Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Whimpy Harper doesn't care about free speech

Stephen Harper is proving to be a merciless political opportunist.

Canadians are having their freedom of speech threatened (see article below), but the Prime Minster has ordered his party to remain silent on the issue, probably out of fear of losing some "left-wing" votes. In the process, he is alienating "right-wing" voters. In the end, Harper may end up losing both sides.

Harper has frequently abandoned policies that appeal to the Right because he figures that conservatives have nowhere else to park their vote. Well Stephen, watch out in the next election. Some of us will stay home on election night rather than vote for a PM that takes us for granted.

Read this awesome article that appeared in today's National Post by Kathy Shaidle.

Gag me with a memo

Free speech is being undermined by 'human rights.' Why is Stephen Harper averting his gaze?

By Kathy Shaidle, National Post
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The federal Justice Minister's Irony Detector must be in the shop for a tune-up. How else to explain the memo issued by Rob Nicholson's office to every Conservative MP last week?

According to Al Siebring at, who leaked the confidential memo entitled Talking Points re: CHRA & CHRC, "it basically instructs MPs to keep a very low profile on any discussion surrounding Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act."

[Quick note: "Talking Points" are pre-written lines that politicians are supposed to use when asked about thorny issues.]

I suppose those bloggers who've been running netroots "free speech" campaigns since late last year can look at it this way: That "Talking Points" memo shows that the government has indeed been getting all our calls, faxes and e-mails.

Too bad the PMO's response to citizens' concerns about the erosion of their free speech rights is to issue a (secret) document, telling our elected representatives to keep quiet or change the subject.

Sounds more like a "(Stop) Talking Points" memo. Let's review:

Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant, along with Maclean's magazine and columnist Mark Steyn, are being hauled before various Canadian human rights commissions (CHRCs): the former for publishing the controversial "Muhammad" cartoons, the latter for excerpting Steyn's bestselling book America Alone.

Self-styled representatives of the Muslim community accuse Levant and Maclean's of violating the Canadian Human Rights Act, because what they published is allegedly, in the words of Section 13.1, "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."

Note that magic word "likely." No need to prove that these publications inspired actual hate crimes, like arson or assault. Rather, appointed CHRC bureaucrats need merely deem it "likely" that the Western Standard or Maclean's magazine might inspire persons unknown to commit offenses of some sort or other between now and the end of the world.

It's "thought crime" meets "future crime," but without the cool flying cars you'd at least get in a dystopian sci-fi flick.

[Quick note: the burden of proof in CHRC hearings is much lower than in a regular court trial. You don't need to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt". Often, the hearings are not presided by a judge or even a lawyer, but rather some bureaucrat. The plaintiff never pays his/her legal fees (they're paid through your taxes) while the defendant always pays his/her legal fees, even if found innocent. Typically, the plaintiff always wins.]

As word of this Orwellian state of affairs spread beyond Canadian bloggers into the mainstream media, it was a Liberal MP, Dr. Keith Martin, who introduced private members motion M-446, which reads: "That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act."

In fact, as Ezra Levant himself observed on his website yesterday, Liberals like Martin, not to mention the Alberta Liberal party, have displayed more vocal, principled opposition to CHRC abuses than their Conservative counterparts.

Sure enough, the Justice Minister's "Talking Points" memo consists mostly of empty calorie cliches.

If asked about the Levant and Steyn cases by journalists or constituents, Conservative MPs are instructed to stress that the Harper government "is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights," and add that "Canada's record on human rights is second to none."

Then, if "asked about the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and its processes," the memo advises, "refer [the] letter writer to the CHRC's website."

[Quick note: Regular people would call this "avoiding the question"]

Sounds like that twist ending to many a horror film, when the lone survivor is finally "rescued" -- and driven right back to the zombie compound.

Finally, MPs are told to steer the subject away from Keith Martin's call to amend Section 13, and to focus instead on the "government's ongoing efforts" -- which many "free speech" frontliners are hearing about for the first time-- "to repeal Section 67 of the Act." This is the provision that, as the memo explains, exempts First Nations "from receiving the same legal protection against discrimination that is afforded to all other Canadians."

A worthy goal, but please: One normally has to attend a high school talent show to witness such amateur sleight of hand.

When bloggers first heard of the accusations against Steyn and Levant, and began mounting campaigns to "stop the CHRCs" from further stifling freedom of speech, many were encouraged by a rediscovered, then widely circulated, quotation from future Prime Minister Stephen Harper, circa 1999:

"Human Rights Commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff."

Looks like Stephen Harper lost a few things during his move to 24 Sussex Drive. Namely, a principle or two.

- Kathy Shaidle blogs at

The myth of condoms for disease prevention

(Largely taken from an article of by Father John Flynn, LC)

The simplistic assumption that condoms are the solution to sexually transmitted diseases is increasingly being proved false. Let's forget morality issues for a moment and just focus on matters that can be proven by scientific facts.

In its Jan. 26 issue, the British Medical Journal published a forum on condoms, with contrasting articles for and against on the topic. Even the article in favor of condoms, by Markus Steiner and Willard Cates, admitted that in addition to condoms there is a need for "risk avoidance and risk reduction approaches." Such measures, they explained, include delayed initiation of sexual intercourse, and mutual faithfulness.

In his article putting forward the "no" case, Stephen Genuis clearly stated: "Firstly, condoms cannot be the definitive answer to sexually transmitted infection because they provide insufficient protection against transmission of many common diseases." Genius also pointed out that: "Epidemiological research repeatedly shows that condom familiarity and risk awareness do not result in sustained safer sex choices in real life."

Faced with such arguments about the failure of condoms and sex education campaigns, the reaction is often to call for more of the same. A typical example was the recent news from Australia, where it was found that 60% of Australian women who have unplanned pregnancies were using contraceptive pills or condoms. According to the Jan. 30 report by the Melbourne-based Age newspaper, family planning groups responded by calling for more sexual education programs. Similarly, in the days preceding Brazil's Carnival celebrations authorities announced they would be handing out 19.5 million free condoms, reported Reuters on Jan. 28.

Nevertheless, in his British Medical Journal article Genius pointed out the fallacy of such arguments. In relation to condom and "safe sex" campaigns, he said: "The relentless rise of sexually transmitted infection in the face of unprecedented education about and promotion of condoms is testament to the lack of success of this approach.

"In numerous large studies, concerted efforts to promote use of condoms has consistently failed to control rates of sexually transmitted infection -- even in countries with advanced sex education programs such as Canada, Sweden and Switzerland."

In countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, where sexually transmitted infections have diminished, Genius argued that a careful scrutiny of the data reveals that the changes resulted not from condom use, but from changes in sexual behavior.

Excessive reliance on condoms to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa was criticized in a book published last year. Helen Epstein, in "The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West, And the Fight Against Aids," (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), also had reservations about sexual abstinence campaigns, but did admit the importance of changing sexual behavior.

In trying to find the causes of the high degree of infections in Africa, researchers found that a relatively high proportion of African men and women had simultaneous sexual relations with two or three partners. Compared to serial monogamy more common in Western countries, the concurrent relationships greatly increase the risk of a rapid diffusion of sexual diseases.

Epstein was highly critical of the AIDS campaigns run by Western groups. Organizations such as Population Services International, Family Health International and Marie Stopes International were first active in population control efforts, she noted. In more recent years their activity in campaigns promoting condom use resulted in publicity that in effect promoted sexual activity, and in some cases "bordered on the misogynistic," Epstein added. The message was that casual sex was nothing to worry about, so long as you used a condom. Apart from promoting behavior that only fueled infections, Epstein also commented that often the campaigns clashed with local sensibilities concerning decency and self-respect.

Epstein also criticized the organizations and the United Nations for playing down the role of infidelity in the spread of HIV/AIDS. She recounted her experience at an international AIDS conference in Bangkok, where researchers presenting evidence about the importance of fidelity in preventing infection were "practically booed off the stage."

Another book published last year, "The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology With Political Correctness" (Radcliffe Publishing), also pointed out the need to change sexual behavior, instead of a wholesale reliance on condoms.

The positive contribution that religion can make in changing sexual behavior was recognized in a RAND Corporation study published last year. People who are HIV-positive and say religion is an important part of their lives are likely to have fewer sexual partners and are less likely to spread the virus, according to the study: "Religiosity, Denominational Affiliation and Sexual Behaviors Among People with HIV in the U.S."

"Religiosity is an untapped resource in the whole struggle against HIV and AIDS, and should be looked at more thoroughly," commented Frank Galvan, lead author of the study in the April 3 press release accompanying the report.

Christianity and sexuality

Authentic Christianity does not teach that sex is bad. On the contrary, sex is so awesome and sacred that it deserves special attention and consideration.

The Church's view about condoms does not base itself on to what extent it may help resolve health problems. Sexuality, explains No. 2332 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, affects all of the human person, body and soul. It's not some sort of sport or passtime. It concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and forming communion with others. It is a very deep experience.e

Sexuality is truly human and personal when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, a relationship that is a complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman, the Catechism observes (No. 2337).

Benedict XVI addressed the HIV/AIDS issue in a couple of recent speeches made when receiving the credentials of new ambassadors. On Dec. 13, in his address to Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi from Namibia, the Pope recognized the urgent need to halt the spread of infections.
"I assure the people of your country that the Church will continue to assist those who suffer from AIDS and to support their families," the Pope stated.

The Church's contribution to the goal of eradicating AIDS, the Pontiff continued, "cannot but draw its inspiration from the Christian conception of human love and sexuality." This vision sees marriage as a total, reciprocal and exclusive communion of love between a man and a woman, Benedict XVI explained.

The same day, in a speech to Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding, Gambia's new ambassador to the Holy See, the Pope stated that while medicine and education have a part to play in combating HIV/AIDS: "Promiscuous sexual conduct is a root cause of many moral and physical ills and must be overcome by promoting a culture of marital faithfulness and moral integrity."