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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Intellectual freedom in Canada: The Toronto riots

My own experience of the recent Toronto riots about G8/G20?

I had been warned by two different people I had never met before, in an outlying town, about the risks of returning to Toronto from a family errand that night, even though I had no choice. And Greyhound posted notices saying that it intended to provide service to the downtown terminal, but could give no guarantees.

I am not surprised that the police overreacted.

My experience with police, in general, suggests keeping this in mind: If a drug-addled perp is trying to crash in my door (that actually happened to one of my neighbours years ago), who will I call?

Professor Fancypantsie? Doctor Addled Theory? Reverend Nuance? Joe Mike? Or the local cops? My advice is, be cautious around police doing their duty (whether they are doing it or not must be determined after the crisis). Here's Mark Steyn on the whole business, mediating between Five Feet of Fury and Small Dead Animals re police overreaction.

Hmmm. Here's journalist Steve Paikin:
PAIKIN: I've been watching protests in this city for 30 years. I've been covering events in the city for 30 years. This was not a great day for democracy in Toronto. I saw things I'd never seen before. I saw things that frankly should not have happened. And people will come to their own conclusions about what they believe the state of democracy to be in Toronto and in Canada as a result of what happened. It was a sad bloody day, I'll tell you that much.
Well, if you want to know about the lack of democracy, Steve, try Canada's "human rights" commissions.

But, Steve, there was lots of actual provocation, if you count setting fire to police cruisers, which was bound to annoy the police, as they might be in one at the time. Also, I pay taxes to keep cruisers on the road. If I want fireworks, I'll buy some and set them off in my back yard on Canada Day, not wreck expensive public property and endanger lives.

See, what goes around comes around. The leftists who yap happily in favour when others' rights are violated in "human rights" actions against media - and support dangerous and bloody Middle East causes - are now feeling the blowback themselves.

In other news:

- Franklin Carter, of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada advises
Last month, in Montreal, Jennifer Lynch delivered a speech about the reputation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Lynch, who is the chief commissioner of the CHRC, expressed concerns about the criticism that the CHRC and other human rights commissions have attracted in recent years over their handling of free speech cases. She also described the CHRC's strategy to counter criticism.

Her speaking notes appear on the CHRC's Web site.

I wouldn't doubt it. Welcome to Nineteen Eighty Four, where bureaucrats decide what you can think, and social workers bark happily in support. Remember, the big thing is to love Big Brother and to agree that no matter how many fingers you see held up, you must actually believe that it is another number. Look, as Winston discovered, it's not enough to just lie to them to avoid torture. You must really believe it.

- Carter also tells me that a book called The Shepherd's Daughter is still advocated in schools, despite a controversial dialogue about suicide bombing. I am very uneasy about the decision because, to the extent that it is recommended for grades 7 and 8, I think that people in that age group are not usually in a position to make reasonable decisions, and may well be recruited for disastrous causes.

He quotes,
Challenges to intellectual freedom are never very far from our doorstep. There’s always someone who wants to tell you what to think, believe, or read, because she or he knows better than you do. It’s when that someone seeks to prevent other people’s access to such expressions that we have to be particularly vigilant.

Peter Carver, Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Read (2009)
Fair enough, but when it comes to life and death decisions, I think that older people often do know better. Teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide over a failed romance than elderly widows.

To me, the question is not whether all underage teens should be forbidden access to such materials so much as how their access can be handled with discretion.

- Also, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression are protesting over-policing at the recent G8/G20 summit in Toronto:
CJFE is also disturbed by the treatment of news media workers covering the protests. According to several reports many were detained, charged and in a few cases attacked by police. Among them:

Two National Post photographers Brett Gundlock and Colin O'Connor were arrested and charged;

CTV News Channel producer Farzad Fatholahzadeh was detained;
Freelance journalist Jesse Rosenfeld was beaten and arrested by police;

Liem Vu, an intern with the National Post, and Lisan Jutras, a Globe and Mail journalist, were among those detained for four hours at Queen and Spadina;

Real News journalist Jesse Freeston was punched in the face by a police officer;

Torontoist journalist Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy was struck by a police officer with a baton;

Video journalist Brandon Jourdan was thrown to the ground and beaten by police.

CJFE will be monitoring these cases and will update its list if more come to light. To our knowledge, all journalists have now been released.

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