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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Canaries in the coal mine

This evening, I was discussing the "human rights commission" situation with a friend who pointed out that Stephen Boissoin, the Alberta pastor who was sentenced to a lifetime speech and communication ban by a "human rights" commissioner had at times been "over the top".

Yes, I suppose so.

And, you see, that’s just the trouble, isn’t it? We don’t like him, so we do things to him in the name of the law that are not defensible according to our own tradition.

If Canada is going fascist, we won’t start by silencing philanthropist Jean Vanier for no good reason, we will start by silencing some fundie pastor somewhere for no good reason.

Then, as civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant says, we end up with two justice systems – one for nice people and one for not-so-nice ones.

Then the second system starts to overstep. Then it is forced to drop the cases brought against prominent people like Mark Steyn, revealing that we do indeed have a two-tier justice system!

The justification for treating not-so-nice people with scrupulous fairness is enlightened self-interest. They are our canaries in the coal mine.

For that matter, when free speech is threatened, intellectual freedom is sure to follow. It starts with persecution of people who say offensive, maybe stupid, things that we don't want to hear. Then ideas that challenge entrenched interests - ideas that they don't want to hear - are labelled "offensive" too.

All the more so if people have b ecome unused to hearing anything that offends them.

I, for example, would far rather be offended by Bill Maher's Religulous than be "protected" by a human rights commission charging Maher with offending Christians. If I needed that kind of protection, I wouldn't be old enough to understand the movie.

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