If there's one thing I can say about Richard Warman without getting sued, it's that he knows his way around the system. As a human rights advocate, he's brought more suits before this country's various "quasi-judicial" Human Rights Tribunals than any other lawyer or group -- though that's a bit like saying that he's sacked more peewee quarterbacks than any other NFL linebacker.
Far more impressive than a string of wins before the Kangaroo courts of the Canadian human rights establishment is Warman's most recent victory: an actual Canadian court found in the lawyer's favour, ordering political discussion forum Free Dominion to pay a huge award of costs and forcing the site to close -- all because of some mean forum posts. For someone like Warman, a staunch enemy of free speech in Canada, it just doesn't get much better than that.
Now, I've just made a claim: Richard Warman is an enemy of free speech. To consider that statement libel or defamation is to say that the phrase "enemy of free speech" can be objectively either true or false -- but it can't. As part of an earlier suit, Warman suggested that he sees no benefit to allowing professional madman David Icke to speak about reptilian world domination -- I claim the right to identify that as evidence that Warman is an "enemy of free speech." I further claim that his stated goal of using the system to inflict (in his own words) "maximum disruption" of groups he dislikes makes it irrefutable that Warman is a censor.
And yet, that very statement was deemed illegal in a landmark jury case that awarded Warman $42,000 plus huge legal expenses. Though Free Dominion won the right to protect its posters' anonymity until those posters had been shown to have done anything at all improper, the final ruling was delivered such that Free Dominion had to close or else be liable for any further postings about Warman of the type that were ruled on -- postings by anyone.
Among those comments deemed unworthy of constitutional protection by the court of Canada was the suggestion that Warman is a "devious character," a "professional complainer" and a "censorship champion." Many high-profile writers have called Warman far, far worse than any Free Dominion poster could hope to, and they've enjoyed enormous readerships while doing so, but these professionals have avoided litigation by speaking with the protection of powerful, moneyed publications. Small sites like Free Dominion have no such luxury, and are regularly made victims by those more familiar with the system.
Think I'm exaggerating? Warman has been shown to have gone to sites, posed as a hatemonger, and then sued those sites for publishing hate speech. His complaints were then ferried to the Canadian Human Rights Commission -- his former employer. While his cases made their way through the system, Warman continued to show up at the Commission offices and have conversations with those looking into his cases.
Let's be clear: The only people helping David Icke in promulgating his idiotic nonsense are the people like Warman, whose efforts lend real legitimacy to paranoid theories of government oppression. This insipid whining asks us to be terrified by powerless ideologues and raving lunatics, assuming we are too stupid to be allowed to make up our own minds about, for instance, a worldwide conspiracy positing that world is run by vaguely Semitic lizard people.
This problem isn't confined to any single lawyer. When, in another Warman-prompted case, Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator Dean Steacy was asked what value he gives freedom of speech when investigating a human rights claim, he replied that "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." Our government is riddled with pockets of vigorous contempt for the right of Canadian citizens to express themselves, as opposed to the rights of the wealthy Canadian establishment to avoid criticism and non-standard avenues of thought. These pockets survive and flourish thanks to the wording of our frankly sub-par constitution, and the disgustingly non-confrontational nature of our political class. International rights groups regularly finger Canada as one of the worst developed democracies in terms of censorship of its own people.
If abstract ideas of free expression aren't enough to move you on this issue, then consider the very real implications of a court decision which says that website owners can be made liable for any visitor's comments. We are already a somewhat iffy market in the eyes of many online innovators, a poorly connected nation with neither the speed nor flexibility in data access to allow some of the web's most ambitious upcoming projects. Even from a purely utilitarian perspective, it is beyond foolish to compound the insanities of the Canadian telecom industry with further legal incentives to pass this country over for service roll-outs. The internet is the single biggest driver of modern economies; to censor it is to invite stagnation and a huge competitive disadvantage.
It's important to note that many legal comments about Warman (many of them downright reasonable) were mixed in with a smattering of posts that seem to have been at least capable of being defamatory. Notably, anonymous posters claimed that Warman has materially supported an "Anti-Racist Action group" that allegedly engaged in violence as part of their activism. Yet the decision drew no distinction between genuinely libelous statements and the expression of basic personal pejoratives. And when those pejoratives are actually words with dictionary definitions (words like "censor" and "fascist") we have definitively begun to prohibit reasoned, evidence-based argument.
It wounds me (to use the parlance of the human rights establishment) to see Warman use my government to oppress his fellow citizens, and it wounds me even further to know that he currently has the government behind that cause. If you'd like to change that, donate to the Free Dominion defense fund, which hopes to raise enough money to mount the sort of legal defense that any decent-sized publication would do without thinking. This will help push Warman's case to a higher level of court. I'd love to say that I'm confident the appeal will meet a court with the slightest scrap of respect for free speech -- but this is Canada, remember? When it comes to freedom in this country, you really do have to take what you can get.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: