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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Intellectual freedom in Canada: News roundup

Recently, Blazing Cat Fur scored a huge victory: He got the Canadian Islamic Congress disinvited from the speech their executive director was going to give at a Department of National Defence celebration of Islamic Heritage Month:
MacKay pulls plug on imam's speech at defence HQ

OTTAWA — A speech at National Defence headquarters by the outspoken executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress has been cancelled due to his organization's "extremist views."

A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Imam Zijad Delic was scheduled to make an address as part of Islamic Heritage Month on Oct. 4 but that MacKay decided to cancel the event.

"The Canadian Islamic Congress has declared that Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets of suicide bombers," spokesman Jay Paxton said in an email to Global National.

"These types of comments don't support Islamic Heritage, they simply divide Canadians, promulgate hate and they have no place in Monday's celebrations." An expanded version of the article appears here in which Imam Delic lies through his teeth.
Good for MacKay, spelling it out like that. It may help that so few Canadian Muslims want any part of the Islamists’ long slow march through the piles of marshmallows here, which many visitors mistake for snow ... Joseph Brean explains in the National Post that imam Delic’s speech was actually quite reasonable. Well, then Delic should not feel badly about apologizing for what he said about Israelis.

More generally, the whole business raises a point developed by Barbara Kay in the National Post:
The cancellation of the speech by Defence Minister MacKay raises the question of why any government ministry would fund any religious consulting group. Why is there a paid “Muslim Working Group” permanently embedded at Foreign Affairs, whose job it is to advise the government on their foreign policy wherever it touches on areas of Muslim density? Why not a “Christian Working Group” or a “Sikh Working Group”? Can you imagine if there were a “Jewish Working Group” to advise on the Middle East? Don’t make me laugh. To me this is a scandal, and I don’t understand why it has not been addressed. Some of the people in this group hold very insalubrious views or are attached to groups with discomfiting agendas.

Read more.
If it’s just because the rest of us citizens are not particularly violent, why don’t we just advise those not like-minded to get with the program?

Hat tip: Five Feet of Fury

Meanwhile, Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee writes to say that Kathryn O’Hara, president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, has accused the federal government of manipulating science news. Gosh, to compete with that, some day I must get round to accusing the party in power of making election promises they didn’t keep or something else that’s really novel.

No, but O’Hara has a serious point, and she did get attention:
"Openness is being held ransom to media messages that serve the government's political agenda," wrote Kathryn O'Hara, president of the Canadian Science Writers' Association, in an opinion published online Wednesday in the international scientific journal Nature.

The article comes during Right to Know Week in Canada, a celebration of open information that "ironically … comes on the back of new evidence of unacceptable political interference in the public statements of federal government researchers," said O'Hara, who is also the CTV chair in science broadcast journalism at Carleton University.

Read more.
The skinny is that scientists must get bureaucrats’ permission to talk to media about their findings, even when published in a journal like Nature That happened recently, she notes, to Natural Resources Canada geoscientist Scott Dallimore, and certainly to many others, who doubtless just kept quiet.
It used to be, O'Hara said in an interview, that journalists could simply phone a federal scientist and talk to him or her.
Yes, I well remember those days. One learned so much more that way. Too often, today, what one mainly learns is how a bureaucracy can render the find that clarifies into the fog that chokes.

Franklin Carter also offers a link to the Banned Books quiz, sponsored by Britain’s Guardian. How much do we know about how books get banned and why? We’d be surprised, as it happens.

While we are here, two columnist firings came to public notice last week, that of conservative Rory Leishman from the London Free Press (well, he wasn’t actually fired; he resigned when his column, shown here was pulled) and Rick Salutin, a man of the left, from the Globe & Mail. I hope that the underlying trend isn’t simply to rid media of outspoken people. As I have pointed out elsewhere, I have nice neighbours who seldom say anything I can’t at least see the point of, so I crave the novelty of non-violence-directed opinions that are beyond the pale for me. So, I expect, do many other people, which is why increasing numbers turn to the Internet to get their fix of stuff they just don’t agree with. Well, the Globe replaced Salutin with Irsad Manji, who can stir the pot a bit when she chooses, so all is not lost. And literary lion Robert Fulford wrote a classy response to Salutin’s departure:
This lefty was often wrong, but I’m going to miss him

I disagreed with whatever Rick Salutin wrote in his Globe and Mail column - on capitalism, socialism, U.S. foreign policy, free trade, Israel or anything else.

Nevertheless, for two decades I never failed to read him, every Friday. Sadly, the Globe has eliminated his column, considering it unsuitable for the refurbished format that appeared yesterday.

What made me Rick Salutin’s loyal reader? Experience demonstrates that I can learn a great deal from writers I disagree with. More important, his style has always attracted me. His prose has a sense of life, not a quality universally found in Globe columnists. He has his own voice, whether the song he sings is satirical, hysterical or as glum as Eeyore’s. And he writes as if something is at stake.

Read more.
I love it, except it sounds too much like an obit. Neither Leishman nor Salutin are dead, just freelancing somewhere. Though in this market, it can be hard to tell the difference.

As so often, I remind readers, I only scratch the surface here re intellectual freedom issues in Canada. For more recently updated information, go to Five Feet of Fury, Blazing Cat Fur, MarkSteyn, and Ezra Levant, among others. It’s a sign of the times we live in that I must point out that no one need agree with everything these folk think in order to see that their concern about a growing illiberal atmosphere is legitimate.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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