Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's "American-style" Free Speech?

The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui recently came up with a baffling argument to defend Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Section 13, of course, is the controversial law which gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission the legal right to annoy Ezra Levant.

But that’s not all. Lots of people also believe Section 13 has empowered government bureaucrats to undemocratically censor free speech. See here and here.

But this doesn’t faze Siddiqui who recently wrote – and this is the baffling part -- that anyone who opposes Section 13 must be an advocate of “American-style free speech”.

Here's the phrase in its full context:

The human rights act and the commission it spawned came into being some 40 years ago as a result of yeoman efforts by the Jewish and black communities. There was to be freedom of speech but also freedom from hate. That was going to be the Canadian way.This was challenged by the advocates of American-style free speech — an unholy alliance of media (that wanted as few restrictions on content as possible) and anti-Semites and others (who wanted to be free to spread their bigotry).
My question is what the heck is American-style free speech? 

I have heard of American-style attack ads and American-style health care and American-style gun laws, but never, ever have I ever heard anyone refer to American-style free speech.

And what exactly is the "Canadian way?"

I am trying to figure all this out.

Perhaps Siddiqui believes each country has its own distinctive brand of free speech. Thus there is a Canadian-style free speech, a British-style free speech, a Mongolian-style free speech, a Bolivian-style free speech and so on.

An interesting idea to be sure, but also kind of confusing.

For example, exactly why do different countries have different styles of free speech? Does it have something to do with different genetic bloodlines?

If so, North Koreans must be genetically disposed to getting thrown into prison or executed any time they utter non-state approved thoughts.  If this is the case, then human rights advocates shouldn't mind if North Korean authorities deal with American-style free speech activists in the "North Korean Way."

But if free speech has something to do with our cultural heritage what happens in a multi-cultural country like Canada? We would have chaos with all those different styles of free speech intersecting and conflicting!

So maybe Siddiqui believes national speech styles are actually the result of local environments.

And so we here in Canada support Section 13 ie "The Canadian Way", because of some natural force which emanates from the Rocky Mountains or from the Arctic Circle.

But if that’s the case, why then did we only enact Section 13 about 40 or so years ago? Surely, the earliest settlers and pioneers were subject to the same environmental forces as we are today. Yet they did not include Section 13-type laws in the BNA Act.

Did John A. MacDonald or Wilfrid Laurier ever talk about the need for Human Rights Commissions?

Don’t think so.

Plus many Canadians actually oppose Section 13. Are they immune to Canadian-style speech? If so why? Are they “unCanadian" because they don't follow the "Canadian Way." Should they be deported?

That doesn't seem all that democratic.

Mind you, maybe there is another explanation for Siddiqui’s comment.

Maybe he actually used “American-style speech” as a pejorative. In other words, when he said American-style, perhaps what he really meant was “dangerous foreign idea”.

Now, I am no expert in this sort of thing, but to me that sounds like an attitude that’s not tolerant of the customs of people who live in other lands. It might even cause Canadians to look less than warmly on our American cousins or on Canadians who oppose Section 13.

Yet, Siddiqui opposes "hate speech."

Like I said, it’s all pretty baffling.

Luckily, we in Canada have an entity that can help solve this puzzle.

Somebody call the Human Rights Commission!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said Gerry.

As you know, what Siddiqui really means is that American Style free speech allows for people to be offended. It even allows for some hateful things to be said. All of which is very subjective and open to interpretation but nevertheless us more refined Canadians have pledged to only sing Kumbayah whenever conflict arises amongst our proud multicultis. Liberals like Siddiqui are brilliant at being honest brokers, on all sides of the issue, never taking a stand, never offending. Such a sterile environment causes adaptation processes to lose their immunity, which is why Liberals have all but disappeared and now we have the NDP standing on the left, Conservatives standing on the right and Liberals lying in an iron lung barely breathing.

Ironically Siddiqui is all for defending diversity. But he doesn’t want us to have diversity of thought; only diversity of colour and language and culture. Although one would think that culture involved thought; ergo, that’s where it gets murky. So that’s why we need brilliant little Orwellian thought police enforcing 13.1 .