Regular readers will be aware that I post, from time to time, on threats to freedom of speech online. Over the last few years there has been a definite trend towards censorship in the west. While incitement to violence has always been an offence, and quite properly too, a new series of offences have been created, usually under the guise of banning “hate speech”.
The term is Orwellian — who can forget the Ministry of Love from 1984? A moment of critical thought tells us that the use of the term “hate” is merely designed to disarm opposition. For in truth, what business is it of the government to regulate emotion? And surely you have to hate people pretty badly to lock them up because you disagree with them?
The practical effect of these laws has been to permit and encourage denunciations of “wrong thinking”. The laws are vaguely drafted. What is, or is not allowed, depends on the climate of opinion in the establishment at the time. Curse one group, and you are a freedom fighter; curse another, and the police will be at your door.
All this has allowed favoured groups to drag those who disagree with them through the courts, and so place themselves and their actions above criticism — a desirable place to be, if you have an agenda to change society for your own purposes. It has created inquisitorial bodies — calling themselves “Equalities Commisions” or “Commissions for Human Rights” — and it has created professional informers, making money out of denunciations.
Worse still, just being denounced is a punishment. Indeed “the process is the punishment”, as one victim found. The threat of “investigation”, conducted at a leisurely pace over years, at state expense on behalf of the informer and the inquisitor, while the victim must pay lawyer’s bills, is enough to intimidate most people from risking it.
Little of this has made its way into the mainstream media, but it has nevertheless become a serious problem in Canada, and in the United Kingdom, and in other countries also. There are people in prison in Britain today, for no greater offence than posting on Facebook something critical of another group of people.
So it is very good news to read on the blog written by Canadian publisher and broadcaster Ezra Levant that in Canada the evil is being rolled back.
No more witch hunts – Persecuted sure to win reprieve from ridiculous, costly hate laws
The entire law is a corruption of justice — it creates a kangaroo court, run by non-judges, that does not follow the same rules and procedures of real courts, but has massive powers to punish and fine people who aren’t politically correct.
But the worst part of the law is Section 13, the censorship provision. Section 13 creates a word crime — the crime of publishing or broadcasting anything that can cause hurt feelings.
So it even covers things like whatever you post to your Facebook page. Section 13 says “it is a discriminatory practice … to cause to be … communicated … any matter that is likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt.”
So if you publish anything on Facebook, or on your cellphone voice message, that might make one person feel bad about another, you’ve just broken the law.
Truth is not a defence to being charged with “hate” under Section 13. Fair comment is not a defence. Religious belief is not a defence. Telling a joke is not a defence. The law has nothing to do with truth or the right to have an opinion. It’s about whether or not you’ve offended someone or hurt their feelings.
It’s no surprise that this law had a 100% conviction rate in Canada for the first three decades of its existence.
I found out about this the hard way. In February of 2006, I published a magazine called the Western Standard. We reported on the major news story that month — riots around the Muslim world purportedly in response to some pretty banal Danish newspaper cartoons of Mohammed. Those riots killed more than 200 people, and we wanted to show our readers what all the fuss was about. But a radical Muslim imam in Calgary named Syed Soharwardy complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
He said I violated his human right not to be offended. He wanted to ban the cartoons, and his hand-scrawled complaint even bitched about the fact that I dared to publicly defend my right to do so.
I laughed off that little nut-bar. I mean, get a life — you’re in Canada now, not Saudi Arabia. But to my surprise, the Alberta Human Rights Commission took his complaint and ran with it.
The Alberta government, using its provincial version of Section 13, prosecuted me for 900 days, with no fewer than 15 government bureaucrats and lawyers. It spent $500,000 prosecuting me, before dropping the case — and leaving me with my $100,000 legal bill. But sometimes freedom wins a round.
Last week, the federal justice minister, Rob Nicholson, stood up in the House of Commons and answered a question about Section 13.
The question was about a private member’s bill, put by Brian Storseth, an MP from northern Alberta. Storseth has introduced a private member’s bill, C-304, to repeal Section 13. But private member’s bills have little chance of passing without the endorsement of the government.
But Nicholson did endorse it. He called on all MPs to support it, too. Bill C-304, Storseth’s bill, is now effectively a government bill. And with a Tory majority in both the House and Senate, this bill is as good as done.
No more witch hunts by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. No more persecuting their political and religious enemies.
This is the best thing the Harper government has done in five years. Freedom is on the march.
Fortunately for him, Ezra Levant is a lawyer and a well-connected man. The Canadian bureaucrats were accustomed to bullying poor, isolated pastors and the like. So when the bureaucrats called him in and demanded to know what he was thinking when he published the “offending” article, he took them apart in an interview which was videoed and published online. Their revenge — foolishly — was to subject him to three years of “investigation”. His response was to expose them and lobby for their abolition.
Let us hope that this is indeed the beginning of the end of this evil. Let us hope that the thought police are put out to grass.