International Campaign for Real History

Calgary, Alberta, January 19, 1999

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Rights redefinition amounts to McCarthyism

by Peter Menzies


[L]AST APRIL, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision reading in sexual orientation as banned grounds for discrimination in Alberta's human rights law, I wrote a column which retraced the fashion by which homosexual rights were established in the Constitution.

The path began in 1985 when the Ontario human rights commission, even though it had no right in law to begin hearing cases based on sexual orientation, began doing so anyway and was upheld in its actions by a chain of court decisions. Those, in turn, led to the Supreme Court and Delwin Vriend versus Alberta. In the wake of the Vriend decision, the argument against judicial activism was frequently dismissed as some form of homophobia. That, of course, is the pseudo-psychiatric term used to brand people who object to a political agenda as mentally unbalanced--a tactic used to great effect and with equally exuberant delight in the good old U.S.S.R.

Still, as I stated, the discussion surrounding homosexuality is quite beside the point and, unless it involves rock stars in a public lavatory or politicians seeking a little rough trade in a public park, entirely too tiresome. The point being made was that elected officials, not judges and self-empowering human rights tribunals, should be making laws and that, given the opportunity, the same crowd of self-titled illuminatae would soon add discrimination on the basis of poverty (ie. denying a welfare recipient an American Express card) to the list.

Whether you think that good or bad, I wrote, is irrelevant: it will happen.

So, who's a clever boy, then? According to the Ottawa Citizen, an Ontario human rights board of inquiry has ruled, through the Orwellian dictate of "constructive discrimination" that, "landlords who check tenants' incomes before deciding whether to rent to them are guilty of discrimination--against blacks, women, youth and others...even if the landlord doesn't give a fig...about anything besides whether he or she is able to pay for the apartment."

"Constructive discrimination" occurs if a builder decides his workers should be able to carry a 200 lb. load. Because fewer women are likely to meet that requirement than men, the employer has "constructively discriminated" against women. Such discrimination can be defended, however, if the ability to carry 200 lb. on one's shoulders--as might be the case with firefighters--is a reasonable requirement of the job.

However, according to kangaroo courts everywhere and most human rights laws in this country, the burden is on the accused to prove his or her innocence: a company is deemed to have indulged in "constructive discrimination" unless it can prove otherwise.

This, according to the Ottawa Citizen is how that concept has now been expanded in Ontario which, if history is anything to go by, sets the trend for the nation in these matters:

"The claims against the landlords were nrough by, among others, a black, immigrant single mother on welfare and a 17-year-old pregnant woman. They claimed discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, sex, receipt of public assistance, family status and so on. The board then decided that because immigrants, women, blacks and welfare-recipients had lower incomes than average, any use of income-testing by landlords would disproportionately affect them. So income-testing by landlords is 'constructive discrimination.'"

In other words, it doesn't really matter if the landlord is Mahatma Gandhi and the prospective tenant is, say, a middle-aged white man like me, if the Mahatma applies an income test to me, he is assumed to be actively discriminating against blacks, women, immigrants and welfare recipients by doing so.

It is up to him to hire a lawyer, have his name dragged through the papers as if he were some sort of get-to-the-back-of-the-bus-boy bigot and, prove, like the witches of Salem, his innocence. In the Ontario case, the human rights board ruled the landlords could not prove that their method of testing incomes to detect tenants likely not to pay their rent on time was reasonable. As the Ottawa Citzen put it, "according to the board, there isn't any evidence that this testing is useful."

Thus are landlords, none of whom may ever have had a racist, sexist or anti-immigrant thought in their lives, ruled guilty of discrimination and branded as bigots by a quasi-judicial, unaccountable state agency all to happy to probe and expansively legislate the conduct of their private business transactions.

Something, as they say in the trade, has gone terribly wrong. This is the McCartyism of the 1990s.

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