Friday, June 6

Objection! BC Human Rights Tribunal did not read the complainant's complaint!

Given the way things have gone thus far at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) hearing on the matter of Maclean's, I realize my objection is moot. But just for the historical record:

On Day Four of the hearing the tribunal denied a request by Maclean's attorney Julian Porter to cross-examine Naiyer Habib, a director at the Canadian Islamic Congress, about the activities of another CIC member, Dr. Munir al Kasem.

(For details, see "10:21 AM" and "12:04 PM" entries in Andrew Coyne's account of the Thursday proceedings.)

According to Coyne's account Porter argued:
Habib is here offering his views “in his capacity as a director of the CIC” -- says so in the complainants’ summary of evidence.
The tribunal was not moved by the logic. According to Coyne:
The chair rules: The nature of the CIC as an organization is not an issue in the complaint. Dr. Habib filed the complaint in his own right, not on behalf of the CIC. Respondents have not established the relevance of the conduct of the CIC.

It’s quite a blow. Porter can’t ask Habib about any of [Mohamed] Elmasry’s outrageous comments.
(To review, Elmasry is a complainant and President of the CIC. He has not put in an appearance at the hearing and because today is reserved for closing arguments I don't see how Porter could question him even if he shows.)

I will now make an attempt to comprehend why the BCHRT did not reference their own paperwork when they decided on Porter's request.

First question: Did Habib file a complaint in his own right, as distinct from Elmasry's complaint?

The answer is unclear. Certainly, in December 2007, when Mark Steyn published PDF copies of the three complaints against Maclean's et al., the sole complainant for the British Columbia, Ontario and federal filings was shown to be Mohamed Elmasry.

The only mention of Habib's name is on the BC complaint form, where the complainant is asked to provide a mailing address in British Columbia. Elmasry is not a BC a resident. He supplied Habib's address.

Yet Habib as a complainant surfaced in public only a few months ago, when Steyn announced to his readers that Habib was a party to the BC complaint.

Here we arrive at a confusing point. The BCHRT hearing schedule for the week of June 2 shows:
Habib, Elmasry
on behalf of
Muslim residents
in the province of
British Columbia

Taking a stab in the dark, the two case numbers seem to suggest that at some point after receiving Elmasry's April 20, 2007 complaint, Habib filed his own complaint. Another implication from the schedule is that the BCHRT is consolidating complaints from Habib and Elmasry.

But no matter how you slice and dice the questions of who filed a complaint and whether the BCHRT is consolidating two complaints, you come up against the BCHRT's paperwork. Again, I refer to the copy of Elmasry's April 2007 complaint. He completed two forms.

The first is to describe the grounds for his human rights complaint against Maclean's et al.

The second form ("Form 2") is titled "Representative Complaint Form." Here are excerpts from the form with Elmasry's replies shown in quotes and bolded.
If you are making a complaint on behalf of a group or class of persons, complete this form using the attached What is a Representative Complaint? Information Sheet

On whose behalf are you making the complaint?
Name of the group of persons, or description of class of persons.

"Muslim residents of the province of British Columbia."

1. Are you a member of the group or class of persons named or described in Section B?


2. What is your interest in the complaint?

"I am the national President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), the largest Muslim organization engaged in society, political and legal advocacy for Canadian Muslims. As President, it is part of my mandate to protect Muslims (including those residing in BC) from publications which discriminate against them and/or expose them to hatred - contempt."

3. Do you have the authority to act for the group or class of persons and to make this complaint?


If yes, what is your authority?

"I am the elected President of the CIC. Our members include mosques & Muslim residents of BC. As the President, it is part of my mandate to engage in legal advocacy for Muslims (include those residing in BC) where appropriate."
Form 1 shows that Elmasry filed the complaint in his own name, not in the name of the CIC. However, to represent his claim in British Columbia, he had to fill in Form 2, which clearly shows that his authority for claiming to represent BC Muslims is his presidency of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

If the BCHRT is reviewing two complaints in one hearing, Elmasry's answers on Form 2 indicate that questions about the Canadian Islamic Congress would be relevant and important to Habib's complaint.

And given that Habib is also a representative of the CIC, and given that the respondent's attorney was not allowed to question Elmasry, then a reading of Elmasry's answers on Form 2 also gives the BCHRT ample grounds to allow questions to Habib about the CIC and Munir al Kasem.

Moving along, I note that Habib testified yesterday that he filed (or joined) the complaint because he was terribly upset when he read Mark Steyn's article for Macleans. According to Coyne's account:
Of the original article itself, [Habib] said he found the cover shot of women in burkhas “demonizing of Islam,” that it would “make people feel that this what will happen to you if you do not wake up.”

The text, he said, was “discriminating, racial, full of hate.” [...] The article, he says, makes things “dangerous for us.” His wife, who wears the hijab, has been “taunted, told to go back home.” The article “puts fuel on the fire” of a volatile situation, post Sept. 11 [...]
I am sorry to learn that Habib took Steyn's article so badly, yet the question is when he decided that he was so alarmed and upset that he was prompted to file a human rights complaint.

Maclean's published Steyn's article in October, 2006. As of December 2007, when Steyn published copies of the complaints, it doesn't seem that Habib was so overcome with alarm that he had filed a complaint -- or else Steyn would have added that complaint to the PDF copies.

And given that Elmasry surely alerted Habib in 2007 that he wanted to use his name and address for the BC complaint, it is striking that given Habib's alarm about the Steyn piece, he did not co-file with Elmasry in April 2007.

To repeat: If Habib filed his own complaint or signed onto Elmasry's filing as a co-complainant, when did this happen? This year?

And did he ever notify Maclean's of his alarm in 2006 by writing a letter to the editor? Did he ever write an editorial for publication at the Canadian Islamic Congress website, or anywhere? Is there any public record at all of Habib expressing alarm before he spoke at yesterday's hearing?

I note that Habib, who had been in attendance throughout the hearing, showed so little inclination to speak up that on Wednesday Porter had to badger and insult his lawyer into allowing questions to him.

A human rights hearing is not a trial. You can't lose points for testifying because there is no formal testimony. Such hearings are a place where the aggrieved are given a forum to express their reasons for filing a human rights complaint.

Yet without Porter's badgering, Naiyer Habib would not have seen fit to recount the horror of his encounter with Mark Steyn's writing.

No comments: