Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

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)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stagliano gets off on all charges


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


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)

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)

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)

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:


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)

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?


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


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

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 arrested for waving Tamil Tigers flags in Britain


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)

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)

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)

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 04, 2009

Is pro-life activist Bill Whatcott the victim of malicious prosecution?

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan found against Bill Whatcott today in his legal action for malicious prosecution against several Prince Albert police officers. 

Whatcott has been repeatedly arrested and jailed in Prince Albert for protesting abortion using some rather objectionable visual aids to make his case for what he considers to be a murderous practice. The charges, however, are always dropped or Whatcott is acquitted. The police are arresting Whatcott and the courts are setting him free, creating a pattern that looks suspiciously like malicious prosecution.

The charges by Prince Albert police were first laid against Whatcott for showing pictures of aborted fetuses on busy street corners in Prince Albert. 

The following is a summary of the charges against Whatcott provided by his pro bono laywer Tom Schuck:

a) 2002 - Charged with Obscenity for showing pictures of aborted fetuses and jailed.

Charges dropped after a not guilty plea was entered.

b) 2003 - Charged with stunting and resisting arrest and jailed for picketing.


Reversed on Appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench (lawyers in Prince Albert argued this appeal, Philip Fourier and Dan Heffernan).

c) 2003 - Charged with mischief for leafleting homes and jailed.

Charges dropped after plea entered.

d) 2003 - Arrested and jailed (ostensibly for unpaid Regina parking ticket) while picketing.

Whatcott expressed his dissatisfaction with the result of today's court decision, as the decision, in his view, failed to provide any balance between freedom of speech regarding controversial topics and the power of arrest of police officers. “It seems like the police in Prince Albert freely use the power to arrest people who disseminate information that they disagree with, and use their power to silence others, and especially so for poor people who usually do not have the resources to challenge the police”, Whatcott said. “I was just lucky to find lawyers who took my cases pro bono.”

In addition to the Prince Albert arrests, Whatcott has had several other legal difficulties as a result of his protests on issues. The following are a list of the cases won or pending by Whatcott in addition to the Prince Albert cases referred to above:

1. Charged with littering for leafleting University of Regina    
Convicted on trial.
Reversed on Appeal to Queen’s Bench (QB).

2. Charged in Moose Jaw with creating a disturbance and resisting arrest while picketing. (As with all his picketing, he showed pictures of aborted fetuses)
Reversed on Appeal to QB.

3. Sued by Planned Parenthood for picketing and for an injunction.
QB refused to stop all picketing by Whatcott.
Case not proceeding.

4. Charged by Regina City Police with stunting. Charges ultimately dropped.

5. Successfully sued and settled legal action against University of Regina for libeling Whatcott on their web page.

6. Saskatchewan Licensed Practical Nurses Assoc. disciplined Whatcott for picketing Planned Parenthood (PP).
Suspension upheld by QB.
2008 Reversed by Court of Appeal.
Leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada was denied.

7. Charged by Human Rights Commission for spreading hate.
Convicted and fined $17,500.
Conviction upheld on appeal to QB.
2008 Appealed to Court of Appeal, decision pending.

8. A successful Intervention and appeal was also made to the Court of Appeal on the Hugh Owens case by lawyer Tom Schuck for the Christian Alliance that assisted Whatcott as it dealt with a Human Rights Tribunal fine on the same issue.

It is believed that it is unprecedented for one person to face so many charges and to win them all.

No decision has been made, as of yet, as to whether to launch an appeal.

Whatcott’s lawyer, Tom Schuck of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, has been acting pro bono for Whatcott on all the above cases, except for one appeal in Prince Albert that was handled by Prince Albert lawyers, Philip Fourier and Dan Heffernan, who argued the appeal on the stunting charge. 

Bill Whatcott Read more Western Standard abortion related stories here.

[Picture: Upon hearing that abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler was to recieve the Order of Canada, Whatcott responded viscerally:

“I got an image of the Order of Canada, crapped on it, wrapped it up and mailed it to the Governor General to communicate my utter contempt of her office, her arrogance, her anti-Christian, anti-life bigotry and the now corrupted and irrelevant Order of Canada in general.”] 

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on February 4, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A 'double repression'

Kevin Libin's story in the National Post this morning, about the University of Calgary's crushing of freedom of expression on campus, reports on a speech delivered by pro-life leader Leah Hallman. Libin writes that Hallman intended to cast her organization's dispute with the school's governors as "an historic battle for Canadian liberties."

Was she successful? I'll let you decide. You can read Hallman's speech by clicking here.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 3, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

BC gag law in effect from February 12th

It’s called Bill-42, and it’s the BC Liberals’ amendment to the Election Act. Under this new law, more stringent voter identification rules will be put in place, and more importantly, spending limits will be put on third parties to prevent them from speaking their mind.

First discussed here on the Western Standard back in May, the law comes into force just over 4 weeks from now.

Under the law, political parties have had their spending limit increased to $5.5 million while everyone else is limited to $3,000 per riding – this for a full 88 days leading up to election day (BC has fixed election days). 

While even that paltry amount may sound like plenty, a close look at real advertising costs in Vancouver shows otherwise:

What this is doing is limiting dissent to Craigslist. Any union, business group, any church, or community group is effectively shut up. A single ad in the Courier will not shape opinion any which way, nor will a week long run of telephone pole postering, or a few weeks on the side of the #4 bus. 

For the entire lead up to the election, you can spend no more than $34 per day. There’s no way to make a concerted effort at opposing a BC political party or standing up for local issues. You can be heard once, and then you are shut up.

This law was brought before the BC Supreme Court a few weeks ago – with predictable results:

But Supreme Court Judge Frank Cole dismissed the application [for an injunction to suspend portions of Bill-42], saying the unions' complaints don't outweigh the intended benefits of what is still a valid law.

Cole said that to be granted such an injunction, the unions needed to prove that the public interest was better served by suspending the law than by leaving the law in place.

However, he said the legislation's goals of electoral fairness serve a "valid public purpose" and suspending the law before the case is settled would disrupt the balance that the legislation strikes.

"To suspend the operation of only the third party election advertising restrictions would upset that balance to the detriment of the other participants in the electoral process," wrote Cole in a decision posted to the court's website Monday…

The B.C. government has defended its election advertising restrictions, saying allowing outside groups to spend as much as they'd like isn't fair to voters.

Attorney General Wally Oppal has said the law is intended to keep the focus on the candidates and political parties, rather than allowing third parties influence the outcome of the vote.

It’s a narrow definition of democracy – and one that betrays a sense of ownership on the part of the BC Liberals (it’s their province, we just live in it). In any practical sense this is a virtual ban on third parties. As Oppal says, they’re not welcome. So what can you do about it?  Nothing – which is the whole reason for laws like this.

For more info – visit: JustShutUpBC.com

Posted by Robert Jago on January 10, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Former Libertarian leader Brisson wins his case against mandatory bilingual sign bylaw

Jean-serge-shadow150 On Friday, Jean-Serge Brisson, former Libertarian Party leader, won his court case against the mandatory bilingual sign bylaw in Russell, Ontario.

Brisson received a fine from the municipality of Russell for putting up a sign on his business in French-only in violation of a bylaw passed in June making it mandatory for all exterior signs to be in both official languages. The bylaw offended English rights advocates like those with Canadians for Language Fairness, and it also offended Brisson, a Francophone, who immediately set out to erect a French-only sign to challenge the bylaw.

Because of the some ambiguity in the bylaw with respect to the maintenance of existing signs, Brisson won his case on a technicality. That’s not, however, how Brisson wanted things to go down. When he attempted to challenge the absurdity of the law itself, the judge immediately said that he did not have the authority to deal with that particular matter and would not entertain Brisson’s argument.

In the end, a win is a win. Brisson thumbed his freedom-loving nose at the bad law and won.

“So now I’m hoping that the people who were waiting for this decision to come about will start calling the municipality of Russell and complain that I have a sign in one language only, French, and that it is infringing on the bylaw that makes it illegal to have a sign that does not have both official languages on it,” said Brisson.

Brisson is no stranger to civil disobedience. According to his Wikipedia page:

He spent twenty days in jail in 2000 after being convicted of driving while under suspension for not paying a seatbelt-related charge dating back to 1989, and was placed in solitary confinement after starting a hunger strike. At the time of his incarceration, his unpaid fines relating to seatbelt violations and driving while under suspension totalled over $12,000.

Brisson has also not submitted an income tax return since 1991, has never collected the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST), and has not collected the provincial sales tax since 1991.

Brisson resigned as Libertarian Party leader in May to focus on Ontario provincial politics with the Ontario Libertarian Party. He is currently serving a 90-day sentence on weekends for his ongoing refusal to wear a seatbelt.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 21, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

International Human Rights Day is a good occasion to celebrate property rights and individual liberty

December 10th is the 60th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is using the occasion to promote its own efforts to “foster equality, promote fairness, and encourage the creation of inclusive workplaces and communities.”

The AHRC is in damage control mode these days, largely due to Ezra Levant’s campaign to “denormalize” the work of these commissions across Canada. Former Western Standard publisher, Levant successfully defended a human rights complaint against the magazine for our decision in 2006 to re-print cartoon images of the Muslim prophet Mohamed. He continues to fight to remove Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits so-callled "hate speech' on the Internet.

The 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an ideal occasion to reconsider the nature of human rights and the work of government human rights bodies, especially as this work concerns freedom of speech and expression.

Equality, fairness, inclusion – these are all admirable values, but should they be the foundation for human rights legislation?

Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand wrote that property rights are the foundation of human rights, and any claim to a universal legal right to equality, fairness and inclusion, for instance, violates legitimate individual rights.

Here are some excerpts from Rand on property rights:

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 94

The doctrine that “human rights” are superior to “property rights” simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of “human.”

John Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 182

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.
Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 96

It is only on the basis of property rights that the sphere and application of individual rights can be defined in any given social situation. Without property rights, there is no way to solve or to avoid a hopeless chaos of clashing views, interests, demands, desires, and whims.

"The Cashing-in: The Student Rebellion," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 259

Let’s make this International Human Rights Day a celebration of property rights and individual liberty.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 7, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, December 01, 2008

Anti-blasphemy law movement gaining steam at United Nations

Meanwhile, at the UN:

Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.

Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85-50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.


Muslim countries say they are only trying to cut down of what they see as extensive bias against Islam in the West. In the lead-up to Monday's vote, many referred, for example, to the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons that satirized Muhammad, and which touched off riots through the Muslim world.

There is something a bit ironic about Canada's strenuous opposition to laws that would prohibit publication of the Danish cartoons, isn't there?


Posted by Terrence Watson on December 1, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Salim Mansur joins the partisans of free expression

Salim Mansur, UWO Associate Professor of Political Science and one of the Directors of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington is the latest person speaking out for free speech in Canada and calling for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The indefatigable Ezra Levant, the Western Standard's former publisher, writes on his blog:

Here's [Mansur's] column in the Toronto Sun, which will likely run in other newspapers in the Sun chain. Here's a few interesting sentences from it:

The Canadian Islamic Congress complaint -- as I wrote following its dismissal by the CHRC in June 2008 -- made Canadians take note, unlike any previous complaint, how the censorious provision of Section 13 is a blot on Canadian democracy.

Canadians got instruction as never before, due to the Canadian Islamic Congress complaint, on the principle and value of free speech as the foundation of an open democracy.

I predict that Salim Mansur, who is Muslim, will be denounced as anti-Muslim, just as I have been denounced as a Nazi, even though I'm Jewish.

That's the last, best defence the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its few, lonely defenders have: trying to paint anyone who disagrees with them as racist.

Nope. We just believe in freedom.

Us too, Ezra, us too.

As our editor in chief Peter Jaworski likes to say: "we're biased in favour of liberty".

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 30, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, November 24, 2008

When Richard Moon channels Premier Aberhart

While conservatives may applaud the suggestion of constitutional law expert Richard Moon to the Canadian Human Rights Commission--that the infamous Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act be either amended or dumped--they may be failing to see the snake in the grass, coiled to strike.

Professor Moon argues that, in order for the revised Section 13 to work, there must be stronger press councils:

Newspapers and news magazines should seek to revitalize the provincial/regional press councils and ensure that identifiable groups are able to pursue complaints if they feel they have been unfairly represented in mainstream media.

If this does not happen, consideration should be given to the statutory creation of a national press council with compulsory membership. This national press council would have the authority to determine whether a newspaper or magazine has breached professional standards and order the publication of the press council’s decision.

A newspaper is not simply a private participant in public discourse; it is an important part of the public sphere where discussions about the affairs of the community takes place. As such it carries a responsibility to portray the different groups that make up the Canadian community fairly and without discrimination.

It would not matter if Section 13 of the CHRA is changed, or even dropped entirely, if the media has been taught to censor itself. The Canadian Human Rights Commssion could primly twiddle its thumbs as these press councils, fearing the return of Section 13, lean on the errant publication (which would have to fear the possibility of having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend itself if a "press council" hearing held the same weight as the recent B.C. human rights case involving Mark Steyn). The press councils will be the "bad cop', the CHRC the "good cop".

Press councils or "anti-hate" phone lines would not stop frivolous complaints. The concerns of the friends of the accused--that legal standards of evidence and fairness apply--would be as likely not to apply in a Press Council hearing, as it would not before a human rights tribunal. As a private body, the council could even hold its hearings and decision making in secret. How many decisions of your provincial press council have you seen covered in your local media, let alone criticized? How likely is it that a newspaper overseen by a provincial press council would dare to make a record of assailing the council's decisions, praying that its luck will hold and that it would not have to appear before that same council itself?

If the press councils do not embrace their new role, membership in a national press council would be made "compulsory".  How likely is it, given who tends to make up the staff of press outlets these days, that they would be sympathetic to a conservative point of view? How easy would it be to stop a "problem" before its starts by denying membership in a national press council to a conservative media outlet, or only granting it if a controversial columnist is sacked (or reassigned to editing the classifieds)?

The fact that membership in a national press council could be made compulsory implies that Mr. Moon may want to make sure that someone regulates and perhaps censors the press. He just has offered the CHRC a way not to sully its skirts with it.

It's better that the press regulate itself, I agree. But self-regulation may have unintended consequences. I've recently read The Ten Cent Plague, a book on the controversy surrounding whether American comic books were a bad influence on children in the early 1950s. Following government hearings and local comic bans, the comics book industry decided to regulate itself with a strict code of what could and what could not be published. The poor taste and adults-only elements did disappear from the comics, but at the same time, a thriving industry was damaged, as hundreds of comics folded. The author of the book lists dozens of comic writers and artists who were thrown out of work forever. (One wonders if 50 years from now, if a climate of severe self-regulation of the press takes hold, whether another author will write a book on the conservative writers, editors and columnists that lost their jobs when the publication was denied a license, or folded when the publisher decided that the struggle was too onerous to continue.)

The fact that Professor Moon advances the following argument is ominous to me:

A newspaper is not simply a private participant in public discourse; it is an important part of the public sphere where discussions about the affairs of the community takes place. As such it carries a responsibility to portray the different groups that make up the Canadian community fairly and without discrimination.

At first glance, it would seem reasonable that freedom of the press should be regulated for the public benefit, but then I remembered an earlier post that I wrote about the Mark Steyn case. Before introducing the Accurate News and Information Act, a bill that would have allowed the Alberta government to censor the press had it not been overturned, as ultra vires, by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In June 1937, Alberta Premier William Aberhart, speaking to a CBC radio audience about the need for the press legilsation, argued that it was in the public interest to make sure that freedom of the press was not abused by bad corporations:

....But life today is complex. It is no longer merely individualistic or paternal. People have combined into a state, and the individualistic law of the liberty of the jungle no longer can be maintained in its entirety. The state refuses to allow the Britisher to inflict inhuman cruelty upon his wife, his children or even his domestic animals. Civil liberty therefore is a freedom limited by laws established for the welfare of the community generally or of the state as a whole, rather than of the individual.

I conclude therefore that modern liberty lies in the freedom of the individual from selfish control, duress, fear or exploitation inflicted by another or others. If an autocrat, or a plutocrat, or a large corporation controls, directs or regiments the actions of any individual or number of individuals without their consent, these latter have to that extent lost their liberty in the true sense of the word…

It's for your own good that the press be censored--whether it was silencing Aberhart's critics back in the 1930s, or promoting racial tolerance today.

It would be far better for the CHRC and its advisors to instead decide that Canadians are adults, and are well able to discern the truth and validilty of what they read and hear.   

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 24, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

One small step in the right direction for free speech and expression

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has now posted on its website Prof. Richard Moon's report, on Section 13 of the CHRA.

1. The first recommendation is that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) be repealed so that the CHRC and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) would no longer deal with hate speech, in particular hate speech on the Internet.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on November 24, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Has the man who sued the Western Standard changed his mind about anti-freedom of expression laws?

Who is Syed Soharwardy?

Has the man who sued the Western Standard changed his mind about anti-freedom of expression laws?

Syed Soharwardy has dropped his human rights complaint against the Western Standard, has just completed a six-month, multi-faith Walk Against Violence and today announced his newly founded Freedom of Speech Centre has invited Ezra Levant to be its first speaker.

Is he a dangerous censor in retreat, or a genuine man of peace?

In an April 24, 2006 column titled “An unwelcome fight,” then-Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant first introduced readers to Calgary iman Syed Soharwardy:

The Western Standard has reported on the illiberal nature of human rights commissions before. In a May 2004 cover story, we described how the Canadian Human Rights Commission tried to censor a sitting member of Parliament, Jim Pankiw, for expressing politically incorrect views in his mail-outs to his constituents. The fact that unelected, unaccountable, tax-paid busybodies presumed to tell an elected parliamentarian what he could or could not say was outrageous, and should have offended all Canadians, no matter what they thought of Pankiw's views.

[Western Standard columnist Terry O’Neill is still following the Jim Pankiw human rights case, which is only now before a human rights tribunal, four years after the fact. Read O’Neill’s column here.]

Well, now it's our turn to come under attack by a human rights commission. Syed Soharwardy, a radical Muslim imam from Calgary, has lodged a complaint against us with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. Soharwardy, who before coming to Canada taught at an anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, argues that our publication of the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed, in the Feb. 27, 2006, issue, violated his human rights--and he argues that our freedom of the press and our freedom of conscience should be abridged. It's more than that: Soharwardy doesn't just complain that we published the cartoons; he complains that we dared to try to justify our publication after the fact.

A “radical Muslim iman” with ties to an “anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia” using an “illiberal” legal process to restrict free speech –- Levant doesn’t mince words in his depiction of Soharwardy and his human rights complaint. (Soharwardy addresses these allegations directly in a Western Standard interview to be published this week.)

Soharwardy has since dropped his complaint against the Western Standard and today announced that the “Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has taken one more step towards educating new immigrants and Canadian Muslims about the importance of free speech. ISCC has established Freedom of Speech Centre in Calgary. We are hoping that the freedom of speech centre will provide a platform to Calgarians and Canadians to express their opinions without preconditions or fear of backlash.”

Soharwardy also said “We are inviting Mr. Ezra Levant to speak to us on 'freedom of speech and the human rights commissions in Canada.' The date will be finalized depending upon the availability of the speaker.” According to Soharwardy, Levant has not responded to the invitation.

When Soharwardy dropped his human rights complaints against the Western Standard in February, he offered these statements:

"Over the two years that we have gone through the process, I understand that most Canadians see this as an issue of freedom of speech, that that principle is sacred and holy in our society."

"I believe Canadian society is mature enough not to absorb the messages that the cartoons sent. Only a very small fraction of Canadian media decided to publish those cartoons."

At the time, Levant doubted Soharwardy’s change of heart and mind:

"I don't believe him. He thought this would be easy to do, just sic the human rights commission on me and it would be done. But I decided to fight back."

"He's hurting right now... What he's now saying he is going to do is not a true reflection of his feelings."

Not everyone's a sceptic, however. In a recent story titled “Calgary imam walks for peace between faiths,” Lloyd Mackey with CanadianChristianity.com portrays Soharwardy as a champion of inter-faith peace and understanding:

Syed Soharwardy, a Muslim imam from Calgary, has completed a six-month walk across Canada, in which he enlisted a fair number of Muslims and Christians to wage a "jihad" against violence.


He noted that since first floating the idea of the anti-violence walk over two years ago, he has formed friendships with many Christian and Jewish people and leaders across Canada. Among them are the Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, and Michael Ward, the senior minister of Central United Church, an evangelically-leaning congregation, also in his home city.


At times, he has received a fair amount of flack from other Muslim leaders, but the twin factors of fanaticism and secularism help to fan such opposition, he said. If people in his faith would return to the root of The Prophet's teachings, rather than trying to interpret in either a violent direction on one hand, or a secular bent on the other, Islam would be better understood.

Some of his critics, he said, accuse him of "getting too cozy to Christians." While he appreciated the support he has received from many Christian leaders, Soharwardy allowed that there is more building work to do. At one point during the walk, he said, he met some Mennonites who held, within their faith, to many of the same ideas with respect to peace and non-violence that he sees to be a part of his own outlook.


"Now we want to concentrate on getting churches and faith groups in every town and city going, to stay engaged, and try for annual days of walk against violence in those places," he said. "They will be multi-faith, walking together, trying to change people's hearts. "Through this walk, what I tried to achieve was by the grace of God. There is no place on earth where one can walk 6,500 kilometres, through different areas, among conservatives and liberals, and no one said, 'I don't like you because of who you are.'"

The Western Standard will provide readers with a full report on this story this week with an interview with Soharwardy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 19, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Draconian kangaroo 'court' is a disgrace to Canadians

Here’s an excerpt I thought I'd share from a letter to the editor published in the St. Catherines Standard:

Toronto Life magazine is the latest publication being threatened with an appearance before a human rights commission, this one because of a factual story it published about a possible honour killing in the Greater Toronto Area Muslim community.

I find this ghastly, draconian, kangaroo "court" system to be a disgrace to all Canadians, be they newcomers or third and fourth generation.

I thought human rights commissions were in place to prevent discrimination in employment or shelter based on race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.

But they have taken it upon themselves to persecute our fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Just ask Mark Steyn of Maclean's magazine or Ezra Levant of the...Western Standard as to what these human rights commissions are really all about.

Columnist Terry O’Neill continues to follow Canada’s human rights commission for the Western Standard. You can find his latest column here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 19, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ezra Levant has denormalized Canada’s human rights industry; it’s now time for the law to change

Columnist Paul Schneidereit with the Halifax Chronicle Herald has written an excellent piece on Ezra Levant’s campaign to denormalized Canada’s human rights commissions. Here's an excerpt:

Last January, political gadfly Ezra Levant – fighting a ridiculous human rights complaint laid against him for daring to publish the Danish cartoons in Alberta – called for a long-term campaign of "denormalization" of Canada’s various human rights commissions.

Ezra’s reasoning was simple. To roll back the increasing, dangerous encroachment of human rights bureaucrats in the realm of free speech, the former publisher of the Western Standard argued the general public’s – and many politicians’ – until-then benign impression of the commissions themselves first had to change.

Since then, Levant has documented the dangerous work and devious tactics of human rights bureaucrats and has challenged politicians, civil liberties groups and libertarian and conservative journalists and bloggers to join the cause of free speech. As a measure of his success, we have Keith Martin’s Private Members Bill to scrap Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and a policy resolution coming out of last weekend’s Conservative convention that would effectively do the same thing. Next week we should get a report by Richard Moon on how the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) deals with "hate speech," which, according Schneidereit, is no doubt a response by the CHRC to the avalanche of criticism that originated with Levant’s high profile campaign.

Levant has done the hard work. He has successfully denormalized the human rights industry in Canada, at least among the kind of opinion leaders who matter, and who have kept an open mind. It’s now time for politicians to change the law.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on November 18, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, November 14, 2008

Academic freedom is under attack in Calgary

Western Standard guest columnist Joseph Quesnel reports on a troubling case of academic censorship in Calgary.

Mont Royal College political scientist Frances Widdowson believes she attracted the attention of the Women’s Caucus within the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) after giving a presentation on aboriginal policy at the CPSA’s annual meeting in June 2008. The Women’s Caucus has now introduced a motion to regulate "hate speech" at academic conferences and enforce guidelines for professional conduct at panels during annual meetings that would cover all participants.

Quesnel writes that...

The motion is believed to stem from an academic presentation by Widdowson on aboriginal issues, in which she commented on the negative influence of political correctness in academia, particularly within the area of aboriginal politics. Things have gotten so bad, she said, that scholars are presenting indigenous spiritual wisdom on the same level as research based on rigorous scientific standards. She also argued that in their rush to promote aboriginal “liberation,” academics are actually contributing to ongoing marginalization of aboriginal peoples by ignoring notions of historical progress or evolution, as well as the “development gap” existing between aboriginal hunter-gatherer societies at the time of colonization and European civilization. Widdowson also argued that these claims were part of creeping “post-modernism” within academia that denies verifiable truth, even within science. Truth is not universal, post-modernists often claim, but socially constructed. And to ‘de-colonize’ political science, one must include indigenous ways of viewing the world, even if these ways are rooted in spiritual concepts or outside physical reality.

“I am still trying to get to the bottom of this, but it is difficult because the CPSA's Women's Caucus is an amorphous body, which means that no one has to take responsibility for anything,” says Widdowson. “Attempts to crack down on ‘offensive speech’ are highly subjective and can be used to stop people from saying things that are scientifically valid, but unpopular."

For the full story, read “Academic freedom is under attack in Calgary” here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 14, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Canada's "differently civilized" folk

Here is an open-minded quote from the preface of an old book on Canada's natives that I picked up at a library book sale recently. You would think that it might have come from a modern textbook, which makes it quite progressive for a book first printed in 1896:

....the wealth of their languages and literature are interesting to us, as belonging to a people who were the pioneers of our land, and they open up a new world of myth, religion and native culture. Close contact with our native tribes shows us the mistake we have been making in deciding that ignorance, superstition and cruelty belong to these people, and that there is no wisdom, truth or beauty in their belief or manner of life....

The author, John Maclean, goes on to explain the good and the bad of native cultures, based on first hand study.  This should not be that controversial, as the first step in promoting racial amity should be learning about and studying other cultures.

But, alas, Mr. Maclean would be branded a racist today, due to one word. You see, the book that exemplified a laudable desire to help white readers understand more about the natives living around them is titled Canadian Savage Folk: The Native Tribes of Canada.

Oh dear. For using "savage" and other similar words, Globe and Mail columnist  Margaret Wente has over a thousand people calling for her dismissal from the newspaper. Her offense? Citing a newly published book in a column last month, she defended Olympic official Dick Pound. (In a interview with La Presse, Mr. Pound, in attempting to defend China from human rights critics, began to compare the histories of Canada and China, remarking that several centuries ago Canada was "un pays de sauvages"--" a land of savages" ) Ms. Wente, after talking to one of the authors of Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry,  proceeded in her column to argue that , well, several centuries ago "a land of savages" is what Canada was...

Author Maclean did make value judgements in his book. While there is much that Maclean liked of what he saw, there is part of native life that he saw as superstitious and uncivilized. The word "savage" is used throughout. The book, I am certain, cannot be that egregiously racist, as my copy of the 1896 book is a 1971 paperback reprint from a mainstream Canadian publisher. I doubt, however, that the book could be reprinted in 2008 without some serious editing. A new title would be a must. How about Canadian "Differently Civilized" Folk?

Before I take a marker to my copy of Canadian Savage Folk and cover over all the times Mr. Maclean used the word "savage" in his book, I would like to note that it is sad that it is increasingly difficult in Canada for both whites and non-whites to take an honest look at our shared history and realize that there is good and bad in everyone and that, quite frankly, certain ways of organizing society are better than others.

Should Ms. Wente's critics win, it would be a step towards a Stalinist view of history where bad things are made to disappear...in the same way that disgraced officials, after being sent to the Gulag, were removed from official photos so that Stalin could pretend to Russians that they had never even been born.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 11, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Monday, November 03, 2008

Canada’s human rights commission goes after Jim Pankiw

Western Standard columnist Terry O'Neill writes:

In the spring of 2004, Derek Smith, a Harvard-educated sociology and anthropology professor from Carleton University, handed in a report to a Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator that provided exactly the sort of ammunition needed by the commission to launch an unprecedented attack on the speech rights of a sitting member of Parliament.

Last week, after four-and-a-half excruciating years’ worth of legal wrangling, a commission tribunal finally began hearing the case against now-former MP Jim Pankiw of Saskatchewan, whose bombastic mailings to constituents in 2002 and 2003 generated several public complaints that he had discriminated against aboriginals.

Not only are Jim Pankiw's words on trial, but so are the colours he chose for the material he sent to his Saskatchewan constituents. Read "Canada’s human rights commission goes after Jim Pankiw" here for the full story.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 3, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No free speech in Australia

The Australian government will now decide what its citizens can and cannot read on the web. (h/t/ drudge)

Posted by Moin A Yahya on October 30, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Friday, October 24, 2008

Florida Protects Free Speech

Our Human Rights Commissions now threaten an MP for his speech.  Elsewhere, the Florida Supreme Court abolished two old common law doctrines (inavsion of privacy and false light) on the grounds that they interfered with free speech.

The Florida Supreme Court is usually pretty bad on business and tort law issues, but here they got the right answer. Hopefully, our esteemed jurists will get a crack at these cases soon. The problem is that few of the people who get with these human rights complaints appeal or the courts overrule the commissions on very narrow rounds instead of the broader issue of speech.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on October 24, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will Wilkinson: "Thank you for not voting"

Dontvote Robert, you argued that despite the calls for mandatory voting from the democracy fetishists, those 40.9% of registered voters who stayed home in the Federal election should neither be shamed nor criminalized. Of course, I agree.

The key word in our system of liberal democracy is liberal, that means that crimes are those actions which infringe on the rights of others–abstaining from voting is no crime. In fact, I think that if our Charter right to freedom of expression is to mean anything, it ought to protect this form of speech.

Cato's Will Wilkinson writes in the Ottawa Citizen that a low turnout may be a healthy sign for a democracy. Why? Less voter pollution:

The virtue of opting out is especially clear once you grasp that more voting isn't necessarily better voting. Specialists in public opinion have exhaustively documented the average voter's shocking ignorance about the main issues of the day, the names of their local candidates for office, or the policies the candidates support.

The flakiest voters -- the ones least motivated to show up at the polls year in and year out -- also tend to be most poorly informed. So when turnout drops, it tends to leave the pool of remaining voters with an improved average level of political knowledge and policy know-how. If well-informed voters have a better picture of the candidate or party most likely to promote the general welfare, then especially high turnout can actually tilt an election away from the better choice, leaving everyone a bit worse off. And that's not very civic-minded.

Read the rest. You can also watch a longer discussion between Jason Brennan of Brown University and Will Wilkinson on why some people just shouldn't vote here:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on October 24, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who owns you, Michael Coren?

I listened to part of the show today on 1010 CFRB Toronto called Two Bald Guys With Strong Opinions

Today's show was two guys arguing for and against CCTV cameras on public property. It was my first time listening in, and I was driving so I couldn't call in and the phone number was not mentioned. I don't know whether the hosts just pick a side for the sake of the show, or whether Michael Coren was really taking the point of view of the surveillance statist. I'm going to assume he means it.

He put one caller on the spot (who brought up the Patriot Act) by insisting he name one government program that government had actually taken advantage of. The guy choked up, maybe a little nervous. But Michael had, in the previous three minutes, brought up human rights abuses by the HRCs (freedom of speech and expression, after all, is a human right). In light of this, why doesn't Michael name us one government program that hasn't failed or been abused by government in some way? 

It was surprising and sad when Michael characterized libertarians as people who don't fully believe in the rule of law. In reality, all libertarians know that freedom is impossible without the rule of law protecting the rights of individuals. Maybe Michael just doesn't know enough about libertarian political philosophy. Here you go, Michael, why not learn about it from an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand source: Wikipedia. Or an even shorter version from Cato's David Boaz here.

Coren is in favour of the use of CCTV cameras. He's even in favour of using them to catch people for consensual crimes -- he said they should be used to catch drug dealers. In practice, that means users too. His argument is essentially an argument for a surveillance society that will help prop up the failed war on drugs.

I hear they now have loudspeakers on some of these cameras in the UK so that bureaucrats can bark orders at people if they throw a candy wrapper on the ground.

These cameras have been abused already to spy on people inside their own homes. Take a look at this, Michael. How many of these cases go unreported?

The thing that Michael needs to know is that in Canada we love our civil liberties and we don't want one camera per 14 people like in the UK. But adopting other countries' bad ideas is something governments do best. So maybe ours will adopt CCTV cameras with Michael's endorsement.

I heard a guy call in and say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Michael did not disagree. I heard that line from a Mountie who wanted to search my car. He said if I don't allow him to search my car, then that means I have something to hide. It was because of this illogic that I refused the search. The mounties don't have a right to search my car unless they suspect that there's something illegal going on. And refusing a search is not a reason to think that something illegal is going on. It's reason to think that I don't want some stranger looking through my stuff. It's also reason to think that I like freedom from tyranny.

I heard this same newspeak from Michael. He said that CCTV cameras on government property liberate us. That is like saying war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. 

This is the London, England that Michael Coren wants for Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and so on.

So Michael Coren, who owns you?

Posted by Lindy Vopnfjord on October 23, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Freedom of expression, Marijuana reform, Media, U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Should UWO be taken before the Human Rights Tribunals?

I don't see much difference between what Maclean's did and this.

Posted by EclectEcon on October 22, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Richard Warman wins lawsuit; a speech warrior yawns

"Speech warriors suffer another setback," reads the headline on a prominent left-wing Canadian blog.

Well, as a "speech warrior", I'm yawning.

Richard Warman, you may recall, is the guy who has filed most of the complaints under Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That's the section most of us free speech types have focused on because -- in our view -- it allows for the suppression of unpopular ideas and unjustifiably infringes on the right to free expression guaranteed to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For example, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed a complaint against Maclean's magazine under Section 13(1) after Maclean's published an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book, America Alone. That complaint was eventually tossed out.

Warman has filed complaints under Section 13(1) of the CHRA many times. Most recently, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal upheld a complaint filed by Warman against Melissa Guille, the webmaster of the Canadian Heritage Alliance (CHA.) We covered that on the Shotgun here. Ms. Guille posted nothing hateful herself on the CHA's website, but other commentators did.

The "speech warrior" position -- or my position, anyway -- is that the persecution of Ms. Guille and  other victims of Section 13(1) is completely unjust. Section 13(1) ought to be scrapped, and the Canadian Supreme Court ought to revisit the 1990 Taylor decision which upheld the section as a "reasonable limit upon freedom of expression."

But as far as I can tell, Richard Warman's recent lawsuit has little or nothing to do with the unjustifiable censorship of unpopular ideas. That's why I'm yawning.

Warman sued William Grosvenor for "defamation, assault, and invasion of privacy." (See the judgment here.)

According to the Globe and Mail: "Mr. Grosvenor had provided photographs and Mr. Warman's address, as well as Google maps showing how to get to his home," and "...openly incited readers to take violent action against Mr. Warman."

I'm going to assume the Ontario Superior Court got the facts right in this case. According to those facts, Grosvenor openly accused Warman of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Grosvenor repeatedly posted messages online containing such charming sentiments as: "I AM GOD AND I HAVE A RUGER P-90 AND IT'S BULLETS HAVE YOUR NAME ON THEM FAGBOY", with clear reference to Warman.

The language was threatening, repetitive, and libelous. As the court found, Grosvenor's Internet postings

have persistently expressed hatred and anger and have called on others to act against the plaintiff, to try to get him evicted and to make him a target of violence. They are not general threats. They are threatening and intimidating and by virtue of their repetitiveness, their detail regarding the plaintiff's whereabouts and their level of malevolence, they are more than empty threats and insults. They are vicious and serious and are to be taken seriously.

One might quibble with the court's view, but from the evidence cited, I have to agree with it. Inciting others to take violent action against an individual is not protected speech, nor should it be. Falsely accusing a person of statutory rape/pedophilia is not protected speech, nor should it be.

Grosvenor deserved to lose this case -- and, in fact, made no effort to defend himself.

Congratulations to Richard Warman for winning a case in "real court." Now excuse me while I engage in another yawning fit.

Via Dawg's Blawg.


Please keep the discussion civil. Defamatory comments will be deleted. Comments accusing me of being inconsistent about free speech because of my intention to delete these comments will also be deleted. You can read my attempt to justify such acts of private censorship here.

Posted by Terrence Watson on October 22, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (147) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moon over Ottawa

Last spring, at the height of the anger over Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act's censorious effects, the CHRC made an announcement that appeared timed to answer some of the criticism directed towards it.

Specifically, it announced that Prof. Richard Moon would "conduct legal and policy research and analysis and make recommendations on the most appropriate mechanisms for addressing hate messages (and more particularly those on the Internet), with specific emphasis on section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the role of the Commission." The commission gave him until Oct. 17 to present his final report.

A CHRC spokesperson tells me today that Moon's report is now in the commission's hands, that it is currently being translated (presumably into French) and will be posted on the commission's website on November 7 for all to see.

Of course, the real answer to the problem is the elimination, by way of legislative amendment, of Section 13, and only Parliament can do this. Better yet, of course, would be the complete trashing of the entire commission structure, which has repeatedly been revealed to be fundamentally unjust.

I suppose that the best we can hope for from Moon's report is that it ends up putting some sort of political pressure on the Conservative government to launch a review, this one with the potential to lead to actual changes, of the act and the commission.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on October 21, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hands off the Internet

Well look here, the CRTC wants to expand. Check out this consultation and hearing notice, calling for submissions into how to regulate the environment for new media.

My submission would be short but not sweet: Stay out of new media altogether. And get a real job.

(cross-posted to ProWomanProLife)

Posted by Andrea Mrozek on October 17, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, October 03, 2008

A small refresher course on censorship and private property

Based on comments left on this thread here, it appears some folks don't really understand freedom of expression, private property, or both.

Here's the situation: a couple of people decided to spam the thread with material denying or minimizing the Holocaust. The moderators of the Shotgun -- including myself -- did some weeding and removed all of those comments, or at least all we found.

Some have argued that this action demonstrates that the Western Standard's commitment to freedom of expression is a sham. Surely, the argument goes, if we support freedom of expression we shouldn't remove comments based on their content.

Some have even called it an act of censorship.

I'm not going to try to parse out the definition of "censorship" to show that deleting Shotgun comments isn't really censorship at all. Perhaps it is an act of censorship. But that's not really the point.

Suppose some miscreant spray paints his manifesto on the outside wall of my house. He picks my wall because it is highly visible and putting his message there increases the chances that other people will read it.

I think the law should prohibit such activity. I think there would be absolutely nothing wrong with erasing the manifesto after it goes up (or maybe I'd keep it there, if I decided I agreed with the message.)

You can call it censorship if you like, but it's really nothing more than a property owner exercising control over the use of his property. Property owners should be able to regulate how their property is used by others. They should have the right to "just say no" to those who would like to use their property in ways the owners do not wish.

At this juncture, I'm not going to argue for private property rights. If you don't believe in private property, you're probably going to disagree with most if not everything the Western Standard publishes.

The real question is whether a commitment to extensive private property rights is consistent with upholding freedom of expression. It's certainly inconsistent with upholding the freedom of everyone to say whatever he wishes, wherever he wishes. It's inconsistent with upholding your freedom to say whatever you wish in my living room, whether I want you there or not.

But it's not inconsistent with the rejection of censorship by the government.

When the government prohibits Holocaust denial, it's telling property owners everywhere that they no longer have total control over their property. Sometimes, it's legitimate for government to regulate the use of property (as it does when it prohibits you from sticking your knife into my back) but those regulations must be justified.

In my opinion, the legal prohibition of Holocaust denial cannot be justified. That means private property owners should have exclusive control over whether or not Holocaust denial will be tolerated within the boundaries of their property. That means the owners of the Shotgun should have the authority to allow or not allow the denial of the Holocaust on this blog, based on whatever reasons they find persuasive.

If that's censorship, it's justifiable given the rights of property owners. The alternative views are, as I see them a) Government censorship, or b) Requiring (morally, if not legally) private property owners to allow their property to be used in ways they do not wish.

Neither alternative makes a lot of sense. Why should property owners allow you to use their property however you wish? Isn't that trampling on their freedom of expression? We take care to delete the comments of advertisers who sometimes try to spam this blog: that's our freedom at work, the freedom to determine how this property will be used. We're also committed to deleting Holocaust-denying comments, comments that advocate genocide, and comments that make fun of P.M. Jaworski's hair.

If you don't like those rules, you're free to start your own blog.

But beware, if you're Canadian: as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal recently decided, you can be held responsible for comments people make on your blog if those comments violate Section 13.1 of the federal Human Rights Act.

At the Shotgun, we see this as an absolutely unjustifiable infringement on freedom of expression. If I want to deny the Holocaust on my own blog, or on a blog where that kind of speech is tolerated, I should be allowed to do so.

But it isn't allowed here. Not because we reject freedom of expression, but because we think it implies the freedom to stop people from using your property to convey messages you find so utterly heinous as to be irredeemable.

Posted by Terrence Watson on October 3, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack