John Hofsess of the Victoria Right to Die organization (Canadian) tries to get the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to sue Cheryl Eckstein for showing a short clip from a documentary called Selling murder, when she appeared as an invited guest to present a brief to Parliament studying Physician Assisted Suicide. Complete story below.
ARCHIVES 1992 -1993 Regarding Cheryl Eckstein, CEO and Founder of the Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN)
"After appearing before a parliamentary committee, Mrs. Eckstein was threatened with a lawsuit by a CBC producer for having used some of her footage in her presentation. The CBC personality was properly chastised for what she did, not only for making that threat, ... secondly for intimidating the witness and possibly stopping further witnesses from ever appearing before a parliamentary committee. If anyone fears he or she could be subject to prosecution, correctly or incorrectly, they and others could be prevented from appearing, and Parliament then could not have the benefit of their testimony." MP Don Bourdria
On this page you will read how serious media bias is. After being invited to appear before a Parliament committee studying physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, on December 3, 1992 Cheryl Eckstein received a call from Kelly Chrichton, producer of the well known Canadian television production Fifth Estate.
Ms Chrichton immediately accused Mrs Eckstein of not returning her calls, alleging they totaled 5 in all. Ms Eckstein tried to assure Ms Chrichton that in fact she had only returned from a speaking engagement to her home city that day and had not even had the chance to check her messages. Further along in the conversation, Ms Chrichton warned Eckstein that CBC was going to sue Eckstein for using footage from a CBC program entitled "Selling Murder." The footage was of "Ich Klange An,- I Accuse" Ms Chrichton added in a very stern voice that anything Mrs Eckstein had to say she could say it to CBC's lawyers who would be getting in touch with her shortly.
Upon hanging up, Mrs. Eckstein immediately contacted Member of Parliament, Don Bourdria, who originally contacted Mrs Eckstein to appear before the committee. Eckstein related the conversation and threat to Boudria. Within hours, Mr Boudria called back and told her to watch the Parliamentary channel early next morning. That morning it was decided by Parliament to strike a new committee to investigate this threat. Unfortunately, CHN has not been able to locate text of the proceedings on the Internet, but has a hard copy on file.
Months later Mrs Eckstein was flown back to Ottawa, at the expense of tax payers to appear before Parliament with Ms Chrichton. The Parliament of Canada struck a new committee because a threat to intimidate a witness would not be taken lightly. The two reports on this page are not from The Hansard, but other government sites. CHN also has the full Hansard account of the hearings, in hard copy only.
The report in part said (below), "There is not sufficient evidence in this case that intimidation of a witness occurred such as to justify a finding of contempt of Parliament." (A most serious finding.) It should be noted it is recorded that when Mrs Eckstein testified to the tone and threats made to her by Ms Chrichton, that Chrichton did not deny her contempt towards Eckstein nor the threats. Also, it did seem to all in attendance that CBC was perhaps a little more than worried about this investigation, as well witnessed by the number of lawyers seated with her. The very calm Mrs Eckstein had not hired a lawyer, believing at the moment she already had the best support, The Government of Canada.
Ms Chrichton and CBC got off with barely a slap on the wrist. Adding to the insult, it was later discovered in a media report that Ms Chrichton heard of Mrs Eckstein appearance before Parliament only from "right to die" activist John Hofsess. At that time John Hofsess was used Sue Rodriguez to help promote his pro-euthanasia organization based in Victoria B.C. Sue Rodriguez was hoping the law against assisted suicide in Canada would be changed. She had ALS and wanted to die with the aid of a doctor, at a time of her choosing. However Sue Rodriguez parted company with Mr Hofsess after she found out he had forged her name on a letter and sent it to the Vancouver Sun. An angry Rodriguez told the press "I can still speak for myself."
Another time Mrs Eckstein discovered that Hofsess had been awarded a Canada Council Grant for $18,000 which he plunked into his organization, rather than into the book for which it was awarded. The book was never published and the funds were never returned. However, when Canada Council learned of his fraud, they did not give him the second $18,000 grant. see COMPASSIONATE HEALTHCARE NETWORK archives. It was also later disclosed that is was Mrs Eckstein who found this information. For several years she was a "mole" in his organization, receiving information that was supposedly only intended for his organization's members. Hofsess often disclosed information to his members that got him in trouble publicly. It is no small wonder that Mr Hofsess was anxious to harm Mrs Eckstein and her organization.
A word of warning to anyone wishing to show the same video if copied from CBC's "Selling Murder" - Try to get permission first. What applies to Parliament doesn't apply to ordinary public viewing. CHN has not investigated copyrights that pertain to videos, so be careful.
[NOTE: the report consistently misspells "Chrichton"
- her correct spelling is "Crichton" however we have used the
spelling given in this report. Ed.]
Cheryl Eckstein is the founder and CEO of the Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN).
In early December 1992, Don Boudria rose on a question of privilege concerning the matter of alleged threats made against a witness who had appeared before the Sub--committee on Recodification of the General Part of the Criminal Code (a Sub--committee of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General). On November 24, 1992, Cheryl Eckstein had appeared before the Sub--committee and during her presentation had played a videotape of a Nazi film "I Accuse", which portrayed euthanasia in a positive light. (This video clip had been a part of a program entitled "Selling Murder." Based on a British production, this program had been aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) program The Fifth Estate.) Following her appearance before the Sub--committee, Mrs. Eckstein had a conversation on December 3, 1992 with Kelly Chrichton, the executive producer of The Fifth Estate, during which Ms. Chrichton explained the copyright issues involved in using footage from the CBC's program, raised concerns about the use of a CBC program out of context, and in association with a particular cause or point of view, and then allegedly threatened legal action on behalf of the CBC because of the testimony given before the committee. Mrs. Eckstein contacted Don Boudria after her discussion with Ms. Chrichton.
In his argument before the House, Mr. Boudria contended that witnesses before committees enjoy the same privileges as Members of the House and are therefore accorded the temporary protection of the House. He added that if such threats as were apparently made against Mrs. Eckstein were left unchallenged, it could imply that witnesses before committees could not testify without the threat of being sued or intimidated, a security which they have had "from time immemorial". The Member noted that the telephone call between Mrs. Eckstein and Ms. Chrichton had been independently verified by a journalist, and concluded by stating that because the Committee in question had adjourned its meetings for the next few months, he would be effectively prohibited from raising this matter in committee. Two other Members of the House also rose to speak on the matter, one of whom argued that the central item at issue could be seen as one of copyright, and that this matter should be reviewed by the Standing Committee on House Management. Following the discussion, the Speaker ruled that there appeared to be a prima facie breach of privilege, and added that while matters arising from committee are normally referred back to the committee, "ůmy own feeling is that under the circumstances which have been explained to me that is not the convenient or appropriate thing to do at this time." He invited Mr. Boudria to move the appropriate motion, and with the agreement of the House, the matter of the threats made against Mrs. Eckstein was referred to the Standing Committee on House Management.
The Committee heard testimony from Mr. Boudria, Mrs. Eckstein and Ms. Chrichton and, as was noted in its report tabled in the House on February 18, 1993, much of the testimony related to the question of the copyright of video materials. The report explained the role and importance of parliamentary privilege with regard to witnesses before committees, and concluded with the following observations:
In her testimony, Ms. Chrichton acknowledged the right of Mrs. Eckstein to say whatever she wanted to the Sub--committee. The Committee concludes that at the time of the telephone conversation Ms. Chrichton and her advisors were unaware of the law of Parliament regarding the protection of witnesses before parliamentary committees. The Committee is concerned that this lack of knowledge may have influenced the conversation.
In order to abrogate parliamentary privilege, an express provision in a statute is necessary. As the Copyright Act contains no mention that it applies to the House of Commons, it can be concluded that the Act does not apply to parliamentary proceedings, and that a Member or a witness may quote a work without first obtaining permission of the holder of the copyright. Another way of viewing the matter is to say that the usual remedies available for breach of copyright are not available in the case of parliamentary proceedings. (This would be in addition to the normal defences to charges of copyright violation, such as fair dealing.) It would be useful for Members and witnesses to acknowledge the source of materials that they use, and to give full credit to the authors or creators.
The Committee acknowledges the concerns of the CBC and Ms. Crichton regarding the journalistic integrity of their work. At the same time, it appears that they may have been over--zealous in asserting these concerns in the present case. It is important that the rights of Parliament be acknowledged, and that witnesses not be "chilled" by the prospect of legal action over their use of copyrighted materials.
There is not sufficient evidence in this case that intimidation of a witness occurred such as to justify a finding of contempt of Parliament. We believe that the appearance of the witness before the committee was a salutary exercise and provided an opportunity for the parties to explain their actions and motivations.
The Committee believes that Mrs. Eckstein was entirely correct to bring this matter to the attention of Mr. Boudria, and we wish to express our thanks to Mr. Boudria for raising the question of privilege. It has provided us with an opportunity to reiterate the general principles regarding interference with witnesses appearing before parliamentary committees. This is a very serious matter. It is important to the functioning of Parliament, and of parliamentary committees, that witnesses not be intimidated or interfered with in any way whatsoever. It is important that organizations such as the CBC understand and respect parliamentary privilege insofar as it relates to witnesses.
The committee recommends that the Speaker write to the CBC and to Ms. Crichton advising them of the contents of this report. (Standing Committee on House Management, Sixty--fifth Report, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, February 18, 1993, Issue 46:10)
The report was concurred in on February 25, 1993.
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, October 17, 1995
The order of business is a review of the issue of naming of members, originally raised at a meeting last June. I must say that given the recent question in the House, this matter appears to have attracted some national attention.
Mr. Ted White, in an article in some local newspaper in his riding, wrote:
Mr. McWhinney (Vancouver Quadra): On behalf of the University of British Columbia, we reject these unwarranted aspersions on an institution now considered the premier research institution in Canada.
The Chairman: You'll have to speak to Mr. White.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chairman: I thought it might provoke trouble.
Mr. Boudria: To start off the debate, there are two concepts, and one should not be confused with the other.
One, the ability of an MP to be immune from civil prosecution for anything he or she says in the House, which is also extended to any witness appearing before a committee of the House, has to be sacrosanct.
Our colleagues will remember the case of the British Columbia woman a couple of years back, who testified before a parliamentary committee at my invitation at that time. I believe the lady's name was Cheryl Eckstein. After appearing before a parliamentary committee, Mrs. Eckstein was threatened with a lawsuit by a CBC producer for having used some of her footage in her presentation.
The CBC personality was properly chastised for what she did, not only for making that threat, which of course she couldn't have followed up on, but secondly for intimidating the witness and possibly stopping further witnesses from ever appearing before a parliamentary committee. If anyone fears he or she could be subject to prosecution, correctly or incorrectly, they and others could be prevented from appearing, and Parliament then could not have the benefit of their testimony.
The same applies, more fundamentally, to all of us. We have to be able to say on the floor of the House of Commons what our constituents think. If our constituents think a particular issue must be raised, we cannot be in a position where someone might threaten us with a lawsuit for something that's said in the House of Commons. That's one concept.
The second one - and it's not the same - is whether or not the House, not the government, has the authority to make rules for its proper functioning. It has had that right from time immemorial.
Those are easily recognized propositions, one not necessarily the same as the other. I suppose you could argue that you could make them the same. But that's not so.
Here ended the discussion regarding Mrs Eckstein
Dr. Jay Lifton has authored one of the most important books on Nazi medicine, it is The Nazi Doctors. He says of I Accuse:
"The film, "I Accuse" (Ich klage an, 1941) was unique in that it dealt specifically with medical killing and, in fact, emerged from a suggestion ... that a film be made to persuade the German public to accept the idea of "euthanasia"... the film depicts a physician giving a lethal injection to his incurably ill wife in response to her desperate plea that he do so to relieve her of her terrible pain and suffering. Indeed, a sympathetic member of the jury before whom the physician is eventually tried states categorically that: the most important precondition is always that the patient wants it." ... But "I Accuse" is of respectable artistic quality; and after viewing portions of it, I could understand why doctors I interviewed still felt its impact and remembered the extensive discussion it stimulated among their colleagues and fellow students about the morality of a doctor's aiding incurable patients to achieve the death they long for." [JAY LIFTON, THE NAZI DOCTORS: 49 ] COMPASSIONATE HEALTHCARE NETWORK
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