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Friday, September 24, 2010

Muslims for unconditional free speech

A phrase that has never been uttered before in the history of humanity. I checked. Maybe someone said it in a bar once, but it doesn't show up on Google. But these Muslims do exist, I have a list of them right here. And here's what they've said:

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible. We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation. We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed. We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

Check out the names, Google them. Some of them are as pure as the driven snow. Some have said stuff so odious it would shame a Pope. But that is what free speech is all about isn't it? Freedom for even the most prickish of our fellow citizens to say absurd and hateful garbage (and concomitantly, the freedom for the rest of us to call them pricks).

And if these people are willing to stand up and sign their names to a letter in defence of the rights of Cartman and 'Everyone Draw Mohamed Day' lady - then I feel much less like a dupe for standing up and defending their right to hate on Israel and sing the praises of Libby Davies.

You can read the full statement here.

H/T Hit and Run Blog

 

Posted by Robert Jago on September 24, 2010 in Freedom of expression, Religion | Permalink | Comments (27)

Friday, August 13, 2010

This week's popular posts

(5) Mike Brock: My first and only thoughts on the Ground Zero Mosque

(3) Hugh MacIntyre: Poll shows Michael Ignatieff has recovered from the Spring

(2) P.M. Jaworski: Unexpected: Strippers decide to counter-protest church

(1) P.M. Jaworski: Greg Gutfeld: I'm building a gay bar next to the Ground Zero Mosque

(4) PUBLIUS: The redeeming social benefits of the Sunshine Girls

Posted by westernstandard on August 13, 2010 in Freedom of expression, Humour, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unexpected: Strippers decide to counter-protest church

Strippers at the Fox Hole were tired of Pastor Bill Dunfee and several of his congregation appearing every Sunday to protest their choice of earning an income for four years. This past Sunday, they decided to counter-protest the New Beginnings Ministries church based, much like the Fox Hole, in Warsaw, Ohio.

The busybody Dunfee didn't merely stand outside of the strip club to voice his displeasure at how some people choose to make a living. He and his followers were busy blaring their opinions through bullhorns, attempted to dissuade potential customers from going in, and went so far as to video tape licence plates of customers and posting them online.

"The great thing about this country is that everyone has a right to believe what they want," Tom George, proprietor of the Fox Hole, told the Columbus Daily Dispatch.

Gina Hughes, a 30-year-old married mother of six, told the Dispatch that she's danced at the Fox Hole for a decade, and explained that she made $2,000 a week dancing.

"These church people say horrible things about us," Hughes said. "They say we're home-wreckers and whores. The fact of the matter is we're working to keep our own homes together to give our kids what they need."

Meanwhile, Dunfee insists that he's offered the dancers whatever they need to stop taking off their clothes. "I tell them, 'I will put a roof over your heads and your bills will be paid and your children's bellies will be full.' Yet they don't come inside."

Perhaps, dear Dunfee, this is because they would prefer to take off their clothes at that price, than the alternative of having you subsidize them at your price.

Here's the video segment from the Columbus Daily Dispatch:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on August 10, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stagliano gets off on all charges

Stagliano

On Friday, a judge dismissed all charges in the case against John Stagliano, who was being prosecuted under federal obscenity laws in Washington, DC for producing and distributing pornography videos (I discussed this case earlier in the week).

While this is a big win for free speech, the obscenity laws he was charged with are still on the books and the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force is still operating within the Department of Justice. As we all know, government bureaucracies are constantly trying to find ways to prove their usefulness and American politicians have shown little interest in this issue, so I suspect we will see similar prosecutions in the future.

News of the decision came through via intrepid reporter Richard Abowitz's Twitter feed late Friday afternoon. The hard working Reason.tv crew quickly rushed out of the office to capture Stagliano's reaction to the verdict:

For more information about the trial, check out Reason magazine's extensive coverage. Also be sure to read my recent article on freedom of expression.

Cross-posted on jesse.kline.ca

Posted by Jesse Kline on July 17, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Obscenity trial of porn mogul John Stagliano taking place in Washington

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At a federal courthouse in Washington, DC, 14 jurors adjust their earphones and set their gaze upon television screens that are carefully placed so as to be out of sight from most of the journalists and concerned citizens sitting in the courtroom. They watch as a milkman delivers his product to a house that's inhabited by scantily-clad women. Smiles appear on their faces and soft giggles can be heard as the milkman proceeds to engage in hardcore sex acts with the young ladies.

This was the scene at the trial of John Stagliano, a porn mogul who is currently being tried on federal obscenity charges over the films Milk Nymphos, Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice, and a trailer for a third video that was available on his company's website. If you haven't heard of this case before, Reason.tv just released a great video that will bring you up to speed:

It's hard to believe that such a trial could take place in a country with strong constitutional protections for freedom of speech and a thriving adult entertainment industry, which has largely been able to survive past attempts at government censorship. Yet, censorship is exactly what's taking place right now.

Despite the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech," obscene material has conveniently been written out of this protection. Judges and jurists must use what's known as the Miller test to basically determine if the material would be considered objectionable by a reasonable member of the community.

What makes this trial even more reprehensible is that this was a victimless crime, one which jurors are now being told to scrutinize based on purely subjective standards. The videos at issue feature only consenting adults and no one who didn't want to view the material was ever forced to see it. One of the adults who consented to purchasing the movies happened to be an FBI agent serving on the Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. Since the tapes were sent to him across state lines, the federal government has the jurisdiction to prosecute Stagliano (who lives in California) in a DC court. Stagliano now faces up to 32 years in prison, which is effectively a life sentence for the HIV positive businessman.

This case has important implications for free speech and the ability of adult entertainment companies to operate in a relatively free market. Reason magazine is providing important coverage of this story. You can also check out more videos on this case, including interviews with Stagliano and UC Santa Barbara Professor Constance Penley.

Full disclosure: I am currently interning at Reason Magazine and Stagliano has been a donor to the Reason Foundation, the non-profit that publishes Reason.

Posted by Jesse Kline on July 14, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WS Poll: Should there be an inquiry into the actions of police during G20?

Here's a little (unscientific, but fun) poll related to, for example, this debate between Tim Hudak and Randy Hillier:

To see the map, that screws up our blog formatting, but is interesting to look at, check below the fold:

Posted by westernstandard on July 13, 2010 in Canadian Politics, Crime, Freedom of expression, G20 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Randy Hillier vs. Tim Hudak on G20

Last week, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak published a piece in the Toronto Star to applaud the work of the police during G20. Hudak wrote, amongst other things:

Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.

That's true, I suppose. There were "usual-suspect special interest groups" that were busy trying to pin the blame on the police and the federal government. Of course, there were also usual-suspect special interest groups who lined up behind the police and the federal government, regardless of the stench of illegality and unconstitutionality that emanated from the actions of the police and the provincial government (exactly what was going on with that five-metre rule anyways? And who's responsible for the misinformation?).

I took umbrage with Hudak's opinion piece. Mainly, I wanted to know what Hudak thought of the non-usual suspect special interest groups -- the groups whose special interest is individual liberty, both civil and economic; The pro-private property, pro-freedom of expression, pro-civil liberties types? In short, libertarians, or Rob Breakenridge / Mark Steyn-style conservatives.

Hudak's piece had nothing to say to them. And it's the arguments of these folks that need to be addressed, since we can all shrug off the idiots who insist that smashing small business windows -- or even the windows of big businesses -- is perfectly all right and an instance of free expression that should be seen as part and parcel of a free and open democratic society. Why pay attention to people who don't have a clue about freedom of expression or civil society?

Today, Randy Hillier, Ontario PC MPP from Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, has joined the non-usual suspect special interest group, which PUBLIUS has excerpted here, calling out both Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and prime minister Stephen Harper:

[McGuinty and Harper] both use the common theme that upholding law and order required usurping our civil liberties. Any elementary school student knows these are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they are wholly interdependent. As numerous failed dictatorships have proven, you cannot have law and order without civil liberties.

Back when I wrote my response to Tim Hudak, I had mentioned that his stance on the G20 was only strike two (the first being Hudak's stance on the HST), and that the inning was far from over. I had said that, in my mind, Randy Hillier was already a home run. It's satisfying to see Hillier take this position on the G20 and do it publicly. And for two reasons:

The first is that it's the right stance on this issue, taken for the right reasons. Hillier is right that law & order is pointless without liberty. That law & order is too often used as an excuse to crush dissent, and to squelch our liberties.

The second reason is that Hillier is taking a public position on a matter of principle when it counts, and when it's difficult to do so. Hudak is the leader of the Ontario PCs, and Hillier has taken a public position that conflicts with Hudak's. Hillier is also calling out Stephen Harper, even though everyone knows that the Ontario PCs and the federal Tories are as close as can be.

In short, Hillier is choosing principle over partisanship.

This might bode well for the Ontario PCs, incidentally. If Hudak is tolerating dissenting views amongst his caucus, and if he's "permitting" party members to speak their minds on matters important to each individual MPP or to each MPPs constituents, then we might get what we should have always had in this country -- politicians immune from the crack of the Party Whip. (I put "permitting" in scare quotes because there's really no "permitting" or "not permitting" Randy Hillier, he'll speak his mind regardless).

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 12, 2010 in Canadian Provincial Politics, Freedom of expression, G20 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A soldier's comment on the police actions at G20

Rob Breakenridge tweeted a link to Justin Beach's blog, who took out a comment from the Torontoist by a self-described Canadian soldier abroad.

To repeat the warning from Beach: We can't be sure whether or not this person is actually a soldier, or just a really good writer. But, either way, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether or not he's a soldier, since the upshot of his comment -- the argument about how a police officer ought to behave once they don their uniform and how the police ought to have reacted -- rings true to my ears.

(But, assuming for the moment that this is a comment from a bona fide military man, how does the law & order conservative deal with this complication? Do we side with the police, as Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak has done, or do we side with an argument from a military man?)

So here's the comment, in its entirety, from "Eric J," below the fold (with my highlighting):

As a serving member of the Canadian Forces and a combat veteran, I can say with absolute clarity and conviction that i am disgusted by the actions of the supposed "other half" of our nations security, the civilian shield to the army's sword. I managed to fight and win battles while vastly outnumbered, against a heavily armed, mobile, guerilla force with as few as 10 fellow Canadians. 10 Canadian taxpayer funded and trained, government employees fighting and dying to prevent the lawlessness and injustice the so-called Black Bloc seems only too willing to promote. 10 Canadian ambassadors (because that is what you are when your wear and salute your nations flag) that knew their jobs and acted as consummate, trained professionals in all things, which incidentley is why i am alive to type this. The enemy we fought was entrenched within a civilian population and knew only too well the problems that could be created by putting innocent Afghans in the center of the conflict. So as is our duty and our job we let them bait us and let them crow and then when we had a shot we took it WITH NO CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. How could I know? Because we were the medical center for the region and we visited the villages regularly.

Knowing when to apply force and how to apply it can be a very simple thing when you assign value to the thing you are leveraging that force against. Am I prepared to kill the human being who is placing the IED or recoiless rifle that will kill three of my brothers? 3 of my fellow Canadians who have answered the call to defend what we so often take for granted half a world away? Without pause yes, and I will for the rest of my life, I took an oath that does not end with a contract.

When you put that uniform on you are no longer John Smith of Toronto. You are a member of the Canadian Forces, just as you are a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer, or an Ontario Provincial Police Officer. A government employee who's mandate and training is to PROTECT the public. Not to protect themselves from threats within the public. It is their job as the civilian arm of our nations security to be the blue line between those that would see our way of life burnt to it's end and the Canadians who see more than a simple flag.

Instead they formed a black wall and responded to WORDS with unrelenting, armed and often random VIOLENCE.

I don't care if Osama Bin Laden himself is hiding on Queen Street like Waldo... you don't just drop an airstrike on the village.

You PARTICULARLY don't do it after the entire village sang Oh Canada in fear.

I understand the effect of an unsuspecting ambush tactics to confuse and demoralize... but when the first three ranks of 'protestors' are waving peace signs standing outside the gap wearing American Apparel and drinking starbucks... I might tailor my tactics accordingly.

People have said that they 'understand' why Police might have been on edge due to the events of the day before...

Bullshit.

I understand that i watched friends die and then the next day went out and did my job with the professionalism expected of someone who claims to serve his country and as in holland i gave chocolate to children while the engineers rebuilt.

When you back people into a corner... they will fight and sell their lives dearly to escape.

The 'kettle' is a useful tactic to isolate 'riot ringleaders' but with even minor coordination it can simply be turned into a turnstyle type processing operation as opposed to a way to jack up arrest counts to justify budgets and manpower.

Too little too late from the Police especially after the complete lack of presence as the city they are paid to protect, burned the day before.

A number of extremely reputable journalists and civilian truth mongers have been given unprecedented ability to expose the absolute incompetence of both the police leadership and of the individual line trooper.

This is as sure a black stain on their official colors as it was a death knell to the Canadian Airborne after one of their members killed a Somali boy. I would hang my head in shame if i affected any part of Sunday's riot operation, willing or not.

I have a relative who was caught up in the crowd. Just a student who is young and wants to take inspired photos, and does it damn well. He was detained (not arrested) But I have seen his footage and i am disgusted.

I did not put my life on the line and watch my best friends take their last breath to come home and watch the largest gathering of law enforcement this country has ever seen... cowed to the point inaction as the city and its citizens endure the wanton destruction to their homes and business, only to have it answered by a heavy handed and indiscriminant hammer blow against quite possibly the very same people they so utterly failed to help previously.

I understand that to put a riot line in front of the black block may have caused injuries and violence.

Well... they asked for it. Says so right on their sign.

Guess what else. That's why you took the oath of service to your country. If you don't want to get injured on the job... be a yoga instructor.

Excuses are quite common apparently everyone has one. I would advise anyone reading this to write their local MP and ask what your government is doing to police it's members and policies that have utterly failed in their duty to this country.

I was in the city all weekend and if i had a dollar for every group of 6 police officers i saw sitting on corners shooting the shit... I would probably have enough to hire a ten man infantry section for the weekend to lead the police through some drills, of how to serve the nation they are sworn to defend.

This should not be taken as a sweeping assault on the police as i even have a few relatives and many friends among their ranks. But just as I would not stand for injustice within my own house... I will not stand for it in theirs.

I have met countless officers who uphold our laws with dignity and professionalism. I would gladly give my life for anyone of them.

What will not stand is when under the guise of 'security' police are given sweeping powers with no chance of reciprocity, the need to explain themselves or chance to defend against bullying tactics employed on a peaceful gathering of my country's citizens.

I don't give a flying squirrel if they were threatening, or there were reports of weapons. You have full body armour and shields. Suck it up. Besides, you should be happy. Bricks move a lot slower than bullets.

I support our law enforcement as i support our troops. But my support is not a blank cheque to be held cheaply against the values and rights you trample as surely as you stepped on our flag. You will find me a tenacious opponent and one now who wants to know just how that cheque i did write you was used... and i think after saturdays impotence and sundays ignorance someone has to pay the piper...

and this time, it won't be me.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 8, 2010 in Crime, Current Affairs, Freedom of expression, G20, Military | Permalink | Comments (30)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tim Hudak swings and misses on G20

Tim Hudak swings and misses, for the second time, in my book.

His first strike is the HST nonsense. Even though every serious free market and taxpayer-friendly organization in Canada -- from the Fraser Institute to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- is making the case that the HST is better than the current system, Hudak has decided to make it a big election issue. That's too bad. And strike one.

Strike two is this somewhat disingenuous column in the Sun entitled "Don't blame cops for G20 mayhem." Here's a little excerpt:

The downtown core of Toronto was turned into a conflict zone by a group of lawless hooligans a little more than a week ago.

These reckless thugs were not in Toronto to protest a legitimate political cause. Instead they are part of a circuit of criminals who travel to international summits with one goal in mind — to destroy property, incite mayhem and terrorize law-abiding citizens.

Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.

But it wasn’t frontline police officers who spent a weekend smashing in storefront windows, and it wasn’t federal government officials who torched police cars.

I don't want to step on Adam Radwanski's wonderful take-down of Hudak's points, or Mike Brock's, but let me just summarize my own grumpiness with this column:

1. Why do legitimate criticisms of police overreach and overreaction get converted into a general statement about all of the actions of the police in Toronto?

The beefs we at the Western Standard have with the police are targeted to two things: Particular actions of particular officers, and a general concern about the lack of action on Saturday.

We're obviously furious with the alleged particular actions of particular -- let's just call a spade a spade, shall we? -- uniformed thugs and criminals against our own Mike Brock. But we're similarly unhappy with the treatment Kathy Shaidle and BlazingCatFur received. And then there's this doozy. A 57-year-old man with a prosthetic leg has it allegedly removed and is allegedly kicked and punched as well?

Pay close attention here, because this is an excerpt that should have everyone, deferential or antagonistic to police, hopping mad:

“The police came up to us and said, ‘Move!’ so I tried to get up,” said Mr. Pruyn, who lost his left leg above the knee 17 years ago in a farming accident.

“I fell back down and my daughter yelled out, ‘Give him time. He’s an amputee.’ I guess the police thought I was taking too long ... then all of a sudden the police were on top of me.”

Mr. Pruyn claims his head was kept on the ground by an officer digging a knee into his left temple while other officers yanked at his arms.

“One of them was yelling, ‘You’re resisting arrest’, but I wasn’t resisting anything. I couldn’t move.”

He says police then ordered him to start walking, but when he informed them that he couldn’t get up because his hands were cuffed behind his back, an officer grabbed his prosthetic leg and “yanked it right off.”

And just in case you think this is all still within the realm of proper police procedure, consistent with the obligation every government employee has to treat each of us with dignity:

“Then he said, ‘Hop!’ but I told them I couldn’t because it hurts for me to hop on my right leg,” Mr. Pruyn recalled. “Then the cop said, ‘OK, you asked for it’ and two officers grabbed me under my armpits and dragged me away from Queen’s Park towards the police vans.”

Mr. Pruyn says five Toronto police officers then arrived and carried him the rest of the way, threw him on the ground and allegedly “gave me kicks and little punches and saying I was resisting arrest and that I had a weapon.”

Defend those actions. Not the response to the burning of police cars or the property damage which we here, being good free market, private property-loving libertarians, similarly think is indefensible.

Now I say "alleged" for good, legal reasons. But if you were to ask me who I personally believe in each case, I side with Mike Brock, Kathy & Blazing, and John Pruyn (who, by-the-by, is a Revenue Canada employee) over any of the relevant officers. This will remain my attitude until I see some evidence to counteract this presumption against the specific officers. And, damnit, if my blood doesn't boil over at just the thought that Canadian police officers might be guilty of a single one of these allegations.

And why didn't the police do something on Saturday? It looks like they infiltrated the thugs and criminals who were planning on vandalizing property and smashing up Toronto. And it appears to me that something could have been done on Saturday to prevent a great deal of property damage. But nothing was done until Sunday, in what can fairly be called a police temper tantrum -- a massive overreaction utilizing, holus bolus, every available legal and legal-status-yet-to-be-determined police tactic.

2. Relatedly, our concern here is not with the thugs and criminals who smashed up the place, but precisely with the law-abiding citizens who got caught up in the police overreaction. People like Mike and Kathy and Blazing and the man with the prosthetic leg and the countless others who got rounded up in mass arrests and were treated to the indignity of not getting enough water and having to pee in a toilet with the front door off.

Basically, our concern is with the apparently and alleged unlawful activities of the police. You don't get immunity from the law just because you don a fancy hat and fancy outfit. Of course, we might think that the overreaction is understandable, that the rest of us, put in similar circumstances, might similarly overreact. But, two points, for one, they're the professionals, trained for precisely these sorts of conflicts and situations. If they can't handle it, strip them of their fancy uniform and allow them to pursue some other profession more in keeping with their temperament. And, secondly, the understandableness of a breach of the law is relevant only in the sentencing phase of a trial, not to the question of guilt. We might ameliorate a sentence on the grounds that, well, emotions were high and police were pissed and there's all these rugrats running around disrespectin' "authoritah". It is not relevant to the question before us -- that of whether or not police broke the law.

3. Finally, it is customary to address yourself to the best arguments, and to the arguments with the most going for them. Your column fails to address the arguments of Rob Breakenridge, who probably has the best piece on this issue all around, or Mark Steyn or our own Mike Brock (although we wouldn't be so presumptuous as to think that you ought to have read the Western Standard before putting pen to paper).

That's two strikes, but the inning is far from over. You've got none out, and Randy Hillier has already hit a homerun for your team, as far as I'm concerned.

Brush yourself off, and be prepared to issue a statement if and when an inquiry into this whole sordid mess materializes. The statement could still put you in good stead with the frontline police officers and law & order conservatives whose votes you're probably going to, or hoping to, garner. Just distance the ordinary and fundamentally decent frontline police officers from the few thugs who got carried away and started arresting and petrifying the ordinary and fundamentally decent citizens of Toronto (or elsewhere).

A few bad apples don't always spoil the bunch. And that's as true of frontline police officers as it is of the protesters.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 7, 2010 in Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Freedom of expression, G20 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Jesse Kline: Soldiers of expression: Hate speech, censorship and ethics

Western Standard contributor and current reason intern Jesse Kline has put together an outstanding analysis of various ways in which our freedom of expression can be limited, and the ethics of journalism. Kline categorizes the various possible infringements on freedom of expression, and then marks a division between acceptable and unacceptable divisions. Our readers shouldn't be surprised by where Kline draws the line...

Here's an excerpt from "Soldiers of Expression":

...the reason that Canadian governments can use hate speech laws as a means of censorship is due to the fact that Section 1 of the Charter puts limits on our fundamental freedoms. In his justification for upholding Canada's hate speech laws, Supreme Court Chief Justice Dickson claimed the "emotional damage caused by words may [have] grave psychological and social consequences." Furthermore, the "threat to the self-dignity of target group members is thus matched by the possibility that prejudiced messages will gain some credence." I suppose the Supreme Court has never heard the old schoolyard saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

The court also took a dim view on the intelligence of Canadians by supporting the idea that if we were free to hear a diversity of opinions, we would not be able to separate fact from fiction, prejudice from fair comment.

If no one is being physically hurt, or threatened with violence, then the government has no right curtailing our freedoms. A few soccer moms and religious nuts with hurt feelings is a small price to pay for the right to freely speak our minds. The answer to hate speech is not less speech, the answer is more speech. True hate speech is easy to counteract with a well reasoned argument. Call me old fashioned, but I like to think my fellow countrymen are smart enough to reason for themselves without us having to worry that they'll be corrupted by a few hate mongers.

The situation is quite different in the United States, where hate speech is legal, unless it is used as a direct threat against a person or group of people, or if it can be considered an incitement to violence. "Most such limitations, then, must be voluntary" that is, they must be rooted in ethics rather than law. In reality, that means the rest of us generally have to put up with online hate speech" or, better, avoid it altogether," wrote Cecilia Friend and Jane Singer in their book Online Journalism Ethics

What a radical idea that is. Treat people as rational individuals and give them the choice to avoid the speech they find offencive. The big problem with hate speech laws are that they are entirely subjective. The determination of what is considered hate speech is put in the hands of judges and government bureaucrats, who often try to figure out the intent of the person who made the claims. This amounts to nothing more than a ban on thought. "The laws are designed to place emphasis on intent, ergo criminalize thoughts in the process.… When you criminalize thought through hate crime legislation, you can ultimately criminalize speech based on the premise that the words are reflective of hateful thoughts," wrote Steven Crowder, a political pundit.

Does Ann Coulter's imbroglio with Allan Rock and the University of Ottawa make an appearance in Kline's piece? Yes, of course. Does Kline cover Ezra Levant's battles with the HRC/Ts? Yes, yes he does.

So go ahead and click here to read the rest of Kline's piece.

Speaking of Levant and Coulter, here are a couple of books Justice Dickson would probably prefer you didn't read:

    

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 6, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The story of Ann Coulter and former justice minister Allan Rock

Well this is a surprise: An access to information request from The Canadian Press has revealed that former Liberal justice minister and current president of the University of Ottawa, Allan Rock, was knee-deep in the Ann Coulter brouhaha several months ago.

That brouhaha? Ann Coulter, author of Guilty... and a lot of other things besides, got a letter from provost Francois Houle "reminding" her of Canada's speech laws. "I therefore ask you," Houle wrote, "while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind." Coulter made the email public, raised a big stink, and a giant mob predictably descended on Coulter's speech. The talk was, in the end, cancelled.

Our own Terrence Watson was dispatched to the scene at the time, and wrote about his experience in a tersely-worded missive entitled "Ann Coulter and the mob." It's still worth a read, if you haven't yet.

So that was that brouhaha. Now for a new brouhaha. Turns out Houle was being pushed by Allan Rock the whole time. Here's an excerpt from today's Toronto Star:

In fact, the released documents show that it was Rock — not Houle — who asked that the email be sent. Rock even dictated some of the wording.

"Ann Coulter is a mean-spirited, small-minded, foul-mouthed poltroon," Rock wrote to Houle in a March 18 email. "She is 'the loud mouth that bespeaks the vacant mind'."

"She is an ill-informed and deeply offensive shill for a profoundly shallow and ignorant view of the world. She is a malignancy on the body politic. She is a disgrace to the broadcasting industry and a leading example of the dramatic decline in the quality of public discourse in recent times."

At the same time, he argued, "we should not take any steps to interfere with her plans to speak next week on our campus."

Instead, Rock advised Houle he should write to Coulter informing her of the different rules surrounding free speech in Canada compared with those in the United States.

"You, Francois, as Provost, should write immediately to Coulter informing her of our domestic laws. ... You should urge her to respect that Canadian tradition as she enjoys the privilege of her visit."

After seeing a copy of the final email to Coulter, Rock praised Houle: "Quel excellent message! Merci et felicitations. I am sure she has never been dressed down so elegantly in her life!"

Felicitations? After this news makes the rounds, I'm not sure Rock will be so congratulatory.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 29, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (21)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Watson: The trial of Vigna v. Levant

Yesterday and today, Terrence Watson and myself took in a bit of court room drama. Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard and author of Shakedown, is being sued by Giacomo Vigna for defamation.

The trial provided enough drama for Watson to provide a detailed account of it in "Vigna v. Levant: Serenity, nausea, and red underpants.."

Here's an excerpt:

“I'd put my sainted father against your private investigator any day!" replied Ezra, pounding the table.

There were several moments during the trial when I felt like banging on the table, like when Ezra denounced Vigna as a “political bully.” Or when he made reference to the “whack of neo-Nazis working at the HRC.” Or pretty much every time the judge chastised Vigna for jumping off the pier of relevance into the swamp of raw innuendo.

Or when, in response to Vigna's suggestion that he used “controversial language,” Ezra retorted: “Censorship is controversial, Mr. Vigna.”

Read the rest here

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 25, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Judge gets a libertarian take on free speech in Canada

FoxNews judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano interviews Libertarian Party of Canada spokesman (and Shotgun commenter) John Collison on free speech: 

Posted by Kalim Kassam on March 31, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Iceland may be planning to become a "free speech haven"

Some countries are tax havens. Set up a company there, or transfer your money, and pay less in taxes. Switzerland is renowned for being a good place to open a bank account if you want your money to be ultra-safe and ultra-secret. Now, if some Icelandic MPs have their way, Iceland might become the world's first (and only) haven for journalists and a preserve for freedom of speech.

Some time today, a proposal will be put forward in Iceland's parliament that will resemble, but may not be identical in every respect, to this proposal, put up by the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (the full proposal is below the fold):

Proposal for a parliamentary resolution for Iceland to strongly position itself legally with regard to the protection of freedoms of expression and information. Parliament resolves to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.

In this work, the international team of experts that assisted in the creation of this proposal should be utilized.

To this end,

the legal environment should be explored such that the goals can be defined and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared.

the legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the view to assemble the best laws to make Iceland leading in freedoms of expression and information.

the first Icelandic international prize should be established, The Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award.

With the goal of improving democracy, as firm grounding will be made for publishing, whilst improving Iceland's standing in the international community.

The proposal was co-written with several parliamentarians. They state the goals of the initiative as follows:

The legislative initiative outlined here is intended to make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. It also proposes to draw attention to these changes through the creation of Iceland's first internationally visible prize: the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression.

Just as countries, like Canada, are in the midst of what can only be called a crisis with respect to freedom of expression, it is good to hear that there is a chance -- a good chance -- that freedom of speech and expression will find a refuge, if necessary, in Iceland.

For more coverage, see reason's Hit & Run blog, the P2P Foundation, wikileaks, a BBC story (with video) about the proposal, and the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.

The full proposal:

Proposal for a parliamentary resolution for Iceland to strongly position itself legally with regard to the protection of freedoms of expression and information.

Parliament resolves to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.

In this work, the international team of experts that assisted in the creation of this proposal should be utilized.

To this end,

the legal environment should be explored such that the goals can be defined and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared.

the legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the view to assemble the best laws to make Iceland leading in freedoms of expression and information.

the first Icelandic international prize should be established, The Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award.

With the goal of improving democracy, as firm grounding will be made for publishing, whilst improving Iceland's standing in the international community.

This parliamentary resolution proposal is written with the support of parliamentarians from all parties. Numerous respected specialists, both foreign and local, have consulted on the work and have promised continued support for the Icelandic government if this proposal is accepted.

A vision for Iceland

Freedom of expression, in particular, freedom of the press, guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.

- Corazón Aquino

democratic President of the Philippines (1986-1992)

The nation is at a crossroad that call for legislative change. At such times we should not only address our past, but also adopt positive plans for our future.

The legislative initiative outlined here is intended to make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. It also proposes to draw attention to these changes through the creation of Iceland's first internationally visible prize: the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression.

The world's media is moving to the Internet, allowing publishing from any location. Whether a newspaper like The Guardian is published online out of Reykjavik or New York is indistinguisable to its readers. At the same time, there is a recognized crisis in quality journalism.

Where to publish is now decided by factors such as distance and communications capacity, server costs and legal environment. Iceland has the first two covered: it has fast undersea cables to some of the world's largest consumers of information, and its clean green power and cool temperatures are attractive to those running internet services.

We can create a comprehensive policy and legal framework to protect the free expression needed for investigative journalism and other politically important publishing. While some countries provide basic measures, Iceland now has an oportunity to build an internationally attractive legislative package built from the best laws of other nations.

Examples of successful laws include the following: recent legislation from the state of New York to block the enforcement of U.K. judgments constricting freedom of the press, a 2005 Belgian law to provide strong protection for the communications of journalists with their sources; and the Swedish constitution's Press Freedom Act.

A legislative package based on these and other protections would attract a wide range of media and human rights organizations that routinely face unjust sanction. For example, British press agencies are currently forced to redact an increasing amount of information from the historical record in a futile attempt to ward off secret gag orders and other abusive legal actions taken by litigious billionaires and corporations trying to conceal corrupt behavior. Similarly Transparency International and other human rights groups are routinely sued for exposing corruption on their web-sites.

These influential groups would be inclined to promote and protect the proposed legislation, and through it, the long term strength of our own democracy. It is not only other countries that need access to such supportive laws--let us not forget that RUV nightly news was gagged by the Kaupthing bank on Aug 2, 2009.

The potential is already clear. Many important newswires and human rights organizations have moved to Stockholm on the strength of the existing Swedish Press Freedom Act. Similarly, Malaysia Today relocated to the United States after having been persecuted in its own country. As legal costs for participants in the information economy have begun to spiral out of control, the world is looking for an internally consistent set of rules that place clear limits on the risks faced by publishers.

Not all the benefits of this proposal can be counted in kronas: like the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, the indirect effects of weaving together the interests of the Icelandic people with the interests of the world media should not be underestimated. The proposal that has been described above would make Iceland unique in the global discussion and would engender the goodwill and respect of other nations.

It is hard to imagine a better resurrection for a country that has been devastated by financial corruption than to turn facilitating transparency and justice into a business model.

Transforming vision into law

Below we trace some outlines of the laws that would have to be carefully evaluated and adapted for this protective legal framework to emerge. In some cases the need for legislative change is clear, in other cases more study is needed and we merely point to potential problems and offer possible solutions for consideration. Given the number of different laws affected and the required consistency between the various measures, we call for further study to be initiated as soon as possible.

Source Protection

Current protection of a journalist's sources is defined in the law on the treatment of criminal cases no. 88/2008 and the law on the treatment of private cases no. 91/1991. The current media bill contains articles protecting a journalist's sources. It however states that journalists have a right to refuse to expose their sources except when a court ruling states otherwise, as per art. 119 of the law on the treatment of criminal cases no. 88/2008. This seems an overly broad exception to such an important principle and it may contradict principle 3 of Council of Europe recommendation R (2000)7, upon which the media bill's source protection statutes are based. Given the consensus nature of CoE recommendations, we should strengthen source protection to far exceed this recommendation.

Whistleblower Protection

Where statistics have been collected, internal whistleblowers account for most revelations of corporate and government corruption. The rights of the people to benefit from these disclosures should not be abridged and just like in many other countries, specific mechanisms to encourage the reporting of unethical practices should be considered. One could envision, for example, an absolute right to communicate information to a member of the Icelandic Parliament.

The USA Federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§3729-3733) provides model protections and incentives for those who report frauds made against the government. According to the Government Accounting Office (2006), $9.6 billion was recovered for the government under this act, which protects and encourages the reporting of frauds against the government in a number ways. For instance, by providing employment guarantees that preserve seniority status and salary, as well as providing 15 to 30% of the monies recovered as a compensation and reporting incentive.

The proposers suggest that changes be made to laws regarding the rights and duties of official employees (no. 70/1996) such that official employees be allowed to break their duty of silence in the case of extreme circumstances of public interest. Similar changes could be made to municipal governance law (no. 45/1996) regarding employees of municipal governments. Suggestions for such changes have been made in three proposed bills, parliamentary documents 41 from the 130th legislative assembly, 994 from the 132nd legislative assembly and 330 from the 133rd legislative assembly. It may also be appropriate to make changes to article 136 of the general criminal code (no. 19/1940), such that the interest of the public must always be weighed in procedures against public servants who have disclosed classified information.

Communications Protection

Belgian law since 2005 was designed to explicitly protect all communication between sources and journalists, with both groups defined broadly. But such protections may have limited effect if protected communication records between journalists and sources are automatically stored by third parties.

Currently Icelandic telecommunications law no. 81/2003 implements EEA mandated data retention. It applies to telecommunication providers and its current implementation mandates the retention of records of all connection data for 6 months. It states that communications companies may only deliver information on telecommunications in criminal cases or on matters of public safety. It also states that such information may not be given to others than police and public prosecution.

The European directive that caused this law to come into effect, 2002/58/EB from 12. july 2002 regarding privacy and electronic communication, is up for review in the autumn of 2010 and the German constitutional court is expected to rule whether or not data retention is at odds with the European Human Rights Treaty. Given these developments and a general trend towards more privacy awareness, the Icelandic data retention laws may need updating to address these concerns.

Another aspect of communications protection comes from chapter V of the currently implemented law 30/2002 on e-commerce and electronic services, which provides indemnity for "mere conduits", such as telecommunications networks and Internet hosting providers. There are few and mostly well defined exceptions to this indemnity, but the exception for general court orders without further definition is worrying. This should probably be improved by clarifying which exact circumstances can trigger such exceptions.

Limiting prior restraint

Prior restraint is any legal mechanism that can be used to forcibly prevent publication. Such restaints have a significant negative impact on freedom of expression. Most democracies place strong and in some cases absolute limitations on prior restraint. Methods for guaranteeing that existing laws not be abused in the attempt to limit the freedom of expression should be explored.

Process protection

Equal access to justice is an important part of democracy. Even in countries with strong constitutional protections for the press, such as the United States, there is weak process protection, and as a result it may be financially infeasible for publications to participate in legal battles. Even in the cases where the publications have the capacity to defend themselves, it may be against their economic interests. An example of this is the case where Time Magazine was litigated in the United States for running a cover story on financial corruption in the Scientology cult. Although Time magazine eventually won the case, it had to spend $7 million in legal fees taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court--effectively a multi-million dollar "fine" against Time magazine for engaging in quality, research based journalism. It would have been impossible for a smaller publication to mount such a defence, and it would be impossible for Time Magazine to take on many such battles, creating a "chilling effect" on quality journalism and interferring with the democratic process.

It should always be cost effective for a small publisher to stand up against a well financed litigant whose goal is to cover up the truth, and, in general, it should be possible for small entities to defend against large entities. One way to accomplish this is through a measure similar to California's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation against Public Participation) statutes. Under such a system, a defendant may request the presiding judge to view the case as a freedom of speech issue. If the move is granted, a number of protections are activated during the case itself, and should the case be successfully defended, the plaintiff must pay all legal costs associated with it.

History protection

On the 9th of March, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued a ruling against the Times of London which has generated great uncertainty for European publishers. The Court confirmed that, for the purposes of the law of libel, an Internet publication should be considered to be ‘published’ afresh every time a reader views it. The ruling also found that libel proceedings brought against a publisher after a significant lapse of time may well, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, give rise to a disproportionate interference with press freedom…’. The court left open to member states what, if any, limiting period may be applied to archives.

The view that an electronic archive is 'published' every time it is viewed has been extensively abused to remove important articles on corruption from online newspaper archives long after they were published. For example, The Guardian, inorder to avoid unending legal costs, removed several such articles in 2008, originally published in 2003, which reported, the conviction for corruption of a billionaire involved in the Elf-Acquitaine scandal.

To protect the historical archive and give certainty to publishers, we propose that, following the model used in France, that lawsuits related to publishing must be filed within two months of publication and that a ceiling for damages be set to 10,000 Euro (France: three months, 15,000).

Libel tourism protection

The abuse of British libel law has been much discussed in recent years and has recently been counteracted in New York with the New York Libel Terrorism Protection Act. A law with the same intent took force in the state of Florida on the first of July 2009 (Act relating to grounds for nonrecognition of foreign defamation judgments). A similar proposal has been made on a federal level, but has not passed into law yet. The method used in the United States is, on the one hand, to refuse to honour any court verdict that contradicts the first amendment of the US constitution, and on the other hand provides a framework for retaliatory cases against such lawsuits.

Chapter XXV of the Icelandic general criminal code, law 19/1940 ("Almenn hegningarlög") contains the implementation of libel law. Problems have arisen when courts in other countries have claimed jurisdiction over publications or remarks that have been published or made in Iceland. A libel suit against Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson in the United Kingdom received considerable attention, partly because of the jurisdiction claims and the strict libel law in the United Kingdom.

The supporters of this proposal wish to implement a law similar to those in place in New York and Florida. The rules of the Lugano Treaty on jurisdiction and enforcements of judgment must be carefully considered in this relation. They also believe that Icelandic defendents should be enabled to sue the original plaintiff for reparations in cases where the judgment is considered to be in breach of the general rule of law.

Freedom of Information Act

The Icelandic Freedom of Information law (Upplýsingalög, 50/1996) was enacted in 1996 and has since been amended six times to various degrees. It is mostly modeled after the Danish and Norwegian laws from 1970. The current Icelandic FOI law does not conform to CoE convention, and it does not match the standards set in the Aarhus treaty for environmental information. This presents the opportunity to create maximum transparency by means of of a newer, better and more internationally compliant Icelandic FOI law.

Any new framing of Icelandic FOI law should only be done after taking a close look at the 2009 CoE and OAS recommendations as well as particularly good and modern elements in the FOI laws of Estonia, Scotland, the UK and Norway. The standards with regard to speedy response, a limited number of exemption and rapid access to administrative complaint procedures from the environmental Aarhus treaty ought to be the standard for all information.

It may make sense to make sure this law applies to all government bodies and all non government entities operating on behalf of the government, as well as entities that fulfill a public concession/task paid from public funds. The extent to which businesses can prevent the release of documents that concern them should be strictly limited. The current act does not apply to anything covered by the public administration law, international agreements, etc. The limitation regarding public administration law is by far the most far-reaching of the current limitations, and would likely need to be reconsidered.

There currently exists no central registry of documents held by government bodies, and there is no standardized FOI document request form. One feature that may add greater transparency is an actively internet-published central register of all documents held (as opposed to merely produced) by an institution. At the same time document access should be possible by subject, requesters should not need to know of the existence of a document.

Framers of a new Icelandic FOI law should consider making sure the law applies to classic [paper] and modern [digital] documents in the same way. One might also want to consider raising the level of the administrative complaint to the more internationally compliant form of an information commissioner with binding execution and sanction power. Having such a serious complaint procedure will reduce the workload of the court because it is expected that fewer requesters will go to court after the complaint at the information commissioner.

It would be best if limitations on the release of documents were never absolute and the public interest should always be weighed as well. Privacy-related limitations should not be applicable to any work-related information. Exemptions should expire in as brief a time as is reasonable. One could consider a regime under which the fact that any exemptions were used to successfully prevent release of a document would be published on the internet immediately and where all such exempted documents would automatically published after the expiry of the exemption.

As a general rule documents released should be made available online for all citizens to access. This will increase transparency, prevent requests from being filed more than once and will invite government bodies to disclose documents pro-actively. The law should be based on the notion that government documents are in principle public unless an exceptional reason prevents publication.

The Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression

Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland currently hosts no internationally acclaimed prize. Iceland should create a yearly prize that promotes Iceland and the values represented in this proposal, by giving recognition to those who, through their actions in the past 12 months have most advanced humanity through courageous acts of free expression. It is envisaged that the prize would primarily be awarded to journalists, whistleblowers, human rights activists and publishers.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 16, 2010 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Parliament security bans free speech

The Toronto Star is reporting that Greenpeace t-shirts have been banned from Parliament Hill. This is in response to the illegal protest by Greenpeace earlier this week. Such an excuse is not a good enough reason to trample on the Freedom of Expression.

I'm no fan of Greenpeace, but I don't see why people wearing their t-shirts should not be allowed in Parliament. A spokesperson from the Speaker's office said that it was a routine precaution and went on to say:

"When someone is invited in as a member of the public in either the chamber or a committee, they're invited in as an observer, that's it," she said. "They're not a participant, they're an observer."

First of all you aren't invited into the chamber, we as the people have the right to see what our Parliament is doing. Yes when we do visit we must understand that we are observers, but how does wearing a t-shirt make you a participant? Is it because of the political message of the shirt? I own several t-shirts that make political statements, including one that mimics the Coca-Cola logo by saying "Enjoy Capitalism." Does wearing that shirt make me a participant?

No of course not, the reason is because members of that organization pissed off Parliament's security. They made them look incompetent, so they are cracking down on anyone who may be associated with Greenpeace.

It should be pointed out that not everyone wearing a Greenpeace shirt is a member of Greenpeace. My shirt that I mentioned before is a Bureaucrash shirt, but I have never been a member of Bureaucrash. I wear the shirt, like many that wear Greenpeace shirts, because I support the organization (and find the shirt amusing). Basically Parliament security is accusing Greenpeace supporters of being troublemakers just because they support Greenpeace.

Actually maybe it isn't about the supporters of Greenpeace but the message. The Star article said that a reporter was allowed to enter with a Greenpeace shirt if she agreed to turn it inside out. So obviously they aren't trying to exclude Greenpeace supporters. It is the message of Greenpeace that they are trying to keep out; not dangerous individuals that could disrupt Parliament, but the ideas that Greenpeace represents.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 11, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (11)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Karen Selick says "censorship is not the answer"

Karen Selick, popular libertarian writer, pundit, and lawyer, appeared before the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) yesterday on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, where she works as t Litigation Director, to tell the parliamentarians that "censorship is not the answer."

Selick's message was simple, and powerful. She made three main points, namely, 1. "hate speech laws backfire," 2. "Subsidize anything and more will be produced -- including hurt feelings," and 3. "The state is the biggest danger to life, liberty and security of the person."

Here's an excerpt from the remarks:

...when the state itself becomes the arbiter of what people can say and what they can’t say, the potential for harm against its citizens is virtually unlimited. The state is the repository of the legal use of power. The state holds the legal power of coercion, of confiscation—literally, the power of life and death—and there is no other countervailing force strong enough to combat it.

So the last thing we want to do is to strengthen the state—to give it the legal power to dictate who can speak and who cannot speak, and what they can say. Because if the state ever falls into the wrong hands—which can happen in an election, as it did when Hitler was elected, when Robert Mugabe was elected in Zimbabwe—we don’t want it to have all the machinery already in place for outlawing speech.

We don’t want the citizens to accept that it’s a legitimate role of the government to put people in jail or fine them and confiscate their property for expressing political opinions. Because that’s when all hell breaks loose, and nobody any longer has the means to oppose it.

You can read the rest of Selick's presentation before the committee on the CCF website here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 25, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy Blasphemy Day

Free_Expression_Campaign_Logo_EE

Today marks the first, probably annual, international "blasphemy day."

Launched by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), Blasphemy Day is an attempt to defend freedom of expression by reminding everyone that the right to express offensive opinions is just that -- a right. A genuine, honest-to-goodness, full-throated human right.

September 30th was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the publication of the 12 Muhammad cartoons in Denmark by the Jyllands-Posten. Something we here at the Western Standard know a little something about...

CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay explains:

“Preserving the right to uncensored expression is important not only because it is indispensable for an objective examination of truth claims -- it is no accident that dictatorships uniformly suppress speech—but also because it has intrinsic value. Human dignity requires the freedom to express oneself as an individual.”

International Blasphemy Day is part of the Center for Inquiry's "Campaign for Free Expression." Here's the mission of the campaign from the Center's website:

Some governments and institutions—and even some individuals—want to keep certain topics off limits. This is especially true with religion. In many places, discussions and questions about religion are discouraged, even punished. But how can we come to our own conclusions about religion if we can't freely examine and discuss it?

The Campaign for Free Expression is a CFI initiative to focus efforts and attention on one of the most crucial components of freethought: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects—especially religion.

Various United Nations bodies, including the UN’s Human Rights Council, have recently adopted resolutions condemning so-called “defamation” of religion. These resolutions lend credibility to efforts to suppress dissent and criticism, especially in Islamic countries, but Western European countries are also debating laws that would criminalize religiously offensive statements. For example, Ireland recently enacted a new blasphemy law that prohibits publication of material “insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.”

CFI believes we must increase public awareness of these threats to freedom of expression, discuss and develop plans to prevent curtailment of free expression, and demonstrate that people care about their rights to free expression and are eager to exercise them.

The Toronto Star covered International Blasphemy Day, and quoted Justin Trottier, spokesman for CFI Ontario, as follows:

Organizers are "inviting people to speak their mind on issues related to religion, free speech, censorship, secularism" and other related topics, said spokesman Justin Trottier...

"We feel there's no such thing as a human right not to be offended," he said. "We live in a democratic society, which means you get offended and you better get used to that."...

"Our point is that if people are offended, then that's something they need to learn to deal with, that's not something we're going to shy away from."

Obviously, we wish them a great deal of success in their fight for freedom of expression. So here's to freedom of expression. And Happy Blasphemy Day!

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on September 30, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The existential drama of Canadian communists

This post could also have been called, "How Canadian communists must come to terms with history", or even, "Why I have to re-post more pursuant to Gerry Nicholls' post". According to an article in Epoch Times, plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honor the victims of communism are being obstructed by due regard to the feelings of Canadian communists. 

The ever-industrious National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to change the name of the monument from  “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism” to something that does not demean or tarnish the self-esteem of card-carrying communists in Canada. Initially, the monument was going to be called the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism", but NCC board members found it to be polarizing, hence the addition of the term "totalitarian". Now it seems no one is completely certain about the monument, the emotional states of Canadian communists, the value of historical memory, or whether communism really deserves the bad rap it seems to have earned over the past few decades.

There are exceptions to this Canadian confusion over communism. Tribute to Liberty, one of the groups trying to get this monument built, probably never anticipated so much controversy and stalling in the naming phase. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find honest individuals arguing against naming a monument to the victims of Nazism or fascism qualifying this description with the obvious, namely, "totalitarian". 

Of course governments ruled under the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, or communism are totalitarian-- in fact, "totalitarianism" (as opposed to freedom, rule of law, or human rights) might just be their original contribution to political history. Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian. In fact, adding the word "totalitarian" to qualify communism is not just ignorant--it is blatantly false and dangerous. The refusal of communists and their defenders to admit the nature of communism should not prevent the public square from being the place where a spade is called a spade and the victims of communism are duly honored.

Posted by Alina on September 24, 2009 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian Politics, Current Affairs, Economic freedom, Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (35)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mark Steyn heralds the demise of the CHRA's hate messages censorship clause

Mark Steyn makes my day:

Before I attracted the attention of the thought police, I wasn’t entirely up to speed on state censorship in Canada, and I asked my friend Ezra Levant what he knew about this Section 13 business. He sent me a printout with the history of every single case. Two things stood out: first, while the plaintiffs had the costs of the case paid for by the taxpayer, almost all of the defendants had been too poor to have legal representation. That’s an inversion of basic justice. Second, one man had been the plaintiff on every single Section 13 case since 2002—Richard Warman. That didn’t pass the smell test.

The list had been compiled by someone called Marc Lemire, a man who’d been caught in the “human rights” crosshairs for half a decade. You might not care for his opinions, but that, as they say, is a matter of opinion. That he has been traduced by the Canadian justice system is a matter of fact. But he’s a dogged type, and he pushed back, and he got the goods on his abusers. He demonstrated that evidence exhibits were switched in mid-trial by the CHRC. He proved that Warman and CHRC investigator Dean Steacy were themselves members of and posters on white supremacist websites under various aliases. Indeed, in a remarkable conflict of interest, Warman, as the plaintiff, was permitted to stroll into the CHRC, the investigating body, and share passwords and Internet aliases with Steacy. [...]

This month the wheels fell off the racket. On Sept. 2, Athanasios Hadjis in effect acquitted Marc Lemire of all charges but one. This unprecedented verdict is, as Joseph Brean reported in the National Post, “the first major failure of Section 13(i)” in its history. Was Mr. Lemire the beneficiary of a unique dispensation from the CHRT? No. Judge Hadjis pronounced the accused guilty of a Section 13 infringement on one narrow charge—an Internet post headlined “AIDS Secrets” that (in David Warren’s words) “went on rather tendentiously about blacks and homosexuals” and was written by someone other than Mr. Lemire. Nevertheless, the court declined to punish the defendant even for this infraction on the following grounds:

“I have also concluded that s. 13(1) in conjunction with ss. 54(1) and (1.1) are inconsistent with s. 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The restriction imposed by these provisions is not a reasonable limit within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter.” [...]

For the moment, whatever Parliament or the Supreme Court does, Section 13 [of the Canadian Human Rights Act] is dead. The camel’s nose of liberty is under the CHRC tent. Now let’s give ’em the hump.

Go read it all. Ding-dong.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on September 17, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (13)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Live from Toronto, it's Ezra Levant!

Lest our dear readers despair for the future as a result of the present conversation about the "thought monopoly of Academia," let them take heart that opposition to the soft totalitarianism of the collectivists is not completely dead on the Canadian university campus. These are the flyers I'll be posting around the University of Toronto's downtown campus this weekend:

Levant_Poster_2

Posted by Kalim Kassam on September 10, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Censorship tribunal rules censorship is unconstitutional (or does it?)

Strange goings on in the Canadian freedom of speech movement today. A tentative victory for us?

From the National Post:

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that Section 13, Canada's much maligned human rights hate speech law, is an unconstitutional violation of the Charter right to free expression because of its penalty provisions.

Even the censors are now admitting that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is unconstitutional? That means we win, right?

Not so fast.

The context is Warman v. Lemire. I haven't had a chance to dig into the ruling, and still less of a chance to reflect on it. So this assessment will be cursory, and possibly completely wrong (I'm sure our commenters will correct me if this turns out to be the case.)

Simply put, the NP's headline is wrong, or at least misleading. Athanasios Hadjis, the tribunal chair, did not rule that Section 13(1) is unconstitutional. What he ruled is that Section 13(1), when combined with the penalty provisions set out in another portion of the Act (Section 54(1), I think) amounts to an unconstitutional violation of Charter rights (e.g. freedom of expression.)

The penalty provisions in 54(1) were added to the CHRA after the Taylor decision, which upheld the constitutionality of 13(1) itself.

So, no, Hadjis did not overrule the Supreme Court. Nor could he.

The constitutionality of Section 13(1) remains intact. It's just that a major sanction in the Tribunal's toolkit has now been removed, or at least blunted. The CHRC/T can still silence you; it just can't bankrupt you in the process.

And Warman et al. is likely to appeal the ruling -- and he'll probably succeed (hint: Hadjis should have "read out" the constitutionally questionable portion of the Act.)

Big City Lib's take is here. The Canadian Jewish Congress expressed its discontent with the ruling here.

Jay Currie's erudite take can be found here and here.

Posted by Terrence Watson on September 2, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (21)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blog round-up: Lindy's Shakedown song blasting the CHRCs is getting plenty of coverage

Yesterday, we posted the first video from this past weekend's ninth annual Liberty Summer Seminar. The video captured the debut of Toronto-based Lindy Vopnfjord's ode to freedom of expression named "Shakedown" in honour of Ezra Levant's battles against Canada's censorious Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals.

The rousing anthem was a hit with everyone at the Seminar, including Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney, who came for the music and conversation on Saturday evening. Western Standard blogger Mike Brock caught the encore of Shakedown on his video camera and posted it on YouTube yesterday afternoon. By evening, the video had gone as high as the #57 most-watched video in the Canadian Music category, and #72 in the Canadian Politics category, with 815 views. Today, the video counter is still stuck at 815 views (YouTube views sometimes lag behind actual views), but the video has three honours as of my writing this; it is the #46 Most Viewed, #55 Top Favourited, and #64 Highest Rated video in the Canadian Music category.

Helping the view counter increase are blogs and forums that have embedded the video on their websites. Here is just a sample of the coverage the song has received thus far:

Ezra Levant wrote:

The most amazing thing happened: Lindy made a rock song about my book, Shakedown. I love it!

...That is so catchy, I can't get the refrain out of my head: "it's a shakedown of us all!"

...I love the song -- and I love the warm reception it got that night. I think we've got a hit on our hands!"

Maclean's blogger Aaron Wherry was ironical when he wrote about the song in a post entitled, "Rockin' out against the man with Jason Kenney."

"I met Lindy at a party in Montreal once. He was quite tall. And his girlfriend said she was an actor for medical school seminars. Like Kramer in that Seinfeld episode.

Anyway. Lindy now sings songs about Ezra Levant, apparently. He’s quite popular with libertarians. And, as you’ll see at the end of this video, Jason Kenney."

Gerry Nicholls, who was at the Seminar, posted the video writing:

Shakedown, Ezra Levant's impassioned take on how Human Rights Commissions are underming our individual rights, has inspired lots of people.

And one such person is a young performer named Lindy Vopnfjord who wrote a song to honour Ezra and his battle.

Mark Fournier posted about the song on Free Dominion (both Mark and Connie were in attendance at the Liberty Summer Seminar):

This is the latest song and video about the censorship and attacks on our freedoms by the Canadian Human Rights Commission perfomed by Lindy. It was recorded at the Liberty Summer Seminar in Orono, ON.

Don't miss this one!

Mark Steyn made a little reference to the song when he wrote, "...don't forget Lindy Vopnfjord's new Shakedown Song. Whole lotta shakin down' goin' on", including a link to Deborah Gyapong's blog which had the video embedded.

Gyapong wrote, "Spread the word. Let's see if we can get 100,000 views." 100,000 views is a tall order... but it might happen. And just how angry would the censors at the CHRC be if it did? It would be a PR nightmare. Nothing like an anthem to galvanize even more public opposition to the censorship powers of the CHRC.

Kathy Shaidle made reference to the video, and embedded it in a post today, as did Dr. Roy Eappen, who attends just about every Institute for Liberal Studies seminar.

Associate Editor Jesse Kline promptly posted a link over to the Western Standard's coverage of the song in a post titled "New song supports free speech, blasts HRCs", commenter Calgary Libertarian did as well, promising to attend next year's Liberty Summer Seminar, and Leigh Patrick Sullivan ("The Moderate Separatist") did his part by embedding the video.

If you have a blog, embed the video, and let us know in the comments. If you find references to the video in blogs that I haven't mentioned, please post that in the comments as well. The more the merrier. (And don't forget to rate the video, and to favourite it as well.)

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 29, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (14)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lindy performs "Shakedown," the pro-freedom of expression song, at the Liberty Summer Seminar

This past weekend was the ninth annual Liberty Summer Seminar held in Orono, Ontario. We will release video of all the speeches and events shortly, but we have a very special video that we are releasing right now.

The incredibly talented musician Lindy Vopnfjord put together a song in honour of our friend and former publisher, Ezra Levant, and his continuing battle against the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The song, appropriately called "Shakedown," sharing a name with Ezra's book, is a tribute to freedom of expression, and hammers home the message that the Canadian Human Rights Commissions are in violation of this traditional Canadian freedom.

The song was debuted at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar. Here is the video:

The song will be released on iTunes within the next two weeks. We will let you know when it's available, so that we can all support a Canadian musician who deserves to get some change out of our pockets for his efforts.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on July 28, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Crushing: a limit on freedom of expression

There is a practice known as 'crushing'. It involves taking videos or pictures of a human being crushing an animal, often a dog or a cat, with heals or some other cruel device. I won't link or post any of these pictures but I'm sure if you look for them you will find them. They are disgusting and heart breaking but freedom of expression is used to defend such practices.

This raises an interesting question. To what extent do animals have rights? Or maybe to put it a better way, how much is the state obligated to protect animals against cruelty? Does John Stuart Mills' harm principle apply to animals? If it does then meat should be banned if it doesn't then these practices are tolerable.

Luckily I don't have to be that black or white about it. Doing a harm to a non-sentient creature is not morally nor should it be legally equivalent to doing harm to a sentient creature. Yet the non-sentient creature is alive and should be afforded greater consideration than a chair or a rock. After all in the case of a fire there is not a fireman alive that wouldn't save a puppy before they would save a chair. So the question becomes to what extent should we give animals consideration.

Torturing an animal to death for pleasure is over the limit. The harm is too great to be tolerable, even if it is just a rabbit.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on July 18, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (76)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nazi children taken away

Last year in Winnipeg, a 7 year old girl went to school with a swastika drawn on her arm. It was later revealed that the girls mother drew the symbol on her daughters arm to send a message to the school; that she was upset about discrimination against white people at the school, which prominently displayed posters boosting minority pride, but not for white people.

Child and Family Services were called in who went to the home of the girl. Once there, they saw neo-Nazi symbols and flags. On the spot, CFS took the girls 2 year old brother away from his family, the girl was taken from the school and never went back home.

Social workers at the time had this to say.

In court documents, social workers say they're worried the parents' conduct and associations might harm the emotional well-being of the children and put them at risk.

I find a threat that the emotional well-being "might" be harmed to be quite non-specific. That could be said of nearly every household in Canada.

Since the kids were originally taken more details about the parents have come out; that the mother may have a mental defect, some drug and alcohol abuse, and instability in the home. These points are moot though since they kids were removed from their parents long before these details came out; they were taken because the CFS workers didn't like the beliefs of the parents.

For now it's neo-Nazi's, later it may be people who teach bigotry about Aboriginals, or homosexuals, or another particular group.

Manitoba Child and Family Services are seeking permanent custody of the children, who have been in foster care since being kidnapped from their parents. The custody trial wrapped up on Friday, which a decision still to be made by the courts, which could take weeks or months.

While I do not approve of racist attitudes and beliefs, I also believe in free speech and free thought, even when I disagree with that speech and those thoughts. It is and should not be illegal to be a racist, promote your racism and teach it to your children; if you want to be able to teach your kids your values then you must allow the same for other people.

Posted by Freedom Manitoba on July 5, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (58)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CTF censored by YouTube?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is claiming that shortly after the group posted a video to YouTube exposing how the Canadian government paid an American artist to create a giant red ball for a Toronto arts festival, their entire YouTube channel was hit with a copyright violation from Business News Network and forced to shut down. Coincidence? Maybe.

While the YouTube channel is back online, I have taken the liberty of creating a backup of the video to help ensure it is not censored again:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Posted by Jesse Kline on June 23, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (27)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jennifer Lynch may have a file on you

As revealed in The National Post, Jennifer Lynch, head of the CHRC, has been keeping a massive file on bloggers who criticize the Commission.

Who knows what's in that file? Lynch is quoted as saying she has "1,200" entries. Maybe I'm in there. Maybe you are, too, especially if you blog or comment under your real name.

Taking a suggestion from Jay Currie and Blazing Cat Fur, perhaps it's time to find out what's contained in the file Lynch keeps on her most impudent critics. Five bucks and this form will start you on your way to an Access to Information request.

I'm not going to argue with Dawg, who claims it is standard practice for government agencies to keep tabs on their media critics. Maybe it is. But the CHRC is a particularly contemptible branch of the government; burying it under a mountain of paperwork seems the least we can do.

Besides, Lynch and her merry band of censors could use a distraction. From what I hear, the trouncing they're getting from people like Erza has them all feeling a little under the weather. With few friends left, a flurry of information requests might make those at the CHRC feel wanted again.

And it's nice to feel wanted, isn't it?

UPDATE:

Jay also suggests that Lynch's file may violate the Privacy Act.

UPDATE2:

Thinking about it, there's something slightly more disconcerting about the CHRC keeping files on its critics than, say, someone at the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. In Lynch's case, the same people keeping the files will be the ones investigating hate speech complaints. Compare that to an equivalent case with the FDA: when a prominent anti-drug law libertarian denounces the FDA's classification of marijuana as a Section 1 drug, perhaps the FDA makes a note in a file. But big deal. It's not the FDA that investigates and prosecutes people for drug offenses, and so at least an illusion of impartiality can be maintained.

Not so with the CHRC. The very people keeping tabs on their critics will be assessing and investigating complaints made, possibly complaints about those very critics. I wouldn't want to bet that I'd get fair consideration under those circumstances. Would you?

Posted by Terrence Watson on June 22, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (22)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Self-censorship is not the answer

Although the article that I’m about to discuss is hardly news anymore, with the increasing awareness of the Canadian HRC’s shenanigans, it’s as relevant if not more than it was when it was released. The article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Saint Mary’s University’s student newspaper The Journal. Professor Mark Mercer writes a column in the paper oddly titled “The Cranky Professor”. Apparently having an opinion is considered cranky these days – who knew? I have to admit even as a student of SMU, that Mercer’s words are the only ones in the entire paper that doesn’t make me want to vomit. The rest of the typical, far left, anti-Harper garbage riddling Canadian universities, but that’s a whole different topic.

As a brief summary of the background behind Mercer’s article “Making Saint Mary’s a safe place for discussion and debate”, the pro-life speaker Jose Ruba was personally invited by a student group to come and talk. As expected, a large pro-choice student group stormed in and disrupted the discussion, closing the door of what could have been excellent university debate with a respected man. Mark mercer points out how badly the fiasco was handled. Again to summarize, the security at SMU could not handle the mob of angry hippies yelling at the invitee standing perplexed at the front of the lecture room, and also failed to get any sort of back up. The normal thing to do would be to call the police right away and let them handle the situation – cops are the kryptonite of far-left activists after all. When the police finally arrived, the school makes the Jose Ruba and the students that were listening to him move. Somehow giving the protesters what they wanted (to a lesser degree of course, God only knows what they would have liked to do to Ruba) while punishing those involved in the lecture at the same time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, or Mercer for that matter. Mercer outlines what the school should have done in the first place and what they should do in the future, which is great. What isn’t great is the high probability of the school not heeding a word he says. The point here anyway is to highlight professors that aren’t sheep in the herd and to expose the degradation of free speech in Canadian universities.

As far as I know, the school also failed to invite Jose Ruba back for a secured presentation and didn’t issue a public apology. Instead, the school declared victory over the protesters by moving it. They sure showed those pesky protesters who’s boss! The public letter also conveniently forgot to condemn the disruption or warn against future disruptions. After all, according to the world of academia, a supposed “balance” is more important than silly things like civil rights. If civil discussion is now equated to yelling, screaming, cursing, and angrily chanting, then I have no hope for the future of Canadian universities. As Mr. Mercer puts it:

We have to insist that the university and all university groups, not engage in self-censorship. We must not fear protests or human rights complains. We have to ensure that Saint Mary’s not give in to bullies who would threatened to bring before a human rights commission.

It appears that the message of Ezra Levant and other champions of recent civil rights is popping up just about anywhere common-sense and morality is. It’s an issue that transcends groups and parties with a common theme: Today’s “human rights” organizations are feared no matter where you go, and rightly so. It’s bad enough that SMU failed horribly with this matter, If the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission got involved, it would be quite the story, to say the least.

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on June 21, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Left-o-sphere and the CHRC

Academic and blogger Marc Bourrie had a good post recently on the Orwellian tactics of Commissar Lynch and the CHRC. Given that he has done doctoral research on the history of state censorship in Canada, his opinions on this matter carry some weight.

But there's another reason why his post is worth reading, for if you take a look at the comments section you will discover everything you need to know about the intellectual bankruptcy of the port side of the Canadian blogosphere. In response to Bourrie's reasoned criticisms of the HRCs, the luminaries of Canada's nutroots - Dawgie and BCL in particular - have nothing to say. They evince no concern about due process, the rule of law, free speech rights, Warman's internet shenanigans, etc. No, for them the real issue is Ezra Levant's honesty (Robert McClelland calls him a "lying douchebag" in the first comment).

Setting aside the hilarity of BCL lecturing anyone about factual accuracy, the refusal of these bloggers to debate the real issues is in sharp contrast to the principled stance taken by Borovoy, Saul, PEN Canada, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Egale Canada, Professor Moon (and many other left of center voices), all of whom have come out against Section 13 and its provincial equivalents (or at the very least admit that there are serious problems with the way the commissions and tribunals operate).

But why bother debating the real issues when you can smear your opponents as liars and crypto-Nazis?

Posted by Craig Yirush on June 18, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (122)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jonathan Rauch assesses the state of free speech

 The Economist's Democracy in America blog interviews Jonathan Rauch:

The Economist: Since your book "Kindly Inquisitors" came out, free speech has taken quite a few more knocks, culminating in a recent non-binding resolution from a UN body banning "defamation of religion". Have things gotten worse since 1995? And are free-speech advocates right to fight back by, for example, publishing cartoons of Muhammad in Danish newspapers?

Jonathan Rauch: Things are worse and better, depending where you look. Since K.I., free speech has learned to fight back against political correctness on university campuses. FIRE, for example, has made university administrators worry about getting sued or shamed if they cave in to repressive demands. That represents an important shift in the power equation.

On the other hand, campaigns by Islamic extremists to shut down full and frank discussion of religion seem to have made headway in Europe, or so Bruce Bawer says. I haven't yet read his forthcoming book on the subject, but I pay attention to Bruce on this issue, partly because he is openly gay and gay people are the canary in the mine shaft where civil liberties are concerned. First the gays, then...

Yes, I think free-speech advocates do need to fight back. I don't mean violently, of course. But freedom of expression and freedom of religion are the two great bulwarks of modern liberalism, and neither is self-enforcing. As we have learned in American universities, political correctness and other kinds of campaigns to muzzle dissent on grounds of sensitivity are really about power, not compassion, and the only thing power respects is power.

Like John Stuart Mill, the case Rauch makes for free speech against humanitarian, egalitarian, fundamentalist, and politically correct impulses is largely epistemological: 

In a liberal society, knowledge is the rolling critical consensus of a decentralized community of checkers. That is so not by the power of law but by the deeper power of a common liberal morality...

Liberal systems, although far from perfect, have at least two great advantages: They can channel conflict rather than obliterate it, and they give a certain degree of protection from centrally administered abuse. The liberal intellectual system is no exception. It causes pain to people whose views are criticized, still more to those whose views fail to check out and so are rejected. But there are two important consolations. First, no one gets to run the system to his own advantage or stay in charge for long. Whatever you can do to me, I can do to you. Those who are criticized may give as good as they get. Second, the books are never closed, and the game is never over.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 25, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Totalitarianism is gross

At what point do restrictions on artistic free speech begin the slippery slope towards totalitarianism? Gary Clements thinks it begins with "degenerate art"...

Posted by Alina on May 19, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ezra Levant appears on Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld

Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard, and author of the best-selling Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights, appeared on Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld last night. Here's video of Ezra's appearance:

Ezra is right, of course. The Canadian Human Rights Commission really is un-Canadian. One way to really let the Canadian censors know they're not welcome in Canada is to continue to keep Ezra's book at the top of the best-sellers list. You can do your part by buying the book on Amazon.ca.

h/t: Ezra's blog

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on May 19, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 arrested for waving Tamil Tigers flags in Britain

Tamilflags

Canada isn’t the only western country facing protests by ethnic Tamils.  While not on the scale of what we see in Toronto, similar protests (including blocked streets) have appeared in Washington, Sydney, and London.

The Toronto Star call’s it a test of our tolerance.  In a way I think it is, and in London they’ve failed it:

The Metropolitan Police of London said they have arrested five LTTE [Tamil Tiger] demonstrators opposite the Russian Embassy at Kensington Palace Gardens at Bays Water Road junction in Central London for displaying material which supports a proscribed organization in the United Kingdom.

The Russian Embassy is the latest place the usually violent LTTE went for demonstrations but unlike at the Sri Lankan, Chinese and Indian offices of envoys the 150 strong crowd was more tamed. The five were arrested under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act for displaying material in support of a terrorist group.

Although the LTTE members were blatantly displaying the Fascist terrorist flags of their outfit before in front of foreign diplomatic offices this is the first time they were arrested for carrying the flag of the leaping ferocious Tiger.

Leave aside the usual immigration and multiculturalism angles for the moment – let’s be clear of the facts here: the protesters in London were peaceful and they were arrested for carrying the flags of a terrorist group.  British or not, immigrant or not, it’s a clear violation of their human right to free expression.

If you call yourself a speecher, or a libertarian, then you must (and I do) totally and unreservedly support the right of these terrorist sympathizers to wave the flag of the organization which invented the suicide vest.

Not to be overly dramatic, but as the old saw goes “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  I’m not asking you to jump on a landmine, but spare a word or two in the comments in support of the rights of these people to wave their rotten flag.

Posted by Robert Jago on May 16, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (24)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Campaign finance laws: the road to censorship?

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was heard by the US Supreme Court in March--if the court were to agree with the FEC's interpretation of the campaign finance laws already on the books when the decision comes down this summer, the First Amendment would be completely gutted and free speech would be no more in the land of the free.

The arguments presented by the FEC's lawyers demonstrate just how slippery that slope of regulating campaign finances and political speech can be. I'm just hoping we don't find out what's at the bottom.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 11, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Alberta government criticized for failing to reform the human rights commission

A modified excerpt of former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant's book Shakedown: How the Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights appears in the June 2009 edition of Reason Magazine. In the article, Levant gives a good account of how he was dragged in front the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC) in an apparent attempt to punish him for publishing a series of Danish cartoons that depicted the prophet Muhammad. Levant explains how he told off the commission and used the power of the Internet to publicize it's outrageous behaviour:

I had prepared an opening statement. 'When the Western Standard magazine printed the Danish cartoons of Muhammad two years ago,' I said, 'it was the proudest moment of my public life. I would do it again today. In fact, I did do it again today.…I posted the cartoons this morning on my website, EzraLevant.com.' It was more refined than telling McGovern to fuck off, but it had the same effect. She was stunned.… When I got home, I watched the video of the interrogation. Then I spent the weekend uploading clips onto the Internet, using the video site YouTube. I emailed a couple of dozen friends, relatives, and colleagues about them. I thought the clips would get 1,000 views, maybe 10,000 at most. But that weekend, my 'channel' on YouTube was the fifth-most-watched video site on the Internet. Within 10 days, 400,000 people had seen them.

Levant did not stop there. His recently published book and whirlwind media tour have done much to promote freedom of speech and expose the egregious policies of provincial and federal human rights commissions. As of a few weeks ago, it looked as though his efforts may have spurred concrete policy reforms in the Province of Alberta.

"We want the [human rights] commission to be a quasi-judicial body that has some teeth, that has some credibility but doesn't operate like a kangaroo court," said Lindsay Blackett—the minister responsible for the commission—after The Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership released a report that was critical of the AHRCC.

Having the minister lash out against this quasi-judicial body, however, was not enough to force the Stelmach government to make the changes necessary to get the commission out of the censorship business altogether. The government recently tabled Bill 44, which will amend the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act but fails to deal with section 3, which gives the commission the power to deal with matters of expression and speech (this was previously reported on by the Western Standard here and here).

Not only does the bill fail to protect freedom of speech, it also introduces a controversial new measure that protects the rights of parents to pull their children out of classes that deal with religious subject matter, even though the same rights are given under the School Act. The redundancy of this legislation can only be construed as an attempt to divert attention away from the free speech issue. Even Blackett doesn't seem pleased with the way this has turned out. In a recent interview with Rob Breakenridge, Blackett spent most of his time blaming his caucus colleagues for the government's failure to enact any meaningful reforms, rather than defending the policies of his own ministry. These sentiments were echoed by Levant who placed the blame squarely on the premier.

The Sheldon Chumir Foundation has also criticized the proposed reforms for failing to protect freedom of speech. "While there are positive aspects to Bill 44, on balance the proposed legislation is a great disappointment," said Janet Keeping, president of the Foundation.

Despite these recent setbacks, Canadians need to remain vigilant. We need to keep this issue in the media and continue to pressure governments to reform these commissions. Freedom of speech is not just an important human right, it is essential to the maintenance of a free and democratic society. The Stelmach government should be ashamed by its failure to rein in the commission and uphold such a fundamental value.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 4, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pro-Randy Hillier website pops up, insists we need to abolish the HRCs

I got an email today alerting me to a new website -- "abolishhrcs.ca".

The website is fairly minimalist, and looks to be a one hour job. In addition, it seems to be a Randy Hillier support site. Hillier, as Shotgun readers are well aware, is running for the Ontario PC leadership and has released policy which would, in effect, abolish the HRC in Ontario. An excerpt:

Across Canada, human rights tribunals are being used to silence Christians and force them to violate their conscience. This is just plain wrong, and elected lawmakers have a duty to address the emerging problem.

Finally – a politician is running for office who is prepared to do something about it!

Ontario’s PC Party is currently preparing to elect a new leader. One of the candidates – Randy Hillier – has proposed abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Commission and enacting freedom of conscience legislation to protect the rights of professionals and businesspeople of all faiths.

This is the first time that a candidate for leader of a major political party in Canada has put forward such a policy; but unless Ontario residents support the initiative it may be the last time!

The website comes with this interesting video, which focuses on the particular attention that Christians have received at the hands of the Human Rights Commissions:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 30, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

London Free Press editor lacked energy to cover the free speech panel in London

Remember that big event in London, Ontario last week? The one that drew 600 people to an IMAX? The one that had that national best-selling author?

If you don't remember, it might be because newspapers didn't think covering the free speech panel -- put on by the Forest City Institute, with Ezra Levant, Kathy Shaidle and Salim Mansur as speakers -- was worth their while. Not even the local paper, the London Free Press, thought to send a reporter to cover it.

Thankfully, Paul Berton, the editor, is catching some flak over failing to cover the event, as evidenced by this long thread (which you can participate in as well).

For more on the story, check out Mark Steyn's commentary here, and here. An excerpt from the first:

Aside from Paul Berton's lack of "energy", which is certainly reflected in his prose style, there's basic journalistic malpractice going on here: Bicycle Boy decided he'd determined the narrative - "Hatemonger en route to London!" - and when the plot wiggled free of him the paper simply dropped the story as if it had never happened.

Meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure, here is the event in its entirety, courtesy of Lumpy, Grumpy and Frumpy (first segment above the fold, the rest below). You can judge for yourself whether or not it was newsworthy. In my judgment, it definitely was.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 22, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ezra Levant, Kathy Shaidle and Salim Mansur draw massive pro-free expression audience in London

The Forest City Institute hosted three of Canada's finest free speech defenders in London, Ontario this past Monday, April 13th. The event drew 600 (!) people, packing in the London IMax theatre. That's an enormous audience. Considering that there was a $5 cover charge, you're looking at what can only be called a tremendous success.

The speakers were Ezra Levant, Kathy Shaidle, and Salim Mansur. Shaidle has provided a copy of her speech here, which you can read. If, instead, you prefer to watch her give the talk, here's the video (we'll post the other parts just as soon as they're online):


Human Rights Commissions: Useful or Obsolete? Part 1: Intro & Kathy Shaidle from josephinejosephine on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn has a wonderful round-up of bloggers' reactions. Why just reactions from bloggers? Because, near as I can tell, no major news media decided to cover the event. If you've got better skills at foraging in the MSM than I do, please provide a link in the comments. In fact, if you have a blog, and you were in attendance, drop a link in our comments and we'll check it out.

Video h/t: Lumpy, Grumpy and Frumpy

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 15, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ezra Levant talks Shakedown at Fraser Institute's "Behind the Spin"

Here's our former publisher, and good friend, Ezra Levant discussing the Canadian Human Rights Commission and his national, best-selling Shakedown: How our government is undermining democracy in the name of human rights:

h/t: Ezra Levant

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 11, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is Canada a safe-haven for Communist apparatchiks?

The chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Union published an opinion piece yesterday in the Kiev Post expressing concern about Canada becoming a safe-haven for the criminal minds of Communism. He notes that in April 2005, a journalist broke a story in a national Canadian newspaper about Communist NKDV members in Canada. Since then, the issue seems to have dropped off the Canadian media's radar. In the author's words:

Even more intriguing is how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s War Crimes Unit, asked to investigate allegations about Communist collaborators in Canada, responded with the rather limp finding that they had insufficient evidence upon which to act.

Apparently, when a man admits he was in the NKVD and brags about the people he killed and provides his memoirs in English in a book available in public libraries, the police don’t see that as proof of any wrongdoing. Maybe they’re waiting for Hollywood to turn the manuscript into a movie.

After World War II, screening procedures were supposed to exclude Nazis and Communists from Canada. So if a man declares he was in the NKVD and broadcasts that fact from Toronto, either he is a liar or he lied to get into Canada. In any case, we know that Communist killers are here. They shouldn’t be.

All of Stalin’s surviving minions are elderly. Yet it’s not too late to see justice done. They deserve no more mercy than they meted out. And now they should be expelled. They can finish out their lives as burdens upon those whom they served. I’d bet they won’t find Moscow or Minsk as comfortable as Montreal.

Canadians are compassionate. Not only do we strive to do what’s right, we also honor the righteous. We did in 1985 when Canada conferred honorary citizenship on Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Yet it was not the Nazis who did him in. SMERSH agents abducted Wallenberg in Budapest in January 1945, then carted him off to the notorious Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Probably no one now here was directly involved, yet all who served Stalin in those days are complicit. No one wants such scoundrels here. You’d think a Conservative government would get that. Apparently they don’t. They will.

I don't think the author is being unfair here. This is not a free speech issue; he is not calling for outlawing  the Communist Party of Canada, for example. He is merely pointing out that Canada should not be a safe-haven for Communist oppressors. The fact that many of these Communist oppressors have not been officially designated war criminals is a result of failings in the international community to apply human rights law to the crimes of the Soviet Union and former Eastern bloc states. It is not because this criminal class of Communists does not exist.

The conservative Canadian government should exercise more discretion in offering the privilege of citizenship. Perhaps Stephen Harper's political courtship of the radical center is distracting him from maintaining a conservative position on who is deserving of Canadian citizenship. After all, citizenship is not available to wild animals or convicted Nazis-- why should former Communist criminals receive this privilege? I can't imagine how men like Joe Schlesinger might feel knowing that these communist criminals could end up living across the street from him.

Posted by Alina on April 10, 2009 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ezra Levant on Fraser TV talking about Shakedown

Here's our former publisher Ezra Levant talking about our ridiculous "human rights" commissions, which he has chronicled in his best-selling (!) new book entitled Shakedown: How our government is undermining democracy in the name of human rights:

h/t: Ezra's place, of course

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on April 6, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 30, 2009

George Galloway's speech, live now

British MP George Galloway has been banned from Canada, but that hasn't stopped him from speaking his mind, or reaching Canadians. Here's the live video from Rabble.TV:

[Note: We may not support what Galloway has to say, but we do support his freedom of speech. His being barred from Canada is part of the reason why we are posting this video. It has become significant news. Whereas, had Galloway just been permitted to come into Canada, it would have been a minor story.

Meanwhile, general manager Kalim Kassam is at a church in Toronto where the telecast is being broadcast live. He will report back to us later tonight, or early tomorrow.]

UPDATE: Our coverage of the banning of George Galloway: Lorne Gunter on Galloway, NDP press release on Galloway, BC Civil Liberties Association on the banning of Galloway.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on March 30, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (38)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ezra Levant on the Michael Coren show, talking about Shakedown

Here are the clips of Ezra Levant chatting with Michael Coren. The conversation is about Ezra's brand-new book entitled Shakedown: How our government is undermining democracy in the name of human rights.

I haven't had a chance to pick up Ezra's new book, but Matthew Johnston, our publisher, tells me that it's "incredible." Matthew says he picked it up to read one morning, and didn't stop until he was finished. That's very high praise.

You can pick up Ezra's book by clicking on the image below. For U.S. customers, use this link: Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights

Part 1 (the rest below the fold)

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

h/t: Ezra, of course

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on March 25, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (9)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Britain talks "Modern Liberty"

Britain's left and right got together yesterday for a "Convention on Modern Liberty".  It has a broad agenda - not just the obvious threats to liberty like state-owned DNA data banks, and Antisocial Behaviour Orders, but also subtler things, like the smiley-faced multilateral 'caring and sharing' fascism we Canadians know and loathe:

[Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship] explained the difficult task of promoting freedom of expression and fighting censorship when even UN bodies were tasked with monitoring speeches or writings on the grounds of religious or racial "discrimination". She pointed to the recent decision of the UK government to ban the Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country on the grounds that his hostility to Islam threatened public security. "Pre-emptive censorship enflames the situation", she said. The claim that liberty was better served by censorship was an "Alice in Wonderland view of human rights".

To illustrate just how tedious the situation has become in Britain, just look at what's actually involved in holding a convention in the modern security-state:

A grim future of form filling and bureaucracy is the one that the government plans for us all. In just four new forms –the application form for the National ID Card, the controversial 696 form for promoters of live events in London, Form 27 issued as a dispersal notice and the form for all travellers leaving Britain – there are 153 questions to be answered.

The organisers of the Convention on Modern Liberty believe that these questions not only symbolize a new era of intrusiveness but they represent a huge waste of time, which will cost hundreds of thousands of man hours. “It is classic mark of authoritarian regimes to make life difficult for the ordinary citizen and fill his time with needless bureaucracy,” said Convention co-director Henry Porter. ‘ We hold that all these forms are unnecessary and they intrude upon the life of the man in the street to unacceptable degree.”

You can find a lot more on the convention on the Guardian's Civil 'Liberty Central' page. 

Exit question: is there a single newspaper or magazine in this entire country with an equivalent of the Guardian's 'Civil Liberties' section?

Posted by Robert Jago on March 1, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (21)

Monday, February 23, 2009

No fare: Atheist bus ads get booted from buses

The atheist bus campaign, a campaign to post atheist advertising on public transit, has hit a snare in the cities of Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa. While several cities in Canada, including Toronto, have happily displayed the advertisements, the public transit authorities in Halifax, Vancouver, and Ottawa have refused to permit them on their buses. It might cause offense, you see.

The adverts, which read "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," have caused some offense, but they've also sparked a public discussion about ethics and public policy. And the hypocritical nature of the selective prohibition by public transit bureaucrats has raised our ire here at the Western Standard (Shotgun blogger and Catholic Terry O'Neill posted about the Vancouver decision here). If religious messages are permitted on public property like buses, then so, too, should these atheist bus ads be permitted as well.

We asked Justin Trottier, executive director of the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, to put together a piece for us on the atheist bus ads and freedom of expression. Trottier sent us a piece entitled "No fare: Atheist bus ads get booted off the bus."

Here are a few excerpts:

Atheists are... naturally quite uncompromising defenders of free expression. It is our hope that as champions for everyone’s right to this fundamental freedom, atheists will find common ground with other defenders of speech and expression and enter the mainstream. This includes championing free speech against city transit policies that would keep any statement that is religious or ideological in nature off transit property.

Freedom of speech was a key issue for our community long before this campaign, which itself was launched for other goals, like atheist and humanist acceptance and mobilization. The Centre for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression was a response to many developments local, national and international that point to free speech as a defining issue at this time.

Read the rest here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 23, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (43)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Orin Kerr's Guide to Blogging

Rule #128:

In a moderated comment thread, there is a 50% chance that a commenter who had an uncivil comment deleted will accuse the moderator of censorship and question the moderator's commitment to free speech. (Because if the First Amendment means anything, it's the right to do what you want with someone else's private property without the property owner being able to clean up your mess.)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 12, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Canadian Civil Liberties Association defending the freedom of expression of campus pro-life clubs

With the University of Calgary's student union decision to eliminate club status for a Campus Pro-Life student club, and the club facing trespassing charges for a Genocide Awareness Project, a few commenters were wondering what the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) position on the issue was.

Kalim Kassam, general manager of the Western Standard, sent a request to the CCLA for comment on the issue. They obliged with much more than merely a comment, they sent us a copy of a letter they sent to the Canadian Federation of Students when they had decided that they would support student governments that chose to withdraw club status from pro-life campus groups.

The full letter appears below the fold:

Re: Freedom of Expression and Association on University Campuses

This is to express the concern of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) regarding a resolution adopted, not long ago, by the Canadian Federation of Students. According to this resolution, the support of the Federation would be provided to those "member locals that refused to allow anti-choice organizations access to their resources and space". In short, anti-abortion organizations would become ineligible for the kind of basic services and amenities currently available to a wide variety of political, social, religious, and ideological organizations on the university campuses of this country.

Before and since the enactment of this resolution, numbers of student governments across the country have moved to disqualify "anti-choice" organizations. Such student governments include those at Carleton, York, Memorial, Lakehead, Victoria, British Columbia-Okanagan, Guelph, and Capilano College.

The irrepressible question is: "Why?" Of the wide variety of philosophies and points of view whose organizations can obtain and retain such campus recognition, why should the anti-choice side of the abortion debate be singled out for such official stigmatization? On so many of these campuses, there are Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim organizations conducting their respective activities. What is there about these anti-abortion groups that warrants such special denigration?

A fairly typical explanation came from the coordinator of the Sexual Assault Centre at the University of Victoria. She reportedly said that the anti-choice organizations "are asking to take away women's control of their own bodies, ...". A member of the national executive of the Canadian Federation of Students charged that anti-choice groups would "take away people's rights". She even compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.

These may be valid reasons to challenge anti-abortion organizations, but not to muzzle them. The proper response is argument, not censorship.

As for the comparison with the Ku Klux Klan, it is simply inappropriate. For these purposes, it is not necessary to resolve - or even to address - the issue of what, if any, limits can validly be imposed upon all campus controversies. Suffice it to acknowledge that anti-abortion organizations are not remotely similar to the KKK. The arguments against abortion engage the vexing issue of when life and/or personhood begins and the balance between the protection of such "persons" and the autonomy of women. This is certainly a legitimate subject for debate at the university and in general society.

Moreover, to whatever extent any organization operating on campus advocates the enactment of laws, they could well "take away [some] people's rights". In urging additional taxes on corporations, the New Democratic Party would "take away" the rights of certain investors. In promoting more effective human rights laws, many minority groups and their allies would "take away" certain rights of employers and landlords. In promoting the expansion or contraction of medicare, advocates would "take away" the rights of either medical consumers or providers, as the case may be.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine a current conflict that is not susceptible to such an analysis. On many campuses, for example, there are severe controversies regarding the Middle East. Each side would probably "take away" some rights from either Israelis or Palestinians. On the basis of their analysis, therefore, the student leaders who would restrict the anti-abortion groups would have to eliminate virtually all campus debates. The logical outgrowth of such an approach is the absurdity recently adopted by the Lakehead student government: only positive messages will be acceptable.

Despite the strongly pro-choice orientation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, we are deeply disquieted over these developments in the university student community. At issue, in our view, is nothing less than the viability of free speech on the university campuses of this country. It appears that a great many students harbour an inadequate appreciation of this fundamental freedom.

Of all the freedoms in the democratic system, freedom of expression may be the most crucial. It is the vehicle through which any of us may attempt to mobilize public support for the redress of our various grievances. Experience has taught us that injustice is less likely to endure - or even to emerge - in an atmosphere of free public debate and controversy. Shine the spotlight of public opinion on an unjust practice and you have set the stage for that practice to wilt. In this sense, freedom of expression is a strategic freedom. It is the freedom upon which all other freedoms depend. A wise old trade unionist once described free speech as the "grievance procedure" of the democratic system.

But free speech is even more. It is also the means by which the quest for truth may be pursued. It enables a plurality of ideas to compete openly so that they might demonstrate their respective validity. Political, social, and philosophical questions are resolved, not by forced coercion but by free discussion. And that discussion is enhanced by the right to explore contesting ideas and alternate approaches.

Indeed, the pro-choice side of the abortion debate owes its many victories in this country to the availability of free speech. This right enabled free choice advocates to demonstrate, remonstrate, educate, and agitate on behalf of their cause. Like with so many other social issues, the campaigns for choice were waged on university campuses as well as in the community at large.

One of the central tenets of a university education is the adventurous search for truth. This means that faculty and students must be free to ask challenging questions and to express provocative opinions. As an institution, the university's commitment should not be to any particular ideology or point of view, but to the methods of intelligent inquiry itself.

The moment that universities and student governments depart from the principle of institutional neutrality on such questions, they incur a considerable risk that raw political power will determine the scope of permissible campus speech. Such an outcome represents the very antithesis of intellectual freedom. The right of effective participation in campus life would become dependent upon the vagaries of what ideology enjoyed political ascendency at any given time.

Thus, the best hope there is for a meaningful state of intellectual freedom is to promote as wide a consensus as possible that the university and its student governments must eschew ideological positions of this kind. Those pro-choice advocates who may be enjoying campus power today are being very short-sighted. They are paving the way for anti-choice advocates to behave similarly in the event that power alignments begin to change.

Whether, therefore, we be pro-choice or anti-choice, capitalist or socialist, religious or secular, federalist or separatist, it behooves us to defend, sustain, and promote a viable regime of free speech. We all have a stake in it. For these purposes, it is important to defend our opponents as well as our supporters.

In consequence, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association calls upon your student government to dissent from the position adopted on this matter by the Canadian Federation of Students. We ask that you apply your club recognition policy in accordance with the free speech principles articulated above and that you petition the Canadian Federation of Students to rescind its resolution. In our view, the action we recommend is vital to the restoration of the kind of principles that ought to prevail in university life -- and indeed in our democratic society as a whole.

We thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

A. Alan Borovoy
General Counsel

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director, Freedom of Expression Project

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 11, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

(Video) Ezra Levant on the Michael Coren Show

Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard, was on Michael Coren's television show to, once again, man the barricades for freedom of expression.

Here's part one, the remainder are below the fold:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 11, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (7)

University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life student club loses its status

According to the Calgary Herald:

After a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes Tuesday, the U of C's clubs committee decided to de-sanction the Campus Pro-Life club because its Genocide Awareness Project violated policy in November.

"This action is a disturbing abuse of power," said club vice-president Cameron Wilson. "It is an abuse of power when the body elected to protect us heaps further oppression upon us."

Without students' union sanctioning, the Campus Pro-Life club will lose privileges such as the use of meeting rooms, the ability to borrow equipment and some funding.

During Tuesday's hearing, pro-life club secretary Asia Strezynski repeatedly asked committee chairwoman Alex Judd what policy had been violated, but the committee referred only to a bylaw that gives the students' union the right to punish a club for breaching policies.

Outside the hearing, students' union president Dalmy Baez said a letter sent to the club by the U ofCadministrationrequiring it to turn displays of images of aborted fetuses inward constituted a policy. The display juxtaposed the photos with images of murdered victims of the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.

Baez admitted the enforcement appears to be narrowly applied.

"We have not seen that policy implemented for any other group," said Baez.

She also said the students' union, which received a copy of the letter, chose not to oppose the university policy.

"We felt the limitations stipulated in the policy were not unreasonable," she said.

"It was not an infringement on free speech."

Not an infringement of freedom of speech? That may be, but, as the Metro reports, the pro-life students have not yet dealt with the trespassing charges in court. Unless the students really are guilty of trespassing, shutting them down is a violation of their freedom of expression:

“They haven’t even provided us with a specific violation that we’ve committed,” said Alanna Campbell, pro-life group treasurer. “We were hoping our Student’s Union would stick up for their student’s rights and freedoms, but they are obviously not going to.”

Campbell confirmed the group would no longer be able to access funding.

The club plans to make an appeal to the Student’s Union within the allotted five days.

Gerald Gall, a law professor at the University of Alberta, said the Student’s Union should have waited for the court case’s verdict on Feb. 27 before making its own.

“They’re innocent until proven guilty — it’s as simple as that. They should have just been patient and waited to see what happens in the criminal process.”

Here's video from CityTV Calgary about the hearing:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 11, 2009 in Campus watch, Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Justice committee to debate merits of section 13.1 of the Human Rights Act

Conservative MP Brian Storseth wants a review of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the role of the commission itself.

According to the Globe and Mail:

He told the committee last week that "concerns have been raised regarding the investigative techniques of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the interpretation and application of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act."[...]

The issue of whether the commission should be permitted to investigate alleged incidents of hate speech has prompted passionate responses from those on both sides of the debate.

The federal Conservatives voted at a party convention in November to support an end to Section 13, which deals specifically with hate messages spread by telephone or the Internet. It was a decision that was roundly applauded by conservative bloggers.

In a high-profile report on the matter released in November, University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon urged the commission to get out of the business of trying to censor hate speech.

Prof. Moon argued that freedom of expression trumps overbroad minority-rights laws and that any policing of hate messages should be handled under the Criminal Code, which prohibits willfully inciting hatred.

Jennifer Lynch, the chief human-rights commissioner, has promised to consult with the public regarding possible changes to the act and report to Parliament this year.

The question on everyone's mind is, of course, whether or not Jennifer Lynch will have time in-between her flights abroad to do all that consulting. Perhaps she can consult Canadians who also happen to be vacationing in Vienna.

Separately, you can catch the discussion here from 3:30 until 5:30 Eastern Time.

h/t: SDA

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 9, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (7)