There is no doubting the Mr. Kells is a strong-willed man who sees the war through a particularly aggressive black-and-white set of glasses. A quote from the CBC story about the issue:
He [Kells] says in issues such as a military conflicts you have to pick one side, and his “Friends of Saddam” comment was not out of line.”Some of them must be. Surely it boils down to you’re a friend of George Bush or a friend of Saddam’s. That’s the only two sides you could be on, isn’t it?”
Surely it’s not unusual for a man who spent 37 years in the military to see the world of war as a binary system; there’s little room for shades of grey on the battlefield, and this is the culture from which he comes.
The question at hand — at least the one raised by Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians — is whether Kells’ comments should disqualify him from serving on the Human Rights Commission. Again from the CBC:
Some of the people who were at the meeting want Kells to leave the Human Rights Commission. A group called the Council of Canadians says Kells should have chosen other words to describe the crowd.
Kells, obviously, thinks not:
“I have no intention of resigning. I think if I were to resign I would be giving in to the people who are trying to squash freedom of speech, so I have no intention of doing that.”
And I support him in this regard.
The Human Rights Commission doesn’t exist to ensure that everybody thinks happy thoughts, it exists specifically to prevent “the unequal, stereotypical and prejudicial treatment of persons.”
The arenas within, and grounds upon which discrimination is prohibited are very clearly laid out by <a href=”the Commission.
And they don’t include “calling people names.”
If George Kells, private citizen, calls a group of people “The Friends of Saddam”, “America Haters,” and “Peace-at-any-Price Appeasers,” he is simply exercising his right to free speech. He’s not discriminating against anyone. Indeed he’s not suggesting that those who hold other opinions should have less right to speak than he does.
If Mr. Kells made his comments in an official capacity, and suggested they reflected the policy of the Commission, or if he suggested that those against the war, say, weren’t worthy of employment, housing, or a right to be heard, well that would be one thing. But he didn’t.
Free speech is hard. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it means people are going to call you things you would rather they didn’t. But it’s way, way better than the alternatives.
Go George. Go Leo. Onwards and upwards into the court of ideas.