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Commission issues statement on decision in Maclean’s cases

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April 9, 2008

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For immediate publication

Toronto -The Ontario Human Rights Commission has decided not to proceed with complaints filed against Maclean’s magazine related to its publication of an article “The future belongs to Islam.” The complainants alleged that the content of the article and Maclean’s refusal to provide space for a rebuttal violated their human rights. The decision means that the complaints will not be referred to a hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Denying a service because of race or creed can form the basis for a human rights complaint. However, the Ontario Human Rights Code does not give the Commission the jurisdiction to deal with the content of magazine articles through its complaint process.

Even though the Commission is not proceeding with these complaints, it still has a broader role in addressing the tension and conflict that such writings cause in the community and the impact that they have on the groups that are being singled out.

While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and indeed any racialized community in the media, such as the Maclean’s article and others like them, as being inconsistent with the values enshrined in our human rights codes. Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.

“Clearly more debate on this issue is required in Canada,” commented Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall. “That’s why we issued a statement today.”