The entire concept of free speech seems to have become so distorted that many Canadians now believe that it is reasonable and democratic to limit this fundamental human right to prevent hurt feelings. And, of course, one limit will inevitable lead to another, and then another until we have only the notion of free speech and none of the reality or fact.
Canadians were given the right to free speech through the British North America Act, 1867 (BNA Act) in the sense that since the United Kingdom had some freedom of expression in 1867, this right would flow through to Canadians via the BNA Act. The future federation of Canada, the preamble of the BNA Act states, will have “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.”
About one hundred years later, free speech became both enshrined in our made-in-Canada Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, at the same time, limited by Section 1 of the same Charter. As cautious as I am about accepting any limit on free speech, this does seem acceptable. It states:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Fair enough, eh? Well let’s see.
The Criminal Code of Canada limits free speech by making it illegal to promote genocide or to publicly incite hatred against people based on their colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation, except where the statements made are true or are made in good faith. And the prohibition against inciting hatred based on sexual orientation was added in 2004.
I’m uncomfortable with the “incite hatred” part, because it seems to extend rights to groups and not to individuals, but, given that truth and good faith are a defence, I can live with it.
Somewhere along the way, however, political correctness began to take hold in Canada, especially in Toronto, the most culturally influential centre and largest media hub in Canada. And it was not long before political correctness began to find its way into our legislation. To protect minorities from hateful telephone calls, human rights legislation was enacted to prevent:
“… any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
And with these words the infamous Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) was born. Sub-section 2 was later added to include communication on the Internet. And so we took our first steps down the slippery slope.
Someone can call me dreadful, hurtful things and my recourse is to punch them in the face [only kidding] or to seek redress under the criminal code. That’s because I do not qualify as a person who is “identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
Individual rights, you see, are now subordinate to group rights. This makes equality of individuals under our laws a sham. It gives more rights to those individuals who belong to certain groups the government identifies for special treatment under the law. I agree with the late Ayn Rand, who wrote, that a man [or woman] can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess.
That, in effect, makes me a second-class citizen, But that’s OK with liberals and, so called, progressives. But they’re not happy to stop there. They want much more.
Remember that our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms restricts its limit on free speech by stating “except where the statements made are true or are made in good faith.” In other words, truth is a defence. And that is a just and democratic. It’s about as fundamental as anything about democracy, isn’t it? It is what made the Charter’s limitation palatable.
Apparently, though, it isn’t good enough for the progressives and the human rights industry. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) wants to remove truth as a defence. Yes, the CHRC has listed this on its Web site as one of the recommendations in its Special Report to Parliament, Freedom of Expression and Freedom from Hate in the Internet Age. It’s right there under Part V: The Way Forward, Recommendation 5.
The CHRC tries to justify removing truth as a defence by claiming “hatred against an entire group could never be true.” In other words, to protect certain groups considered worthy, it is prepared to destroy the fundamental human right of free speech as it applies to individuals. How progressive of them!
You give the progressives an inch and every single time they’ll take a mile. It’s like a natural law—like a law of physics.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) is credited with saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. This is as true today as it was in the eighteenth century.
It is time for the Conservative government to do something about the drift towards subordination of individual rights in favour of group rights. For how much longer will they shy away from doing something about the Human Rights Commission and the egregious Section 13 of the CHRA.
My right to free speech has been abrogated. To whom do I look for redress? Mr. Harper, I look to you.
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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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