This thread brought to mind a problem that I’ve wrestled with for years - is human rights legislation written in such a way that it is too broad and open to abuse?
Here’s a tiny bit o’ background on yours truly for context. I served as an executive on my Student Union and as part of my responsibilitites I was in charge of any human rights complaints that came forward (thankfully there were none during my term). Because of this I was sent to a couple of training courses put on by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
I am currently a union rep and have been involved in every human rights complaint at my plant for the last five years (a total of three). I’ve read the legislation and I’ve read every decision from every provincial Human Rights Commision in Canada.
I mention these things only to establish two points: 1) I am familiar - not intimately - with the legislation / issues and 2) I am reflexivly on the side of the powerless against the powerful and the marginalized against the marginalizer.
That being said - at too great a length - here is the question up for debate:
Is Human rights Legislation written / applied in such a manner that leaves the definitions and baselines so vague as to be largely meaningless and potentialy dangerous?
I’m not a lawyer nor am I possessed of training whose depth surpasses that of a worn dime so my opinion is largely unqualified but here it is.
I think that in its attempt to ofer the most protection to the largest number of people the legislation was left so intentionaly broad that it has unintentionaly openned the door for abusive and or malicious purposes.
The dicisions are based on the balance of probability which means that a person or company can be pinned to the wall - publicly and systemically - on the strength of “We figure he/she/they likely violated his/her/their rights.” Considering the potential ramifications of even an accusation I think this is too light a burden. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt” is, I think, too stringent a standard but the current bar is set too low.
Another problem I see is that context and all else is irrelevant. A friend of mine recently got over his homophobia after having met and gotten to know a homosexual (only the second he’s ever met - lol). In describing his epiphany to he said among other things, “I used to think fags are all perverts and they’ll fuck any guy, whether he likes it or not, if they have a chance. Now I know that [guy that caused his dislike of homosexuals] wasn’t a fuckhead 'cuz he’s a fag just a fuckhead that happened to be a fag.” <-- I know this doesn’t seem the most enlightenned phrasing, but let’s hear it for baby steps.
Had we had this discussion within earshot of someone like to make an issue of it my buddy is dead to rights guilty - he repeatedly used the word fag and the bit about, “fags are all perverts and they’ll fuck any guy whether he likes it or not if they have a chance” seals it.
The fact that he spoke the words and they caused offense in someone within hearing range - not involved in the conversation and not necessarily catching the context - renders buddy subject to a complaint; and while he may later be exonerated the damage is still done.
So to summarize; the question up for debate is: Are human rights codes written too broadly. If so what can be done to fix them and if not why not?