Violence has no place in Canadian public discourse, B.C. tribunal says in case involving TransLink critic

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      The use of force to attain political objectives has long been a subject of importance for many thinkers.

      As matters stand, it’s the state that has the monopoly on the use of legitimate violence.

      However, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes rebellion, which often takes the form of political violence, as a last resort against tyranny and oppression.

      A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision on a complaint filed by a critic of TransLink could be of interest to those examining the subject of violence and state affairs.

      Eric Chrysanthous, an engineer, sent threatening emails to government officials and TransLink staff.

      TransLink executive Sany Zein filed a complaint against Chrysanthous before the Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, the professional body that regulates the engineering profession in the province.

      The regulatory body cancelled Chrysanthous’ membership because of unprofessional conduct.

      In 2019, Chrysanthous filed a complaint befor the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, claiming he was discriminated against by Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia because of his political beliefs.

      According to Chrysanthous, he was punished because of his supposed affiliation with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and Rail for the Valley, which opposed more funding for TransLink in a 2015 referendum.

      Chrysanthous also said that he was punished because of his unsuccessful bid to join the TransLink board, promissing to disband TransLink.

      Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau dismissed the complaint.

      In her reasons for decision, Cousineau noted that Chrysanthous was disciplined by the engineering regulatory body because of his unprofessional conduct.

      The decision to cancel the man’s membership had nothing to do with his political beliefs.

      According to Cousineau, the regulatory body considered nine emails sent out by Chrusanthous, which made threats of violence.

      The tribunal member related that in one email, Chrysanthous wrote: “Where is Rambo when you need him?”

      “You know what I think?” the man continued. “First, we shoot down the sales tax for transit. Then, we shoot down the dirt bags at TransLink.”

      According to Cousineau, below the message was a “video clip of Rambo firing a large gun and killing many people”, referring to the fictional character played by Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo franchise.

      “I accept that a person’s perceived involvement with groups engaged in advocacy about funding for public transit may attract protection based on ‘political belief’,” Cousineau wrote.

      If that is the case, then political belief encompasses “public discourse on matters of public interest which involves or would require action at a governmental level”, she also noted.

      According to Cousineau, the scope of “political belief” is “fact and circumstantially determined”, and is “not unlimited”.

      “I have no difficulty finding that the ground of ‘political belief’ does not encompass violence or threats of violence,” Cousineau stated.

      Cousineau cited the Supreme Court of Canada’s rationale for excluding these forms of expression from the protection of free expression by Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      “Threats of violence, like violence, undermine the rule of law,” the tribunal member quoted the high court.

      “[T]hreats of violence take away free choice and undermine freedom of action. They undermine the very values and social conditions that are necessary for the continued existence of freedom of expression…,”Cousineau continued the quote.

      The tribunal also noted that “violence and threats of violence undermine” the purpose of the B.C. Human Rights Code.

      According to Cousineau, the code seeks to foster “a society … in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life”.

      The code also intends to promote a “climate of understanding and mutual respect”.

      “Whereas the protection against discrimination based on political belief is intended to foster participation in democracy and debate on matters of public interest, violence and threats of violence run counter to that aim by seeking to stifle opposing views,” Cousineau wrote.

      Cousineau went on to relate that Chrysanthous’ emails included threats to “hunt them down and eliminate them – put a bullet in them”.

      He also wrote about having to “[parachute] these fools over extremists held areas in Syria for ISIS to practice their execution techniques on them”.

      The man talked about having to “go down to TransLink with a big stick to beat the crap out of the indifferent deadbeats”.

      He also wanted to make certain people “extinct”.

      “To confer Code protection on such statements would, in my view, undermine both the purposes of the Code and the integrity of this Tribunal,” Cousineau wrote.

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