Monday, September 19, 2011
An excerpt from Prof Mansur's new book.
In March 2010, a rare and unusual debate took place in the Senate of the Canadian Parliament. The subject of the debate was on a motion moved by the Conservative Senator Doug Finley, the "Erosion of Freedom of Speech."
In his remarks, Finley urged his fellow Senators consider the extent to which free speech in Canada was under siege from officially appointed censors in the human rights commissions, in the media, in the universities, and those self-appointed who could mobilize a mob to shut down speech they disapproved. He reminded his peers that Canada inherited the tradition of free speech from Great Britain and France, and that it "is as Canadian as maple syrup, hockey and the northern lights."
But then Finley said: "Yet, despite our 400-year tradition of free speech, the tyrannical instinct to censor still exists. We saw it on a university campus last week, and we see it every week in Canada's misleadingly named human rights commissions."
The reference to university was the University of Ottawa's cancellation of a speaking event for Ann Coulter, a right-wing American political commentator and author, due to fears that student demonstrations against her views might incite violence. But the odd thing in this decision was even before Ms. Coulter would have spoken, she was cautioned in a letter by François Houle, the university's vice-president, that promoting "hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."
The incremental assault on free speech, through such mechanism as Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, that forbids any speech which likely might cause offense to people on the grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, has had an effect on public opinion in Canada.
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