“Like the sword of Damocles”: Judge dismisses Michael Mann’s lawsuit against Tim Ball

A mere eight-and-a-half years after Penn State climatologist Michael Mann filed a lawsuit against Canadian professor Tim Ball, the case has been tossed out for its “inexcusable” delays.

Justice Christopher Giaschi of the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued his decision in Vancouver on Aug. 22, in response to an application to dismiss by Ball.

Based on his reasons, included in full below, the dismissal was ultimately justified by glacial pace at which the proceedings moved, and what the judge characterized as an absence of action by Mann’s team.

The judge noted several periods of inaction between the commencement of the action in March, 2011 and the date of his decision.

While Mann submitted four binders worth of documentation to combat the motion to dismiss, the judge found there was “no evidence from the plaintiff (Mann) explaining the delay.”

Giaschi said the “inordinate delay” was not excusable, and that it prejudiced justice.

An excerpt:

The evidence is that the defendant intended to call three witnesses at trial who would have provided evidence going to fair comment and malice. Those witnesses have now died. A fourth witness is no longer able to travel. Thus, in addition to finding that presumption of prejudice has not been rebutted, I also find that there has been actual prejudice to the defendant as a consequence of the delay.

Turning to the final factor, I have little hesitation in finding that, on balance, justice requires the action be dismissed. The parties are both in their eighties and Dr. Ball is in poor health. He has had this action hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles for eight years and he will need to wait until January 2021 before the matter proceeds to trial. That is a ten year delay from the original alleged defamatory statement. Other witnesses are also elderly or in poor health. The memories of all parties and witnesses will have faded by the time the matter goes to trial.

I find that, because of the delay, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for there to be a fair trial for the defendant.

The judge awarded Ball legal costs for the dismissal motion, and also the case itself.

Reasons for Dismissing Mann… by Andrew Lawton on Scribd

Maxime Bernier’s letter to debate commissioner David Johnston

The Leaders’ Debate Commission sent the first round of invitation to its two official leaders’ debates, including in it the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic, Green and Bloc Québecois parties. Absent from the invitation recipients was Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada.

In his letter to Bernier, debate commissioner David Johnston requested information on three to five ridings in which the PPC believes it has a legitimate chance of victory, to satisfy the criterion that “candidates endorsed by the party have a legitimate chance to be elected in the general election in question.”

Today, Bernier sent this letter to Johnston, citing five ridings in which PPC candidates have considerable profile, as well as media monitoring findings showing more coverage of Bernier than of the Green and Bloc Québecois leaders, who were invited to the debate.

Maxime Bernier’s letter to debate commissioner David Johnston by Andrew Lawton on Scribd

Justice Committee recommends prosecuting “online hate” under human rights law

For background on section 13 and the justice committee’s online hate study, read this article of mine from earlier in June. To get a sense of how farcical the committee’s antics got during its proceedings, you may wish to read this piece.

After hearing from nearly five dozen witnesses over two months of meetings, the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has tabled its report in the House of Commons.

The report from the Liberal-dominated committee lays out nine recommendations for Members of Parliament to adopt. Most notable is the implementation of a “civil remedy” to combat online hate, which the report acknowledges must first be defined in law.

The Conservatives have already taken aim at the report, charging its recommendations call for an “unacceptable violation” of free speech.

Recommendation 7 of the report:

That the Government of Canada develop a working group comprised of relevant stakeholders to establish a civil remedy for those who assert that their human rights have been violated under the Canadian Human Rights Act, irrespective of whether that violation happens online, in person, or in traditional print format. This remedy could take the form of reinstating the former section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, or implementing a provision analogous to the previous section 13 within the Canadian Human Rights Act, which accounts for the prevalence of hatred on social media.

Only four of the dozens of witnesses who testified before the committee made preserving and protecting free speech a priority in their remarks, with a majority advocating a restoration of section 13, or a super-charged version of it that holds social media companies culpable for content posted online, as well as the people posting it.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, repealed during Stephen Harper’s government, allowed for the Canadian human rights commission and tribunal to prosecute online postings, though defendants did not have the same protections or rights afforded to them as those defending themselves in the criminal justice system.

The high standard Canadian criminal law sets for hate speech has caused activists on the left to seek a prosecutorial tool with a lower threshold, prompting the desire for the “civil remedy” sought by the committee’s report.

The report also calls on the government to “establish requirements for online platforms
and Internet service providers with regards to how they monitor and address
incidents of hate speech, and the need to remove all posts that would
constitute online hatred in a timely manner.”

This recommendation is particularly timely, given Canada’s democratic institutions minister, Karina Gould, said last week that the government was not averse to shutting down social media companies who don’t comply with government’s expectations when it comes to political content during the election.

The Conservative members of the committee pushed back against the report, with Conservative MP Michael Barrett arguing these recommendations do “not strike an appropriate balance” between dealing with extremism and protecting free speech.

“Measures like the restoration of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act are an unacceptable violation of the freedom of speech rights of Canadians,” Barrett said.

Report embedded below:

Taking Action to End Online Hate by Andrew Lawton on Scribd

Michael Cooper’s words removed from justice committee’s transcript and audio record

The edited transcript of Michael Cooper's comments during a meeting of the parliamentary justice and human rights committee.

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself. After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains. The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don’t know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories. Just in that one instance, in my whole life, I did possess actual concrete evidence after the event—years after it.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

If there was ever a time when silence was deafening, it’s now. If you listen to the audio recording of a justice committee meeting last week and it stops abruptly, there isn’t a problem with your internet connection. That silence is the product of a successful effort by Liberal politicians to literally censor the words of a colleague.

The censored words are those of Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who was ejected from the justice committee by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Cooper read an excerpt from the Christchurch killer’s manifesto to challenge a committee witness’ assertion that “conservative commentators” inspire mass violence.

But the attacks on Cooper, and the truth he spoke, went beyond political. As I wrote about last week, members of the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights voted unanimously (with the Conservative members abstaining) to remove Cooper’s comments from the official record.

Not only were they removed from the transcript, pictured above. Even the raw audio feed of the testimony was retroactively edited, with silence replacing the offending words.

First, the stream goes dead when Cooper mentions Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch killer, by name. It goes dead again as Cooper reads the section of the manifesto disproving the slanderous assertion made by witness Faisal Khan Suri.

I was in the committee room when the motion to censor and censure Cooper was passed, but it was still chilling to hear–or not hear, rather–the new “record” of that May 28 meeting.

You can listen to the updated version of history for yourself here, though I’ve embedded the relevant excerpt below.

As noted in the above Orwell quote, in the absence of an official record we’re left only with memories, fallible and unprovable as they are. Even when reporting on Cooper’s comments, no Canadian media outlet included them in full. At this point, no publicly accessible transcript of the exchange exists, with the exception of my own, below.

I manually transcribed this after the motion to censor Cooper was passed. Regretfully I didn’t have the forethought to download the audio myself.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, Mr. Suri, I take great umbrage with your defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violent and extremist attacks. They have no foundation. They are defamatory. And they diminish your credibility as a witness.

Let me, Mr. Chair, read into the record the statement of Brenton Tarrant, who is responsible for the Christchurch massacre. He left a 74-page manifesto in which he stated “conservatism is corporatism in disguise. I want no part of it,” and, “The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”

I certainly wouldn’t attempt to link Bernie Sanders to the individual who shot up Republican members of Congress and nearly fatally killed Congressman (Steve) Scalise. So you should be ashamed.

Michael Cooper, Conservative Member of Parliament, St. Albert–Edmonton, at a meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, May 28, 2019.

The justice committee’s strange relationship with free speech

Lindsay Shepherd, Mark Steyn and John Robson before their testimony before the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Neither Lindsay Shepherd nor John Robson nor Mark Steyn was censored today. In fact, they were all afforded a rare privilege for Canadians – the opportunity to testify before parliamentarians on a House of Commons committee.

But this is hardly worthy of celebration given how successful the efforts by members of parliament to diminish their platform were. These efforts were even supported by the Conservatives, who, despite inviting the three free speech advocates to testify as part of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights’ online hate study, backed a last-minute motion to scrap the video broadcast of the proceedings.

The meeting was scheduled to run from 8:45 am to 9:45 am Tuesday morning from Ottawa’s Wellington Building.

Committee members needed to address a procedural matter before turning things over to witnesses, appointing a Conservative to serve as the committee’s vice-chair. This was necessary after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ousted Michael Cooper from the position for wrongspeak.

While Lisa Raitt was voted in as vice-chair, Barrie Conservative MP John Brassard ending up sitting in on her behalf for the meeting.

When it would have been time for the witnesses to begin speaking, things were delayed further by a motion from Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault to alter the official record and transcript from a prior meeting, purging it of Cooper’s citation of the Christchurch killer’s name and manifesto.

Cooper did so not to to support of condone the attack, obviously, but rather to correct blatant misinformation provided by a committee witness about the political persuasions of mass killers.

Boissonnault’s insistence that murderer’s names shouldn’t exist in public record seems rather shallow given, for example, the 21 instances in parliamentary records containing the name of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the terrorist who killed a soldier and stormed Parliament Hill nearly five years ago.

Mentioning the names of heinous people is an exercise of truth, not glorification. But this fact is lost on the Left, who allowing something to be uttered is the same as endorsing it.

Boissonnault’s motion served not only to embarrass Cooper and the Conservatives, but also to stall. NDP committee member Randall Garrison added to the delays by calling for a recorded vote for no other reason than to waste precious time.

Brassard aptly called the motion a “stunt,” yet the Conservatives didn’t vote against it. All of the Conservative committee members voted to abstain.

The Liberals and New Democrats have been mocking Conservative concerns about censorship as this committee’s study has waged on for the last two months, yet literally joined in scrubbing the official record of words uttered in a committee meeting, by one of their (former) colleagues.

It’s a dangerously poetic view of how these same legislators would love to view western civilization. Just band together and edit out the words, thoughts and ideas you think have no place in society. With Cooper, they even succeeded in editing the person out of the committee.

Liberal MP Colin Fraser attempted to hang on Lindsay Shepherd remarks made by other people, as though Shepherd’s support for one’s right to express an idea is tantamount to endorsing the expressed idea.

When it came to Garrison’s turn to ask questions, he used his entire block of time to give a monologue about his experiences as a gay city councillor-turned-member of parliament, chiding the witnesses for not living in the “real world” while giving them no opportunity to respond or offer further testimony.

Not that there was anything to respond to. He asked no questions, but kept eyeing the clock to make sure he didn’t stop talking until his time had elapsed, before turning it back to the chair.

It’s his prerogative as an MP to use the time how he sees fit, but it demonstrates that the NDP legitimately has no idea in hearing from those with whom it may have disagreements. Indeed, if he had his way, these panelists would not have been given a platform in the first place.

Only those witnesses agreeing with the NDP’s position on free speech and online hate should have been allowed to take the stand, the party clearly feels.

The procedural issues are always where the meat of censorship happens, because it’s so muddled in process and precedent that most people stop paying attention.

That happened early on in Tuesday’s meeting, when the committee’s most enthusiastic censor, the NDP’s Garrison, moved to cut off the video stream (which was already in progress) of the morning’s hearing.

Garrison said none of the prior testimony had been televised, so this hearing shouldn’t have been. He also rejected these specific panelists ideas being given a public platform after making the obligatory, half-assed statement that he isn’t against people having ideas – simply against them being heard, evidently.

I knew the motion would pass given the committee’s Liberal majority. What I didn’t anticipate was the egregious display by the committee’s Conservatives, who voted unanimously in support of the NDP motion, making it so no one in Canada could view video of these proceedings.

It wasn’t censorship. The meeting still happened, and an audio stream was broadcast and remains available. This doesn’t take away from the malodorous fact that MPs enthusiastically supported a barrier between ideas and an audience, endorsing the prevailing progressive view of free speech that even if you have the right to say something, no one should be able to hear it.

The Left says no one is entitled to an audience, which is true. What they don’t say so openly is how they endeavour to block those who wish to be an audience from doing so.

Garrison’s moral stand against videography became particularly hypocritical when an hour later he voted against a motion to cancel the television stream of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with a Google Canada representative.

In 15 minutes of points of order and cross-partisan motions, before any of the witnesses had uttered a word, the Canadian free speech problem was on full display.

Most chilling for Canadians is that the Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives were all on the same team.