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BC rights tribunal hears Muslim discrimination claim against magazine

[JURIST] The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal [official website] Monday heard an Islamic advocacy group's allegations that a 2006 article published in Canadian news magazine Maclean's [media website] discriminated against Muslims. Mohamed Elmasry and Naiyer Habib, members of the Canadian Islamic Conference (CIC) [organization website], allege that the article, written by Canadian author Mark Steyn and entitled "The future belongs to Islam" [text], subjects them and all Muslim residents of British Columbia to discrimination based on their religion and exposes them to hatred, in violation of section 7 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code [text]. The allegations have sparked fierce debate in Canada over the intersection of freedom of the press and the protection of human rights. CBC News has more.

The CIC's allegations have drawn criticism from a number of other groups, including the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) [advocacy website], who won intervenor status [CAJ press release] at the Tribunal on Monday. The CAJ intends to defend freedom of the press and to argue that the Tribunal does not have the constitutional right to hear Elmasry and Habib's complaint. Earlier, a group of Ontario law students filed the same complaint against Maclean's with the Ontario Human Rights Commission [official website]. Ultimately, the Commission decided it could not refer the allegations to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario [official website] since it lacked the jurisdiction to do so under the Ontario Human Rights Code [text]. The Commission nonetheless released a statement explaining its decision, criticizing Maclean's, and characterizing its activities as "contributing to Islamophobia and promoting societal intolerance towards Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Canadians."

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