FREE SPEECH I: by Bill MuehlenbergNews Weekly
Finally, a victory for free speech in Canada
, June 23, 2012
All countries have got their problems, but some seem to have them in greater abundance and in more extreme measure than others. Any News Weekly reader will know that Canada has had its fair share of problems, especially in terms of anti-family, anti-faith, and anti-freedom initiatives.
I myself have penned many dozens of articles on Canada on my blog. So it gets to sound like gloom and doom at times. But fortunately it is not all one-way traffic, and once in a while we hear of some victory somewhere. That has just happened in Canada, and it is worth taking note of.
Consider this very recent article from Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post:
He writes: “Five years ago, during testimony in the case of Warman v. Lemire, Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) investigator Dean Steacy was asked ‘What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?’ His response: ‘Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.’
“Those words produced outrage. But there was a grain of truth to what Mr Steacy said. For decades, Canadians had meekly submitted to a system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups.
“All that was required was a complainant (often someone with professional ties to the CHRC itself) willing to sign his name to a piece of paper, claim he was offended, and then collect his cash winnings at the end of the process. The system was bogus and corrupt. But very few Canadians wanted to be seen as posturing against policies that were branded under the aegis of ‘human rights’.
“That was then. Now, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the enabling legislation that permits federal human-rights complaints regarding ‘the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet’, is doomed. On Wednesday [June 6], the federal Conservatives voted to repeal it on a largely party-line vote — by a margin of 153 to 136 — through a private member’s bill introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth. Following royal assent, and a one-year phase-in period, Section 13 will be history.”
He concludes, “Canada’s human-rights law is a product of the 1960s, when much of our society truly was shot through with bigotry and prejudice. Those days are gone, thankfully, and laws such as the Canadian Human Rights Act now comprise a greater threat to our liberty than the harms they were meant to address. The repeal of Section 13 of the CHRA represents a good, albeit belated, first step at reform. Let us hope it provides suitable inspiration for Mr Storseth’s principled counterparts in provincial legislatures across the country.” (National Post, Toronto, June 7, 2012).
Yes this is great news indeed. Much more needs to be done to roll back the uber-restrictive statism and elitism which have so damaged Canada. But this is a good start.
One person who should know why all this is so important is Mark Steyn, himself a victim of these anti-free speech laws. Steyn is worth quoting in full.
He writes: “You don’t generally get to pick your battles, and, if you’d asked me circa 2007 if I wanted to spend much of the next half-decade battling for the restoration of freedom of speech in Canada and elsewhere, I’d probably have decamped to the South Sandwich Islands. But then the Canadian Islamic Congress and their statist enablers in the ‘human rights’ racket attempted to impose a de facto lifetime publication ban on me, and so I found myself conscripted to the cause.
“It’s been a long, slow process, but the victories have been real. Section 13 of the Canadian ‘Human Rights’ Code has as a practical matter been rendered unenforceable. It’s now about to be removed from the law formally.
“It passed its third reading in the House of Commons, which means it only requires a vote in the Senate and Royal Assent (yes, yes, calm down, Kevin Williamson et al), and it’s history. This twit from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is a good example of what we’ve been up against.”
Steyn then quotes a report by Jason Fekete, who writes: “New Democrat public safety critic Randall Garrison said on Wednesday that, due to the large number of hate crimes, the human rights commission needs to have the power to combat the issue online and force individuals and groups to remove websites containing hateful speech.
“Removing the sections from the human rights code will effectively strip the commission of its power to educate Canadians and shut down inappropriate websites, he said. ‘We do have a serious problem,’ Garrison said. ‘If you take away the power to take [websites] down, it’s not clear they have any mandate to even to talk to people about it and educate them about it.’ ” (National Post, Toronto, June 7, 2012).
Steyn says this about Randall Garrison: “Clear off, you twerp. I don’t want the state to have a ‘mandate’ to ‘educate’ the citizenry about their thought-crimes.
“Even if I did not object on principle, one thing I’ve learned during this five-year campaign is that the statist hacks Canada’s official opposition is so eager to empower are, almost to a man, woman and pre-op transsexual, either too stupid or bullying to be entrusted with the task. Mr Garrison himself would appear to be a fine example of the former, at least.
“If it’s a choice between an unlovely citizenry with all its flaws or an overbearing state policing their opinions, I know which is the lesser evil. What a shame a ‘progressive’ ‘liberal’ ‘socialist’ like Randall Garrison has such a low opinion of his fellow citizens.”
Quite so. This war is not over yet — not by a long shot. But it is pleasing to win a few battles along the way. Well done to champions like Mark Steyn and others who have refused to bow the knee to the PC Big Brother state. May their resistance embolden many others to stand up and be counted.
Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com
Jason Fekete, “Tories repeal sections of Human Rights Act banning hate speech over telephone or Internet”, National Post (Toronto), June 7, 2012.
Jonathan Kay, “Good riddance to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act”, National Post (Toronto), June 7, 2012.
Mark Steyn, “Re-education camp”, National Review (New York), June 7, 2012.