Free speech in Canada

February 2, 2011

One could cast this story as good news, I suppose: When a Canadian “human rights tribunal” ordered a woman’s house seized after she said a Muslim’s lunch smelled bad, a real court overturned the ruling.

But that would be wrong. The outrage is that these “human rights” tribunals continue to exist at all. In the name of human rights, they perversely (1) prosecute free speech, and (2) offer free representation to the accuser while leaving the defendant without representation. Moreover, this is the first time a tribunal’s decision has ever been overturned.

(Via Instapundit.)


Canada does not have freedom of speech

June 8, 2008

Or freedom of religion or freedom of the press either, for that matter. To wit: Stephen Boissoin, a pastor, wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate, criticizing the “wicked” homosexual agenda. The letter was published. A professor at the University of Calgary filed a complaint with the Alberta “Human Rights” Commission.

The Red Deer Advocate folded before the case was heard, agreeing to institute a new letter policy stating (pdf link, paragraph 6):

The Advocate will not publish statements that indicate unlawful discrimination or intent to discriminate against a person or class of persons, or are likely to expose people to hatred or contempt because of …sexual orientation.

But the Red Deer Advocate was just a sideshow. The real case was against Rev. Boissoin. The commission’s Lori Andreachuk ruled that (paragraph 357):

Having considered the Charter [of Rights] and the balancing of the freedoms set out in the Charter, I have interpreted the [Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism] Act in a manner which respected the broad protection granted to religious freedom. However, I have found that this protection does not trump the protection afforded under the Alberta human rights legislation in s. 3. to protection against hatred and contempt. I also take the view that s.3(2) required a balancing of these freedoms afforded to individuals under the Charter, with the prohibitions in s. 3(1) of the Act. In this case, the publication’s exposure of homosexuals to hatred and contempt trumps the freedom of speech afforded in the Charter. It cannot be the case that any speech wrapped in the ‘guise’ of politics or religion is beyond reproach by any legislation but the Criminal Code.

Having earlier found that the needs of censorship trump freedom of speech and religion, on May 30 she issued her remedy, ordering (pdf link, paragraph 14):

That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund’s witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint. Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.

and:

That The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. and Mr. Boissoin shall, in future, be restrained from committing the same or similar contraventions of the Act.

Wow. This pastor is forever barred from any disparaging statements against homosexuals or against Lund (the professor who filed the complaint), in any medium including public speeches. In America we call that “prior restraint.” He also is required to write an apology and pay damages.

There’s more, notes Ezra Klein, but this is enough, isn’t it? (Via the Corner.)

(Previous post.)


Canada does not have freedom of speech

June 5, 2008

After Mark Hemingway’s column on the dismal state of free speech in Canada, I feel comfortable making the bald statement above.  Of course, part of the reason I feel comfortable saying that is I don’t live in Canada.

In 1990, when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that criminalization of certain speech did not violate the freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights, it was anti-Semites at issue.  Today, the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission handles complaints regarding all manner of non-PC speech.  And, throughout its 31 years of existence, it has never once found a defendant innocent.


Speech ban overturned

December 6, 2009

Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench (a provincial appeals court), has overturned the astonishing lifetime speech ban against Stephen Boissoin, a pastor who wrote a letter to editor of his local paper criticizing the “wicked” homosexual agenda. The Alberta “Human Rights” Commission had ordered that Boissoin refrain from any disparaging remarks about homosexuals in any venue, including the pulpit.

I’d like to call this a big victory for freedom of speech and religion in Canada, but I think the chilling effect is already in place, particularly since it took over a year for the court to overturn the travesty. Still, at least we can say that freedom of speech and religion aren’t dead in Canada yet.

(Previous post.)


Canadian hate speech law unconstitutional

September 2, 2009

A victory for free expression in Canada:

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on Wednesday ruled that Section 13, Canada’s much maligned human rights hate speech law, violates the Charter right to free expression because it carries the threat of punitive fines.

The shocking decision by Tribunal member Athanasios Hadjis leaves several hate speech cases in limbo, and appears to strip the Canadian Human Rights Commission of its controversial legal mandate to pursue hate on the Internet, which it has strenuously defended against complaints of censorship.

It also marks the first major failure of Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, an anti-hate law that was conceived in the 1960s to target racist telephone hotlines, then expanded in 2001 to the include the entire Internet, and for the last decade used almost exclusively by one complainant, activist Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman.

(Via Instapundit.)


Does America have too much free speech?

June 12, 2008

Certainly not, most Americans would say, but some are not so sure:

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”

Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France. . .

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

(Via LGF.)

The article is pretty good, and it reminds us all why we turned our back on Europe in 1776. It’s certainly disturbing, though, that the New York Times would lend its (rapidly declining) respectability to the idea that we should limit free speech. The book review in which the NYT lent its pages to support censorship is here (membership required).

ASIDE: Remember that the NYT recently editorialized against academic freedom.


Fisking the president

September 22, 2014

Let me say first that I support military action against ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State, if you prefer). But I think that whatever we do ought to be serious and have a good chance of success. Otherwise, it looks like the president is just pretending to action because he’s suffering in the polls.

That exactly how President Obama’s ISIS speech looks. It’s so full of idiocy and mendacity, we have to go through it line-by-line:

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

First line, first lie. He doesn’t want to do anything of the sort; he’s being forced to do it by the weight of public opinion.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Oh, that again. By now, boasting about Bin Laden, Obama sounds like a middle-aged man bragging about how he scored the touchdown that won the big game in high school.

We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. . .

Actually, the situation in Yemen looks very bad. But I guess it’s true that we’ve targeted them.

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents.

ISIL’s interpretation of Islam is incorrect, according to the President of the United States. A presidential fatwa, as it were.

President Bush started this line in 2001, when he tried to assure the Muslim world that the war on terror was not a war on Muslims. That was probably the right thing to do in 2001, and it worked to some extent. But 13 years later, opinions in the Muslim world are made up, and aren’t going to be changed by a line in a speech. And anyway, this speech is directed to the domestic audience, not to the Muslim world.

For years we’ve been told that Islam is peaceful, and the Islamic doctrine of jihad — “holy war” — doesn’t refer to war at all, but to a peaceful inner struggle. Mohammed certainly did not see it that way, but since I’m personally uninterested in fidelity to Mohammed, I would love it if Muslims everywhere adopted the peaceful interpretation. But as an outsider, the peacefulness of Islam is primarily an empirical question. I think Jonah Goldberg is right that it’s time they started convincing us, rather than the other way around.

No religion condones the killing of innocents.

Yes, I had to repeat this line, because it’s so breathtakingly stupid. Let’s agree, arguendo, that this is true in regard to Islam. No religion at all condones the killing of innocents? Various cultures have been practicing human sacrifice for millenia. The Aztecs were famous for it. Parts of India still practiced suttee in the 1980s. ISIS absolutely is religious, even if their religion is not true Islam.

And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. . .

This is true in exactly the same way as it is true that the vast majority of Stalin’s victims were Russian or Ukrainian. That’s who he was able to lay his hands on.

Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. . . These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. . .

Yeah, the Kurds are great. Our airstrikes might have helped them somewhat. You know what really helps them? Letting them buy weapons! I’m glad we finally seem to be doing that. We should have done it years ago.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. . .

Fair enough, but let’s remember it wasn’t so long ago that the official Democratic position was that we should never, ever outsource our security to the locals.

In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.

We’ll see about that. Indeed, by ruling out the possibility of that we might go in there and crush them, we may well embolden them, making a full ground war all the more necessary. These people have never learned the virtue of being coy about how far you might go.

But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. . .

Two words here, “Kurdish” and “equipment”, are far more important than everything else in this speech. At least he mentioned them.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. . .

Years ago, this likely would have made a difference. Today, all of Assad’s enemies who were friendly to us are dead. In the unlikely event that the Syrian opposition manages to overthrow Assad, we’re just going to see a replay of the Libya debacle. (Interesting tidbit: the word “Libya” appears nowhere in this speech.)

Who’s left fighting Assad? People like this: “Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time. . .”

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. . . And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

I’m sure ISIS is shaking in fear of UN action.

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

What? Humanitarian assistance is well and good, but it won’t get those refugees back in their homes.

So this is our strategy.

Here’s the tl;dr version: (1) airstrikes, (2) ground forces who will absolutely not have a combat mission, (3) counterterrorism, (4) humanitarian aid.

And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners.

I can’t let this go. Who, exactly, is part of the “broad coalition”? Forty nations deployed troops to Iraq, and that coalition was proclaimed a sham because it didn’t include France and Germany. We don’t know who will be in this coalition, because it doesn’t exist yet. The Obama administration is working frantically to assemble it.

We do know that the coalition won’t have Germany, and Britain (who always supported us before we discarded the special relationship) is vacillating.

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home.

Indeed he has. And Obama is unfortunate that he is a Democrat. Were he a Republican, not only would his bipartisan support evaporate at the first sign of difficulty, they would actually pretend that they never supported it in the first place.

I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL . . .

Wow. Exactly where that authority derives from is left unsaid, and for good reason. The 2001 AUMF directed at Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to apply, since ISIS did not collaborate in 9/11 and is not affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The 2002 Iraq War Resolution may provide authority. It gives the president the power to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”, which won’t do, even if you set aside “continuing”, since ISIS is not Iraq. But it also authorizes the president to “enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq”. There are so many UN resolutions concerning Iraq that some of them arguably apply. Of course, this slender reed relies on ignoring the fact that the Iraq War was over. (The White House said in June that the Iraq War resolution “is no longer used for any U.S. government activities.”)

But at the time at which he said this, the White House had not yet figured out where that authority would come from. The New York Times reports “public and background briefings for reporters this week mentioned only the 9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F., and not the Iraq authorization, as did a statement the White House released after Mr. Obama’s speech,” but within days they were citing the Iraq War resolution as well.

Ironically, the White House called for the repeal of both resolutions just a few months ago. In May, the president announced “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [9/11] AUMF’s mandate.” And in July, the National Security Adviser wrote the House Speaker “we believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. . . With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities [Scofflaw: there’s that phrase again] and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”

Now, the president certainly has the innate Constitutional power to deal with ISIS. That power is statutorily limited by the War Powers Act, but after Obama ran his Libya campaign in flagrant violation of the War Powers Act, it has to be considered a dead letter. But it’s awfully hard for them to make that case after all the Democratic caterwauling over the unitary executive theory, and Joe Biden’s threats to impeach President Bush if he dealt with Iran without Congressional authorization.

but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger. . .

That’s a reversal of his pledge in May, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate [the AUMF] further.” Obviously, positions must change when situations change. But ISIS was certainly already active in May; they captured Fallujah in January. (Days before Obama derided ISIS as a “JV squad.”) The only change is public opinion forced Obama to start paying attention.

It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. . .

Yeah, we get it. We’re ruling out any possibility that we just might launch an effective campaign.

Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. . .

This again. He always goes back there whenever he’s in trouble.

Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. . .

Thanks to fracking. And it could be even closer if Obama doesn’t succeed in forcing Canada to send their oil overseas.

It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. . .

What?! We did nothing of the sort! I wish we had.

It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.

This is a great lawyerly statement. Yes, we helped destroy the weapons that Syria declared. Of course, the ones that Syria didn’t declare, those they still have.

And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future. . .

How exactly? I saw America stand back and watch the Arab Spring turn sour. A once-in-history opportunity, and we blew it.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

Good for us. But how did those civilians get trapped on the distant mountain in the first place? We did nothing as, month after month, ISIS steadily gained territory. We did nothing as ISIS drove those civilians from their homes. We did nothing as those civilians fled to that mountain. Then, when those people faced massacre, the public finally noticed, which forced Obama to take notice. Even now, have those people been able to return home? The media has moved on, but I doubt it.


Canadian censorship

September 25, 2013

The Canadian government has given itself the power to deny entrance into the country for the reason that a person might give a speech that the government doesn’t like:

“Several factors are used in determining admissibility into Canada, including: involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations, in organized crime, security, health or financial reasons,” spokeswoman Vanessa Barrasa said in an email.

But recent changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also allow the immigration minister to deny entry over “public policy considerations,” a standard some experts say has been ill-defined.

Under the previous rules, “it was very clear that the offence in question had to be equivalent to a criminal offence in Canada,” said Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queen’s University in Kingston.

“The whole problem with the public policy grounds is it vests an enormous amount of discretion in the minister to define what are these exceptional circumstances that warrant the exercise of this power,” she said.

A government backgrounder issued earlier this year said the minister could use his authority to bar anyone “who has a history of promoting violence against a particular religious group.”

The National Counsel of Canadian Muslims (that’s Canada’s CAIR) wants the government to deny Pamela Gellar a visa in order to stop her from giving a scheduled speech on the danger of militant Islam.

I guess it’s really true that free speech is an “American concept”, without value in Canada.


Finally

June 8, 2012

Canada is dismantling its “human rights tribunals” whose primary purpose is to suppress politically incorrect speech. It’s a travesty that they existed so long. Their purpose was expressed perfectly by this passage in a 2008 decision imposing a lifetime speech ban:

The Attorney General argues that freedom of expression is subject to a limitation. Further, that if people were allowed to simply hide behind the rubric of political and religious opinion, they would defeat the entire purpose of the human rights legislation.

Then by all means let it be defeated.

(Previous post.)


Human rights progress

February 22, 2012

Canada is close to repealing the “hate speech” section of its Human Rights Act, which is commonly used to suppress free speech. (And I mean that in the not at all hypothetical sense.) Better late than never.

POSTSCRIPT: I’m a little puzzled though, because I thought Section 13 was found unconstitutional years ago. I guess that decision must have been overturned.

(Via Instapundit.)


Saudis to critics: shut up or else

September 20, 2011

The Saudis are trying to suppress criticism, in Canada:

Saudi Arabia has hired lawyers to threaten Canadian broadcasters who dare to run a TV ad critical of Saudi conflict oil. . .

Alykhan Velshi, who runs EthicalOil.org, produced a 30-second TV ad comparing the treatment of women in Canada with the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. . . Saudi Arabia doesn’t like criticism like that, though. They are a fascist state without a free press or any opposition political parties. And now they’ve hired one of the world’s largest law firms, a 2,600-lawyer monstrosity called Norton Rose, to threaten Canada’s media into silence, too.

Rahool Agarwal, one of the lawyers at Norton Rose, has been contacting broadcasters across Canada, threatening them if they air the ad. Already two networks have capitulated in the face of such threats, including CTV, Canada’s biggest private broadcaster. Agarwal has also threatened EthicalOil.org with a lawsuit, too. He won’t say for what — he clearly has no legal case. But the point is silencing dissent. And it’s working.

POSTSCRIPT: The primary culprit here is Saudi Arabia, of course, but Canada has to take some blame for allowing this to happen. If Canada had a better record viz a viz free speech, such threats as these would be less likely to work. As it is, every Canadian broadcaster has to worry about being hauled into a “human rights” commission.

(Via Instapundit.)


Prior restraint

March 22, 2010

The provost of the University of Ottawa has written to Ann Coulter in advance of her upcoming visit to the Ottawa Campus Conservatives, threatening her with prosecution if she says anything that violates Canadian censorship laws.

It’s disgusting enough that Canada has those laws in the first place, but it might be even worse to see the a university provost using those laws to intimidate a campus speaker.

Well, I guess as Dean Steacy (Canadian “human rights” investigator) put it, freedom of speech is an American concept, without value in Canada.

(Via Instapundit.)


The trouble with DRM

July 18, 2009

It seems Amazon has the power to delete books from customers’ kindles, and they recently exercised that power. To make the incident a little more poignant, the deleted books were George Orwell works, including 1984 and Animal Farm.

The publisher that was selling the books did not have the rights to do so, and Amazon refunded customers’ money, so it’s hard to say that what Amazon did in this incident was wrong. What is troubling is that they have the power to do it.

With an ordinary book, readers are protected by owning a physical copy. A lawsuit or a change in heart by the publisher might take a book out of print, but it cannot recall the books that are already out there. The idea that an existing book might be made to disappear is very troubling.

It’s not a hypothetical worry either, as demonstrated by the recent affair of the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, whose publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, abruptly cancelled publication of the work after it had already gone to press, recalled its existing copies, and pulped its entire run. The reason for the action is unclear, and it is credibly alleged that it was because the work was “too Christian.”

One inherent protection that free speech has from censorship is that it’s hard to find and collect all the copies of a banned book. It’s very disappointing that Amazon decided to build that functionality into the kindle. Outside the western democracies (indeed, probably even in Canada), this functionality will certainly be used to enforce censorship. Even more troubling, it will be used silently to revise existing works to correct politically incorrect material. That’s a development worthy of George Orwell.

POSTSCRIPT: If you’re a kindle owner, and you don’t want to trust Amazon to archive your kindle books (as this incident shows you should not), you can do it yourself. Using the USB cable, you can connect your kindle to your computer and copy off its books. Those books are DRMed, so you can only read them on your kindle, but you can restore them if they’re deleted. It possible that it might not work in this sort of case; Amazon might have included a revocation list in the kindle, but I doubt they went so far.

UPDATE: For once, I beat Glenn Reynolds to the punch. His take is much the same as mine, except he’s not focusing on the service this does for tyrants. Also, Hot Air says that it looks as though Amazon’s action is not permitted under its Terms of Use.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, Amazon says they won’t do it again:

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

(Via Volokh.)


Chutzpah

June 18, 2009

Canada’s chief censor is complaining that her critics are chilling the free speech of the pro-censorship crowd.


Well said

April 9, 2009

A letter to the Southern Utah University campus newspaper:

In light of SUU officials plan to designate “Free Speech Zones” on campus, I thought I’d offer my assistance. Grab a map. OK, ready?

All right, you see that big area between Canada and Mexico, surrounded by lots of blue ink on the East and West? You see it?

There’s your bloody Free Speech Zone.

(Via Ezra Levant, via the Corner.)


Australia emulates China

November 1, 2008

The Herald Sun reports that Australia is preparing to implement nationwide internet filtering (that is, censorship):

AUSTRALIA will join China in implementing mandatory censoring of the internet under plans put forward by the Federal Government. . . The government has declared it will not let internet users opt out of the proposed national internet filter.

The plan was first created as a way to combat child pronography and adult content, but could be extended to include controversial websites on euthanasia or anorexia.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy revealed the mandatory censorship to the Senate estimates committee as the Global Network Initiative, bringing together leading companies, human rights organisations, academics and investors, committed the technology firms to “protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users”. . .

The net nanny proposal was originally going to allow Australians who wanted uncensored access to the web the option of contacting their internet service provider to be excluded from the service.

(Via Volokh.)

Just a few days ago, I listened to Kaithy Shaidle on PJM political predict that nationwide net filtering wasn’t far away in Canada. Lord help me, I thought she was exaggerating. Continental Europe is one thing, but we’re not there yet in the English-speaking world, right? Wrong.

Anyway, anyone who thinks that it would be used only for child pornography for long has not been paying attention. It won’t be limited to that even on the day it’s activated.

It’s worth mentioning that the current Australian government is leftist. Let’s not hear any more prattle about liberal concern for free speech. (Am I generalizing too much from one incident in a foreign country? I wish.)

UPDATE: A reader writes to tell me that this started during the preceding Conservative government.  That’s not much of a defense in any case, but is it true?  After a couple of minutes of googling, it looks like the answer is “sort of.”  Electronic Frontiers Australia has a web page denouncing the proposal.  Nowhere does it point to an origin for this proposal outside of the Labor party.  In fact, it specifically points to its origin in a press release from Labor, while they were still in opposition.

But, EFA also has a lot to say about other internet censorship laws passed by the preceding Conservative government.  Nothing as sweeping or draconian as this, to be sure, but still bad.   So you can pick your story.  If you’re anti-Labor, you can say that Labor plans to make Australia’s censorship far, far worse.  If you’re pro-Labor, you can say that (unlike the Conservatives) they haven’t actually done anything yet, and maybe they won’t.  Let’s hope the latter story pans out.


The kangaroos are back

October 24, 2008

If there’s any doubt that free speech in Canada is dead, this story removes it:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) kept its head down during the recent federal election. With no less than four ongoing investigations into its conduct, it wisely stayed beneath the radar. But with the election over, it’s back at it, with its most egregious violation of our civil rights yet.

In Saskatchewan, the CHRC is prosecuting a former Member of Parliament for politically incorrect mail that he sent to constituents five years ago.

Jim Pankiw, an MP who served from 1997 to 2004, is on trial for sending out flyers criticizing Indian crime in Saskatchewan. If convicted, Pankiw can face massive fines. He could also face other orders, ranging from a forced apology to a lifetime ban on commenting about aboriginal issues. If Pankiw refuses to comply with such an order, he could serve time in jail.

Aboriginal crime was a big issue for Pankiw’s constituents. According to Statistics Canada, aboriginals make up only 9% of Saskatchewan’s population, but they are 52% of the province’s criminally accused.

Pankiw wanted to get tough on crime; he wanted to abandon aboriginal “sentencing circles,” and end racial quotas. His tone was aggressive, but talking tough about crime isn’t supposed to be a crime in itself. Whether or not his was the best solution was up to his constituents. That’s how a democracy works.

(Via Instapundit.)

The Canadian kangaroo courts have prosecuted clergy for their sermons, periodicals for their content, and now a member of parliament for political communications. I don’t understand why Canadians aren’t upset about this. Is there no constituency for free speech in Canada?

POSTSCRIPT: Good thing nothing like this could ever happen here.

(Previous post.)


Canadian police state update

July 12, 2008

In Canada, you can now lose your children over unpopular political speech:

A Canadian woman who describes herself as a white nationalist lost custody of her children after sending her daughter to school twice with a swastika drawn on her arm, the CBC reported.

The Winnipeg mother told the CBC she regrets redrawing the Nazi symbol after a teacher scrubbed it off. She is fighting the child welfare system to regain custody of her daughter, 7, and son, 2, who were removed from her home four months ago.

“It was one of the stupidest things I’ve done in my life but it’s no reason to take my kids,” the unidentified woman told CBC News. She is currently allowed to see her kids for two hours a week.

In a free country you’re allowed to hold unpopular views, even white supremacy.  The worst excesses of McCarthyism paled in comparison to what’s going on in Canada today.


Zondervan sued for publishing the Bible

July 12, 2008

A man who doesn’t like the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality (1Co 6:9 in particular) is suing Zondervan, a major Bible publisher:

Christian publisher Zondervan is facing a $60 million federal lawsuit filed by a man who claims he and other homosexuals have suffered based on what the suit claims is a misinterpretation of the Bible.

But a company spokeswoman says Zondervan doesn’t translate the Bible or own the copyright for any of the translations. Instead, she said in a statement, the company relies on the “scholarly judgment of credible translation committees.”

That is to say, setting aside whether the federal civil rights lawsuit is credible, the company says Bradley Fowler sued the wrong group.

His suit centers on one passage in scripture — 1 Corinthians 6:9 — and how it reads in Bibles published by Zondervan.

Fowler says Zondervan Bibles published in 1982 and 1987 use the word homosexuals among a list of those who are “wicked” or “unrighteous” and won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Fowler says his family’s pastor used that Zondervan Bible, and because of it his family considered him a sinner and he suffered.

Now he is asking for an apology and $60 million.

Opponents of Christianity have been suing Christians in Canada for years (and winning), so it was only a matter of time until it was tried here. This suit is flawed in so many ways that it should quickly be thrown out, but that will only make them try harder.

(Via the Master’s Table.)


Canadian censorship “courts” feel the heat

June 19, 2008

Canada’s National Post says it’s a bit late for introspection:

We don’t hold out much hope that a review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s powers to investigate allegations of hate speech will come to much. For one thing, the commission handpicked its own investigator. But mostly we are skeptical because even when calling for the review, chief commissioner Jennifer Lynch demonstrated no clear understanding of free speech or the value of protecting it.

There can be no doubt Canada’s human rights bodies — federal and provincial — are in need of investigation. They are out of control, far more interested in imposing political correctness than defending free speech.

They have become laws unto themselves, too, routinely suspending rules of evidence that have taken centuries to perfect.

Consider that Ms. Lynch’s own lead investigator at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), Dean Steacy, recently testified at a hate speech hearing that “freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.” . . .

It is increasingly obvious these commissions were set up deliberately to lower the standard of proof and get around rules of natural justice, thereby ensuring people who would never be convicted in court are punished to the satisfaction of the activists and special interest groups that hover around the tribunals.

Third parties not involved in the alleged offences may nonetheless file complaints. Occasionally, the plaintiff has been given access to the commissions’ investigation files and given the power to direct investigators. Truth is not a defence. Defendants are not always permitted to face their accusers. Normal standards for assuring the validity of evidence do not apply. Hearsay is admitted. The government funds the plaintiff but the defendant is on his own and commission investigators may attempt to entrap suspects by getting them to say or do hateful things they might not have done on their own.

No wonder the CHRC has a 100% conviction rate on hate speech complaints.

(Via Instapundit.)


Here there be kangaroos

June 3, 2008

Fans of free speech and Canada might not want to read Andrew Coyne’s blog. Coyne has been blogging the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s proceedings in the Maclean’s case.

A while ago, Maclean’s, a Canadian news magazine, printed excerpts from a Mark Steyn book, America Alone, that suggests that the world might have something to worry about in radical Islam. Some Muslims got very mad, and demanded the right to write a rebuttal (with full editorial control) to be printed in Maclean’s. Unsurprisingly, Maclean’s said no.

End of story, you think? Ha! Not at all, because this is Canada. In Canada they have Human Rights Tribunals with the power to police content in speech and the press. The angry Muslims shopped around for a venue and settled on British Columbia, where they filed a complaint for “incitement of hatred.”

The particularly sad and yet strangely funny aspect of the proceeding is that the Human Rights Tribunal is not a real court. Unlike a real court, its members are not judges and there are no rules of evidence. Therefore, they can and do “admit” all manner of irresponsible “evidence,” such as expert testimony from non-experts, blog posts by third parties (even non-Canadian third parties), and even comments on YouTube videos. Everything short of bathroom graffiti, as Coyne puts it.

Unfortunately, this kangaroo court can assess real penalties. Indeed, it has already done so, simply by taking the case and forcing Maclean’s to stand “trial.” Too bad freedom of speech is just an “American concept.”

NOTE: The link above is to Coyne’s front page, where he liveblogged the proceedings. Here are permalinks to parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Last updated 6/7.)

POSTSCRIPT: It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week for free speech abroad, with Canada, Britain, and France censoring people for offending Muslims. Ironically, this sort of thing only supports Steyn’s thesis in America Alone.

UPDATE (6/4): Coyne reports that the “plaintiff” has actually made explicit in writing that censorship is their goal: “We anticipate that success in this case will provide the impetus for prohibiting discriminatory publications in the other provinces.” Not that there’s been any doubt, but it’s striking to see it admitted in writing.

UPDATE (6/7): As the proceedings neared a close, a court official informed Coyne that liveblogging is prohibited.  In a proceeding that centered around repression of the press, it seems appropriate.


Canadian bloggers sued

April 9, 2008

Canadian free-speech martyr Ezra Levant summarizes.  (Via the Corner.)

Too bad free speech is a uniquely “American concept.” Canada could use some.