The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal recently ruled that the Canadian Government must pay roughly 200,000 former and current civil servants, mostly women, up to 13 years in back-pay because of alleged discrimination against female-dominated job classifications. Taxpayers could be robbed of 7$ billion for this “pay equity” settlement.

This money grab by a large “special-interest” group was heralded by many as a victory for “social justice”and “human rights”over bigotry. Really?

This ruling stems from the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) which states: “It is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees employed in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value.”

So if an employer pays a man more than a woman for work the Tribunal — not the employer — deems “of equal value,” it automatically constitutes bigotry and a violation of a woman’s “right” to pay equity. Pay equity is just one branch of the “right to be free from discrimination” embodied in the CHRA. (Although the CHRA doesn’t yet apply to all employers, Canada is rapidly moving in that direction.)

Are these legitimate rights? How do anti-discrimination laws like pay equity affect the basic rights of a free society, such as the right to liberty, freedom of thought and private property?

The money to be used to pay the employee’s salary is the legitimate property of the employer (or its individual shareholders in the case of a corporation, or the individual taxpayers in the case of the government). Employee Jane is not physically forced into accepting a salary offer — she is free to seek employment elsewhere. If Jane has a right to more than employer Sam wants to pay then Sam has no right to his property. (And if not, then how can Jane have a right to Sam’s property?)

Pay equity is an assault on private property rights.

What about the right to liberty? The employer must weigh many factors into a wage offer, such as the employee’s performance, character, dependability and the value of the work to the employer. If Sam deems John to be worth more than Jane for a same-class job, pay equity prohibits Sam from paying John more. Sam’s mind and liberty are subordinated to the dictates of the Tribunal. (And John is denied being justly rewarded for merit.)

Liberty pertains to thought and action. Aside from the fact that governments should not outlaw thoughts, governments can’t read minds — they can at most infer thoughts and motives from speech or other actions, which is unreliable. According to pay equity, if Sam pays John more than Jane for the same job classification then he is presumed guilty of bigotry (with no way of proving innocence) regardless of whether he was solely motivated to reward merit. (Social justice?)

This hands government the power not only to proscribe thought but also to falsely accuse people of ideas/motives the government deems immoral.

In essence, pay equity hands government the ominous and omnipotent power to violate an individual’s right to liberty, freedom of thought, and private property — which is essentially the power of a dictatorship. (Human rights?)

The defenders of pay equity claim that it combats bigotry. Even if true, a dictatorship free of bigotry — never heard of and quite unlikely — is still a dictatorship.

However, it’s not true — pay equity institutionalizes bigotry by forcing an employer to evaluate a person not according to self-made individual characteristics, such as ambition and competence, but unchosen group characteristics such as skin colour or sex. It forces employer Sam not only to irrationally discriminate against John for being a man, but also against Jane for being a woman. Jane’s individual identity is dissolved by her group identity (her sex) as she gets treated as interchangeable with all other women.

Bigoted discrimination is irrational and immoral — but not a violation of anyone’s basic rights. If Sam refuses to pay Jane, a good worker, an adequate salary because she’s a woman, he doesn’t violate her property rights; Sam owns the money. Nor does he violate her liberty; Jane is free to seek employment elsewhere. (Sam is the loser!)

The proper criteria for rights violation is physical coercion — not “wrong” thoughts. (Theft involves physical coercion with respect to one’s property, and fraud is an indirect form of theft). If Sam robs or assaults Jane, he violated her rights because of the coercion — which can be established objectively — not his motive. A government that attempts to outlaw motives is a government seeking thought control.

The basic gimmick behind anti-discrimination laws like pay equity is to smuggle in a new right — freedom from discrimination — which shifts the criteria of criminal action from coercion to motive — from action to thought. Anti-discrimination laws effectively make discrimination (thought) a crime regardless of whether or not physical coercion (action) is involved, i.e., whether or not basic rights are violated. The net result is to annul all individual rights.

The immediate effect is to invite pressure groups, such as those seeking the 7$ billion, to claim discrimination and use government to sacrifice the rights of others to their desires. This invites other pressure groups to form and do the same — as the country descends into bankruptcy and all out pressure-group warfare.

It is an intellectual and moral obscenity to use the term “human rights” to refer to the sacrifice of some individuals to the demands of others. The only legitimate human rights are individual rights.

The Canadian Government should not pay the 7$ billion — not only on legal grounds (the Tribunal has no constitutional status to do so, only the law courts have) but also on moral grounds. Furthermore, it should rescind pay equity laws and all anti-discrimination laws — and do so in the name of social justice and human rights.