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Free speech in Canada heating up


It’s not a good idea to criminalize opinion. 'Hate speech' laws strike at the heart of civilized society. Mark Steyn

Imam Delic of the Canadian Islamic Congress went to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to accuse Mark Steyn of breaching the human rights of Muslims by alleging that "Muslims believe in drinking their enemies' blood" and that "contemporary Islam condones sex with minors and animals". Shocking, perhaps, but even more shocking when you realize that it was Muslims, not Mark Steyn, who provided the quotations.

Steyn explains, "The latter 'allegation' was made in the 1980s by the late Ayatollah Khomeini,?a quite famous Muslim in his day, and the former 'allegation' was made by Sheikh Omar Brooks,?a British Muslim, in a well reported debate at Trinity College, Dublin." Steyn quoted them in America Alone.

The accusation brought the HRC down like the proverbial ton of bricks on Steyn and Maclean's Magazine, which published the remarks.

The imam called the articles “scurrilous” - a wonderful English word. I note that my old OED clings to the definitions of vulgar and buffoon-like for scurrilous - that is, clings to defining the word by qualities that can be defined, rather than by the more modern and vague definition offensive.

As you have grasped, to be offended depends on the state of mind of the person who feels offended. As there are millions of people in Canada, you might well think there are millions of people likely to be offended by a million and one things, and a cursory look at the papers will bear you out. Canadians have recently been offended by Muslims who wanted to hack off the head of their Prime Minister, by carbon polluters, by Americans, and even by The Queen.

Many people may agree that something is offensive, but as far as free speech is concerned, those numbers mean nothing. One hundred years ago, many men were offended by the idea that women had the right to vote. Fortunately the principle of free speech was still free, and protected a woman's right to speak and be 'offensive'. Free speech was the necessary precondition for women's suffrage. Free speech was essential to Western scientific progress, which would have been impossible without it. Free speech - well, I'm inclined to get hot about this principle, so let's return to dear Canada.

Unfortunately for free speech and human rights, Canada's HRC is a fortress for bureaucrats uninterested in and even hostile to the principle of free speech.

Steyn and Maclean's were summoned to appear before the HRC, which has never found anyone innocent of a human rights complaint, on June 2. For awhile it appeared that a deathly pall was settling over Canada. Only bloggers appeared to be protesting, and though eloquent, they were dismissed. But no!

Steyn reported yesterday that the Canadian Association of Journalists, Pen Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Globe and Mail, and Canada’s biggest newspaper, the Toronto Star have rallied to the defence of free speech.

It is even possible that Section 13, the hate message provision of the Canadian Human Rights Code, may be scuttled by Parliament.

I rejoice. I am sure you do, too.

If you know any Canadian MPs, this would be the time to tell them that you want Section 13 eliminated.