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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Intellectual freedom in Canada: News roundup

Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada notes:

In Toronto, British intellectual Timothy Garton Ash delivered a lecture on the need for more free speech in diverse societies. Julie Payne reports for The Canadian Journalism Project.

Here, I am reminded of Mark Steyn's remarks at the Ontario Legislature, when he pointed out (among other things) that in societies where people are not allowed to criticize religion or the government or social habits, they often respond by just blowing stuff up. One reason Canada was a low threat society for so long was precisely because it was okay to say you didn't believe in God or thought the Prime Minister a fool or thought some people should solve their "victimization" problems by staying in school, getting a job, and waiting till they have a stable partner to have children. If few care what the opinionator thinks, few will pay attention. But he has no motive for violence.

In Halifax, Canadian intellectual Mark Mercer examines the CHRT's ruling in the dispute between Marc Lemire and Richard Warman.

Carter also draws my attention to
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about bombs or the intelligence quotients of one race as against another . . . if a man is a scientist, like me, he’ll always say “Publish and be damned.”

Jacob Bronowski, quoted by George Steiner, Has Science a Future? (1978)
People today publish and are damned, alas, but by the "human rights" commission, not the public. I am thinking, for example, of the Catholic Insight case.

Re intelligence: I've always thought differential intelligence comparisons a waste of time because often it's unclear what precisely the subject under investigation is. Do we mean theoretical intelligence, like Albert Einstein's? The ability to solve practical problems, like designing a better beehive? The ability to live in a competent way? Racial comparisons only stir up needless strife. I'm not saying it should be illegal, but I sure would not fund it or consider it academically respectable.

Also, Blazing Cat Fur advises me that a petition is available:
As you know, freedom of speech is an essential characteristic of a free society. In Canada, however, this freedom has been under attack in recent years under the pretext of protecting and promoting human rights. Laws that prohibit the free expression of opinion undermine the very foundations of a free and tolerant society and are, therefore, illegitimate and must be abolished.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Studies has just launched an online petition calling on lawmakers at all levels of government in Canada examine legislation within their jurisdiction intended to protect and promote human rights, and to remove those provisions that prohibit or otherwise limit the free and sincere expression of opinion.
Go here.

Some question the value of such petitions: "online petitions are worse than a waste of time. They are a distraction and a drug, and in fact, are couter-productive." I'm not sure. Some people salve their consciences that way; others, having done one thing, are motivated to go on to do something more useful. We shall see.

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