The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This and That No. 16: De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est

Today is the final day of the state funeral for Jack Layton who passed away from cancer on Monday. It is only a few months since the election which was a historic victory for both Stephen Harper and the Conservatives and Jack Layton and the New Democrats. Harper, finally won the majority government he had been hoping for. Under Layton's leadership, the New Democrats won the largest number of seats they had ever obtained at the federal level. It was only a few months after replacing Michael Ignatieff as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition that Layton announced that his cancer had returned and that he would be taking a temporary leave of absence. That leave of absence turned out to be permanent. One suspects that Layton actually knew at the time that it would be as it was slightly less than a month later that he died.

Jack Layton was not a man with whom I agreed on much. The New Democratic Party is Canada's official socialist party (as opposed to Conservatives and Liberals who are the unofficial socialist parties). I am an old-fashioned Tory - a supporter of royalty, aristocratic leadership of society, the institutional Church and the Christian faith, and traditional families and communities. A Tory is neither a liberal (an individualist who believes that society is or should be based purely upon voluntary contractual arrangements between individuals) nor a socialist (a collectivist who believes that the wealth a society produces should be collectively owned and pooled and distributed to the members of society by the government). George P. Grant, another old-fasioned Tory like myself, believed that when forced to choose between the two, the conservative should choose socialism. I disagree, thinking liberalism is the lesser of the two evils. That pretty much places Jack Layton and myself at the opposite polar extremes of the political spectrum.

Having pointed out how our views differed, I say farewell to Jack Layton, and pray that he will find mercy and grace before the Throne of God. Since we will all stand to be judged there one day, it behooves us to wish for everyone, that they will find the mercy and grace for which we ourselves look. To Mr. Layton's family, his widow and his two children, and all of his loved ones, let me say that it is a terrible thing to watch a loved one die from cancer. I know because twenty years ago I watched my mother die from liver cancer shortly after my fifteenth birthday. I would not wish that experience on anyone else. May God be with you in your time of sorrow.

I will leave it to others to comment on Prime Minister Harper's decision to offer a state funeral to Mr. Layton's family. Instead I congratulate Mr. Harper on his government's decision to restore the word "Royal" to the titles of our navy and air force. Evelyn Waugh once complained that "the Conservative Party have never put the clock back a single second". This was spoken in the context of Sir Winston Churchill's return to the Premiership of Great Britain. What Sir Winston failed to do, Stephen Harper has succeeded in doing and that is truly worthy of praise. It was the Liberal Party that removed "Royal" from the titles of our navy and airforce back in the 1960's. They removed "royal" from quite a few titles back then. The opposition to these changes was led by John G. Diefenbaker and you can read what he had to say about it in Those Things We Treasure, a collection of some of his speeches, that was published by Macmillan in 1972.

The attitude of the Liberal leadership of the 1960's is reflected in the juvenile comments of columnists who have criticized ther Harper government for restoring the old titles. They have complained that it is a return to our "colonial past" and an insult to the millions of Canadians whose ancestors did not come from the United Kingdom. It never seems to occur to such people that it might be an insult to the millions of Canadians whose ancestors did come from the United Kingdom to remove all the symbolism that our country inherited from the UK. Nor does it seem to occur to them, that people who move to Canada from other parts of the world are making a deliberate choice to join a society that is a parliamentary monarchy that recognizes Queen Elizabeth as its sovereign, and that therefore the real insult to such people, is to profess to be speaking with their interests at heart when you abolish the traditional symbolism of the country they have chosen to join.

As for this nonsense about our "colonial past", Canada left that behind in 1867. That was the year we became a country. We chose the title "Dominion of Canada" for ourselves - it did not denote colonial status. Our Fathers of Confederation chose the term "Dominion" out of the Bible when the British pointed out to them that their original choice of title "Kingdom of Canada" might be offensive to the Americans. Our country's proudest moment was when we stood beside Great Britain in her war with Nazi Germany. We entered that war under our own Parliament's Declaration of War. It was the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force that fought against Hitler - under the Red Ensign, the flag that the Liberals two decades later would sniff at and condemn as a "colonial flag".

So Mr. Harper, I salute you. It may seem small to many but the restoration of the historic titles of our armed forces is a reconnection with the tradition our country was founded upon, the tradition which Liberals like Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau tried so hard to bury and replace. Reconnecting to our roots is a vital step in the restoration of our country. An excellent next step, speaking of Lester Pearson, would be to restore the honour of our military by ending the arrangement whereby they serve the interests of the increasingly corrupt United Nations.

Having praised Mr. Harper, it is now time for a negative note. Mark and Connie Fournier, the founders and administrators of the conservative internet message board Free Dominion, have been bravely fighting for freedom of speech for years. Yesterday they were informed that the Ontario Superior Court had denied their appeal in the John Does case. That is the case in which Richard Warman demanded that they turn over all information they have on 8 members who post under screen names at Free Dominion so that Warman might take legal action against those members for things they have said anonymously. As it currently stands, the Fourniers will have to turn the information over to Warman and pay his expenses. This is an unjust ruling. The Ontario Superior Court was and is wrong. The Fourniers have been harassed and persecuted and it is they who should have their expenses paid by the serial litigator who is suing them.

The situation will only get worse, however, if the Omnibus Crime Bill passes when Parliament resumes. Mr. Harper, after having undone one wrong the Liberals inflicted on our country, do not make another wrong worse.


  1. You are guilty of some sloppy thinking on the FD case. The case has nothing to do with Harper -- it was an Ontario court that made this decision about a case brought under Ontario law. Also, although it is natural enough that you want your friends to win, courts have to decide cases based on the facts before them and the law as it stands: not the morality (or immorality) of plaintiff and defendant.

  2. I realize that the Prime Minister is not behind the Ontario Superior Court's decision. Perhaps I could have been clearer. The "negative note" pertains to the Omnibus Crime Bill which Mr. Harper wishes to pass when Parliament resumes. It contains legislation that further threatens internet anonymity. It also contains legislation which makes internet posters legally accountable for the content of websites they link to not just what they post themselves. I brought the FD case up in this context to make the point that the system is already imbalanced against privacy and freedom of speech and opinion, and this will be made even worse if the legislation passes.

    I agree that courts have to base their decisions on the facts and the law. They also, however, have to take into consideration the question of whether the complainant has filed his litigation in good faith or is abusing the legal process. This, in my opinion, is a clear cut case of the latter.

    The same can be said for Dr. Dawg's lawsuit against the Fourniers. He claims he was libelled by being called a Taliban supporter, or something to that effect, at Free Dominion. It is difficult to believe that the words in question have harmed his reputation or business or hurt anything other than his feelings. Moreover, the post in question referred to him by his internet screen name not his real name. It is not a legitimate defamation case. The judge should throw it out of the court as a frivolous abuse of the legal process and cite the complainant for contempt of court.

  3. "[The courts] also, however, have to take into consideration the question of whether the complainant has filed his litigation in good faith or is abusing the legal process. This, in my opinion, is a clear cut case of the latter."

    And how, pray tell, could the courts determine that his litigation is not in good faith? The fact that he has brought other suits? But many of those he has won, which from the courts perspective would suggest not only that his fides was bona, but that his causa was iusta.

    As for Dawg, I know none of the issues. He thinks he's been defamed and has a case. You think otherwise. The court will decide. That's why we have courts.

  4. He should not have won a single one of the suits. His winning streak indicates that the court system is unreliable and in severe need of reform.

    Mr. Warman should, for example, be held to a higher standard of proof in establishing defamation than a regular person. He is a public figure. The reason that he is talked about on blogs at all is because of his actions as a serial filer of Section 13 Human Rights complaints. These complaints, and the law which made them possible, are a topic of public discussion.

    Do we want the society in which we live to be a society where we are free to express our opinions without the fear that we will be dragged into court over them? Or do we want our society to be one in which we practically need a lawyer on 24-7 retainer to look over our every word lest we say something that falls outside of what the law approves?

    I would rather the society I live in be the former rather than the latter. When Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was passed it was a major step towards transforming the country away from the first kind of society and towards the latter. I have a legitimate right to be angry at the Liberal politicians who passed the law, the Conservative politicians who are dragging their feet on doing anything about it, the organizations that asked the government to pass the law in the first place, and Mr. Warman for the way in which he used the law. I feel I have been robbed of a portion of the rights and freedoms which are my heritage as a Canadian and a subject of the Queen under Common Law by all these people. Many other Canadians feel the same way. We should be allowed to freely express that anger, denouncing the corrupt law, the people who made it, and the people who have used it.

    If you or I were to call an ordinary person a "jerk" or a "S.O.B." what would be the likelihood that a court would allow that person to sue us for defamation? Not a very strong one. "Name-calling" is not ordinarily considered "defamation" in the legal sense of the term. In the Warman v. Free Dominion and John Does case, however, the courts have wasted hours of the taxpayers' dollars on deciding whether "felching fecalphiliac" constitutes defamation or not. The answer is simple. It is obviously an insult, but it is not defamation in the legal sense of the term because it is just a particularly colourful form of name-calling. The courts seem to be holding Mr. Warman to a lower standard than they would hold other complainants in defamation cases.

    Do we want our society to be the kind of place where someone can haul another person into court and waste their time and money just because they called him a douche? I don't.

    With regards to Dawg, he is suing for libel because someone called him a Taliban supporter over his pro-Omar Khadr position. Dawg frequently and liberally (in the non-political sense of the term) tosses the labels "Nazi", "neo-nazi" and "white supremacist" at his conservative opponents, displaying little-to-no concern over whether these labels are accurate or not. These are labels which can and have ruined people's careers and lives. The only way Dawg has been hurt by being accused of Taliban support is in his ego and his feelings.

  5. Well it appears there is at least one honest and just judge out there. Here is the ruling of Justice Peter Annis in the Fourniers' motion to dismiss Dr. Dawg's lawsuit against them: