In the 21st century, freedom of speech, long revered as the cornerstone of democratic thought, slowly but consistently is being eroded worldwide. This troubling pattern is not confined to illiberal places such as China, Russia or the Middle East, but increasingly is showing up in nations once thought to be paragons of liberal democracy - even Canada.
The Canadian government has established “Human Rights Tribunals” in each province under Canada's Human Rights Code. The purpose of these quasi-judicial bodies is to “mediate and adjudicate human rights complaints.” Violations usually are “hate crimes,” which are defined broadly as any statement that could possibly cause a group to “be exposed to hatred or contempt.”
The tribunal follows virtually no recognizable standards of legal jurisprudence. There are no established rules of evidence. There is no due process. Defendants are not allowed to testify on their own behalf. The “conviction” rate is 100 percent. In Canada, these institutions are derisively referred to as “kangaroo courts.”
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal recently heard a case that was brought against Canada's Maclean's magazine for publishing an excerpt from renowned British-American columnist Mark Steyn's most recent book, “America Alone.” The excerpt in question allegedly exposes Muslims to “hatred and contempt;” the lawyer for the complainants claims that Canadian Muslims were “offended” by the article.
The “prosecution” wants the Tribunal to “order” Maclean's to publish a lengthy five-page letter to the editor that criticizes Steyn's piece. This is a disturbing attempt to have a government tribunal dictate what a private publication should and should not print - in effect, to have state control over its content. That level of censorship is something you might expect to find in a totalitarian state ….
Certain areas in Europe and Canada are becoming increasingly hostile to free speech that “threatens” Islam in any way. Certain viewpoints about Islam apparently should be considered “off-limits” for public discussion and debate …. Rather than offer their own counterarguments and provide evidence that contradicts the claims of critics who write or say things critical of Islam, the trend in Western Europe and Canada is to get such points of view labeled as “hate speech” and banned from public discourse ….
One Canadian “anti-hate” investigator summed it up like this: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value.”
Reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.