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Green wrong on rights

Re: Sidney Green's commentary Interpretation of rights code absurd (Sept. 23). I understand the frustration expressed in the article regarding the government attempting to legislate morality through a human rights code. However, as a gay man, I have lived with and continue to see the daily violence, hatred and contempt directed at my Queer community.

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Green's attempt to re-open the same-sex marriage debate, which was finally decided by the Supreme Court of Canada, was a reminder why provincial human rights codes and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are essential, valuable tools to make our country a safe, equitable place for everyone.






Sidney Green misses the point. The legislation Stuart Murray voted against is not an attempt to legislate "abstract morality." Rather, it is legislation to direct behaviour in an area of exclusive government jurisdiction. That is, the state has exclusive control over adoption. Consequently, the province has the right -- and the duty -- to set the parameters of the adoption process. This is not a law to control public morality, but a framework for a legal process.

Stuart Murray, the new CEO of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, defended his vote against the legislation in 2002 by stating that "he was just following the wishes of his caucus." This, despite his apparent personal support for gay and lesbian rights. Murray's defense of his earlier actions -- the crowd made me do it -- is exactly what allows human rights violations to occur. While there will always be people who attempt to violate others' rights, it is the majority of silent bystanders who will make the abuse possible. Murray's justification shows that he has little understanding of the process of human rights violations. Moreover, he still does not appear to be prepared to take a leadership role in standing up for what is right (or even for what he apparently believes is right).

His credentials as a manager and fund raiser appear not to be in question. But what about when it comes to making the difficult decisions? Would an exhibit on violations of the rights of Palestinians by the state of Israel not offend some major donors? Would a history of human rights violations by the Canadian Armed Forces not upset many people? Can we really expect Murray to "do the right thing"? Is a manager good enough for Canada's flagship museum, or do we need an ardent promoter of human rights?






Sidney Green's Interpretation of rights code absurd was itself so absurd and rife with errors in fact, not just in thinking, that I can't see how it merited publication. The Manitoba Human Rights Code does not form part of the controversy of Stuart Murray's appointment. Sexual orientation has been a part of the code since 1987, as Green knows. Murray did not vote against the inclusion of "sexual orientation" in the code, as Green also knows. Of course, there is no need to let matters of fact get in the way of a good rant.

Daniel Voth's point is entirely valid: Murray voted against human rights. That should disqualify him for the position of heading a human rights museum (as should his lack of any experience in the area). If Murray had voted against the idea of allowing women to vote or aboriginals to adopt, there would be no debating his appointment -- it would not have happened.

This is not about conferring a "particular legislative status" on a class of people (we're equal already, thank you very much), it is about recognizing the equality of all.


Ken G. Mandzuik




I agree with John Harvard (Sidney Green goes too far, Sept. 24). I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made two good decisions recently. I think Gary Doer is an excellent choice for our ambassador to Obama's America, and I think Stuart Murray is a good choice for CEO of the Canadian Human Rights Museum.






Contrary to Sidney Green's thesis, the human rights code is not an attempt to legislate "abstract morality" nor to prohibit what the state considers to be "unacceptable." Rather, recognizing the historical unequal treatment of certain minority groups, the code seeks to protect and enforce fundamental human rights and ensure substantive equality. Once discrimination has been identified, it cannot simply be justified, as Green suggests, as a "political opinion." This same logic could be used to support such views and actions that would prohibit women from voting or the disabled from having access to employment opportunities etc. The reasoning "I don't hate you, I just don't want you to be treated the same as me" exemplifies the reason for the concept and enforcement of substantive equality by the human rights code.



Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties



For Sidney Green to say the legislation gave "official status to a concept of entitled 'sexual orientation'" is the ultimate in ignorance. Does he really believe sexual orientation is a concept? Get a life, Sidney Green, and do some studying before you fire another misguided missile on a subject of which you are clearly ignorant.





Dignified death

The Winnipeg Humane Society deserves the community's support for putting animals' best interests first (Humane society in cat fight, Sept. 23).

No one despises the ugly reality of euthanasia more than the brave people who hold the syringe, and who go to work every day knowing they may have to say a final goodbye to animals nobody wants -- animals they've fed, walked, cared for, and loved. But until spay/neuter efforts bring companion animal births under control, there will always be a need for shelters that accept every animal and provide a dignified, painless release when necessary.


Daphna Nachminovitch

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Norfolk, VA


Be heard, be seen

I have been riding my motorcycle for two years now and have noticed the lack of respect for motorcycle riders. I have almost been hit at least a dozen times and hit once. I was hit by a woman who told police "I did not see him." The accident occurred at 9 a.m. when the sun was shining and the weather was ideal. One solution used by many bikers to aid in being noticed is louder pipes. Lately, the city has been trying to enforce laws to rid motorcycles of loud pipes.

The argument is that we are disturbing the public. I drive a stock Honda Shadow that has stock pipes. On Sept. 20, the police were in the Tim Horton's parking lot checking bikes' decibel ratings. A bike at 2,000 RPM could not rev more than 96 decibels or it failed the test. My stock bike revved at 95. All this new rule is going to do is cause more accidents, more injuries and more deaths. It will also give MPI a reason to raise insurance rates to an even more ridiculous level. It is time for Winnipeg to stop trying to create a much bigger hazard and let motorcyclists be seen by being heard.


David M. Spigelman



Crown corp. giveaway

I was dismayed to hear that the Worker's Compensation Board had made a donation to the human rights museum. Then I found out this donation comes on top of $4 million from other Crown corporations: the MLCC, Manitoba Hydro (and now, matching dollars for Salvation Army donations) MPI, and Manitoba Lotteries. I am all for building the human rights museum, I just don't feel these Crown corporations were within their mandate to do so.


Joan Cyrenne



Flush less, save money

Re: City may credit toilet replacement (Sept. 18). Offering people rebates to people to junk perfectly good toilets in favour of dual-flushers is wasteful and unnecessary. There already are effective strategies that can greatly reduce water consumption at no cost to consumers and taxpayers.

Two obvious tactics come to mind: 1) place a brick or two in your tank so you are flushing with less water; 2) flush your urine less often.

A public education campaign would be a better way for the city to promote conservation without putting a greater burden on landfills and the pocket-book.




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2009 A19

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