Ontario Human Rights Commission puts its bias on display
NationalPost.com – Opinions/FullComment – Ontario Human Rights Commission puts its bias on display
Posted: July 31, 2009. Lorne Gunter
As if more proof were needed of how out-of-control Canada’s human-rights commissions have become, and what a threat they pose to impartial justice, along comes the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling last month against Michael Shaw, a white Toronto police officer.
In the spring of 2005, Constable Shaw was patrolling the Bridal Path — a singularly wealthy Toronto neighbourhood composed of large mansions on sprawling multi-acre estates. Ronald Phipps, a black man, was criss-crossing a street, delivering letters in substitute for the regular mail carrier, who was away.
Even though Mr. Phipps was wearing a Canada Post uniform and carrying two official mail satchels, the officer thought his behaviour was unusual. For instance, Mr. Phipps returned to a home at which he had already delivered mail, and retrieved it.
So the officer followed Mr. Phipps for a short distance, then asked him for some identification. He ran his name through police computers, thanked him for his co-operation and sent him on his way. He also verified Mr. Phipps’ identity with a regular letter-carrier he knew in the area, a carrier who happened to be white.
From this series of events, Mr. Phipps gleaned that he had been racially profiled. He filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and, in June, adjudicator Kaye Joachim determined that the fact that Mr. Phipps “was an African-Canadian in an affluent neighbourhood was a factor, a significant factor, and probably the predominant factor, whether consciously or unconsciously, in Const. Shaw’s actions.” He found the officer guilty of discrimination.
Mr. Phipps admits that Const. Shaw never insulted him. He was not detained, not even briefly, nor was he arrested. He was asked for ID, thanked for producing it and permitted to go about his business. He was not tasered or struck with a club. No racial slurs were hurled at him.
He claims that since the incident he has been teased mercilessly by his co-workers. But that is their misbehaviour, not Const. Shaw’s.
He claims that since the incident, he has had trouble sleeping, has lost weight and is having difficulty fulfilling his second job as a personal trainer — all because a police officer asked him to produce some ID four years ago.
“This was always broader than Const. Shaw,” he told the Toronto Star (a newspaper that has made a self-parodic fetish of splashing this — and other insubstantial accusations of racism — on its front page). His comments make him sound like someone with a bigger cause in mind from the start, someone who may just have been waiting for a chance to lodge a complaint.
The most disturbing aspect of the case is the way the adjudicator, Mr. Joachim, has damaged the ancient concepts of the guilty mind and reasonable doubt.
While he could find no evidence that Const. Shaw knowingly discriminated against Mr. Phipps, the adjudicator said no evidence of intent was needed. Whether “consciously or unconsciously,” the policeman had offended Mr. Phipps by his actions; he had caused the letter-carrier to feel discriminated against and that was enough.
Guilt, now, apparently is solely in the mind of the complainant. No one needs to prove you had intent to discriminate, that you had a guilty mind. The minute a rights charge is levelled, it is up to you to establish your innocence.
And forget about “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Mr. Joachim found that “on the balance of probabilities,” Const. Shaw was guilty.
While a rights tribunal does not purport to be a real court, both are in the business of fact-finding, and the adjudication of rights and wrongs — and so must both be judged on that basis. Mr. Joachim’s assertion is similar to a Crown prosecutor arguing (and a judge accepting) the notion that a black man, or an aboriginal, immigrant or poor person, should be convicted of such-and-such a crime, even in the absence of conclusive evidence, because he is probably guilty.
Rights commissions were set up to be simple forums for settling discrimination complaints. They were never intended to be taxpayer-funded cudgels with which activists and grievers may beat their enemies without the expense of a court case, and without the need to follow the normal rules of due process.
As this case helps demonstrate, Canada’s human-rights commissions are horribly biased — far more biased than the people they accuse of bigotry — and need to be disbanded.
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