, also affirming the international standards - "gown, gloves, mask" - said the Ministry did not intervene in the case.
According to former orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Lorraine Day, HIV is much more dangerous than reported by most health and political sources. In her book, AIDS: What The Government Isn't Telling You, she documented research from internationally renowned professional journals revealing that the HIV virus can survive on dry surfaces for as long as seven days, that HIV has survived freezing, and that it can be transmitted through saliva.
Dr. Day, once Chief of the Orthopedic Surgery Service at San Francisco General Hospital, resigned from her duties on February 1, 1990 because of what she deemed to be unsafe working conditions and a hospital bureaucracy more committed to what she calls "AIDSspeak" than to her health and safety.
She said that, based on the medical research available. the 'international standards' are often not sufficient. She pointed to the case of Kimberley Bergalis, a young American woman who died of AIDS. The only identifiable contact she had with the HIV virus was treatment she received from an HIV-infected dentist.
Ms. Selkirk said the Ontario Ministry of Health was unaware of the research reported by Dr. Day.
Robert Metz believes that decisions by the OHRC like these, and Mr Harris' support for the tribunal, will disillusion conservatives with the Premier and bode well for his own political ambitions.
last updated on April 28, 2002