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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Cautious, bullet-headed progress = steady gains

I've been way late blogging on intellectual freedom issues in Canada, due to the illness of a family member - and not for lack of interest.

An American friend wrote to wonder what was happening here in Canada, due to this distressing incident, where The Netherlands had decided to prosecute Geert Wilders over his film Fitna. (Here's the Globe and Mail on the story.) Interestingly, a Muslim for whom I have a great deal of respect says that - while he thinks Fitna hate literature - he doesn't think it should be banned.

No, of course not. Atheists calling for a ban on religious books are nothing new and not even important - unless angry believers make them so.

No doubt they wish that their books sold as well as books that offer hope, but they never have and never will.

Look, that's just the way life is. Something about the difference between hope and despair, if you like.

Wake me up when any large group of people think that the works of, say, Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins are of more significance than the Bible or the Koran.

Oh wait, don't bother. Get your sleep, fella, and get to work on time.

So I replied to my American friend:
Canada is a bit more robust than you might suppose.

Ninety-nine percent of the Conservative Party – at the last convention – voted to wipe the floor with the infamous Section 13 (used to suppress dissent), prior to throwing it out.

Also, the Islamists did not win a single anti-intellectual freedom case last year, and Ken “I’d rather go bankrupt” Whyte was named newsperson of the year for successfully resisting their demands.

He accepted the award on behalf of the free speech blogosphere, dedicating to:
... that particular part of the blogosphere that got engaged in these human rights complaints. I can’t name them all but individuals like Ezra Levant, Jay Currie, Kathy Shaidle, among others, discovered and disseminated a lot of alarming information about the operations of human rights commissions and the decisions of their tribunals. The debate got pretty messy on both sides as it went along, but these people prodded the newspapers and the public to question the advisability of allowing unaccountable, politicized, and rather slipshod commissions to interfere with one of our most precious liberties. Along with Mark Steyn, who wrote a lot about the case, they did a great service to Canadian journalism in 2008. I’m deeply grateful for their support—it was shaping up as a lonely fight until the bloggers got involved. They’re the ones who really deserve this award so I consider myself to be accepting it on their behalf.
Rightly so.

My sense is, here in Canada, more people all the time are getting pulled into the battle. I've learned, for example, that the government is now examining infamous Section 13 of the Human Rights Act. Civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant discusses the pros and cons of such an examination - as opposed to just firing all government-funded weasels now - here.

But here is what I think is the most important news (or non-news, if you like): The opposition Liberals are NOT trying to curry favour by claiming they’ll suppress more people, because they know that that is not popular around here.

There is a lot of rot in our system, to be sure, but “death to you and yours” marches through the streets of Toronto are unattractive to just about everybody. It's too bad about the Middle East, but this isn't the Middle East. (In fact, we are currently overwhelmed by enormous piles of very unMiddle Eastern dirty snow, here to stay for months .... )

That said ... our legendary low crime rate is a key sales feature for our city - really good for business - and most of us aim to keep it that way. And we will too.

By the way, my friend Kathy Shaidle is speaking in London, Ontario, January 29, 2009, with the excellent columnist and political scientist Salim Mansur:
Westmount Public Library, 3200 Wonderland Road South Thursday, January 29th, 7:00 to 9:00 pm (doors open at 6:30)
$10.00, $5.00 for students and seniors

Hey, if you are in the area, please go and wish them well.

Still, just when things seem to be going so well in Canada, a truly weird thing happened in the United States. Just inaugurated president Obama singled out a commentator, Rush Limbaugh, for criticism.

As I pointed out to friends:

Obama is commander-in-chief of the biggest army on Earth.

Of what army is Rush Limbaugh commander?

Yeah, crickets chirp. Just like I thought.

I've never listened to Rush Limbaugh, but I perhaps I should start now.

Rot.

I have never wanted to bother with Rush Limbaugh - believing, (rightly or wrongly), that I have better uses for my time.

But if the President of the United States has raised the stakes ...

It's totally inappropriate for someone in O's position to even NOTICE people like Limbaugh - assuming Limbaugh is not planning sedition - and in that case, should the President happen to hear of it, surely he would send it down to a much LOWER office to deal with.

Any police officer can deal with sedition (with appropriate counsel from the police lawyers, of course ... ).

So what gives here? Now?

Maybe the Canadian "human rights" crowd can all get jobs in the States now, after we evict them all here?

Anyway, are you a journalist? A hack? Make your living via your word processor? Then here is an organization you should join soon - the International Free Press Society:

Look, bunnies. There is no point in a press if it is not a free press. It is just more public relations for the powers that be.

And lastly, before signing off, I must sadly report the death of British writer John Mortimer, creator of the wonderful comic character, Rumpole of the Bailey.

Mortimer was a longtime advocate of freedom of expression.

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