Protecting Minorities in Canada from Free Speech
We’ve had over two thousand new visitors in the past 24 hours. We can track how people get to our site, so we know they are mostly readers of Mark Steyn or affiliated sites.
Part of Steyn’s expressed tactics include spamming government officials, media, and other figures.
They have done the same here.
Comments for these posts will be closed. Irreverent comments will be retained, irrelevant ones will not.
Time for this site to move on after a brief primer.
Since many of our new visitors are from the U.S., it might be useful to explain the differences in free speech between Canada and America.Canada has a much longer history of protecting minorities, stemming from the challenge of protecting French Catholic rights (as demonstrated by Buzzanga below).
Terry Glavin of The Tyee has an article that, although supportive of Steyn’s position, gives some depth to the issue of free speech in Canada,
Canada is not the United States. We have no First Amendment here. Canada’s Constitution affirms our rights to free speech, but we’ve never had such cause to be so afraid of our government that we wet our trousers at the suggestion that it’s okay to reserve to the state some authority to limit free speech.
He also explains the use of tribunals in Canada,
…tribunals have been used in hate-speech and incitement cases before, to useful effect, against Nazis, white-power lunatics, holocaust deniers and gay-bashers. But filing these sorts of complaints with human rights tribunals is a growing trend, and it’s pushing the tribunals into terrain they weren’t built to traverse.
It is important to note here that almost all of the Charter application cases currently reviewed are in areas not originally intended. This is the nature of the common law.
Calls for the American invasion of Canada by some of Steyn’s supporters are comical, yet uncalled for. But they do shed light into the nature of his support base.
More on the Canadian Common Law
The highlight of the article is the landmark case on the subject, R. v Buzzanga, which interprets s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code,
(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The defendant deliberately spread satirical hate literature entitled Wake Up Canadians Your Future Is At Stake!, not to disseminate hate, but to counter apathy and to compel Government action to counter perceived prejudice in community against French Canadians.
The text of the literature was as follows,
WAKE UP CANADIANS
YOUR FUTURE IS AT STAKE!
o IT IS YOUR TAX DOLLARS THAT SUBSIDIZE THE ACTIVITIES OF THE FRENCH MINORITY OF ESSEX COUNTY.
o DID YOU KNOW THAT THE ASSOCIATION CANADIAN FRANCAIS DE L’ONTARIO HAS INVESTED SEVERAL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF YOUR TAX MONEY IN QUEBEC?
o AND THAT NOW THEY ARE STILL DEMANDING 5 MILLION MORE OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS TO BUILD A FRENCH LANGUAGE HIGH SCHOOL?
o YOU ARE SUBSIDIZING SEPARATISM WHETHER IN QUEBEC OR ESSEX COUNTY.
o DID YOU KNOW THAT THOSE OF THE FRENCH MINORITY WHO SUPPORT THE BUILDING OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE HIGH SCHOOL ARE IN FACT A SUBVERSIVE GROUP AND THAT MOST FRENCH CANADIANS OF ESSEX COUNTY ARE OPPOSED TO THE BUILDING OF THAT SCHOOL?
o WHO WILL RID US OF THIS SUBVERSIVE GROUP IF NOT OURSELVES?
o IF WE GIVE THEM A SCHOOL, WHAT WILL THEY DEMAND NEXT … INDEPENDENT CITY STATES? CONSIDER THE ETHNIC PROBLEM OF THE UNITED STATES AND TAKE HEED.
WE MUST STAMP OUT THE SUBVERSIVE ELEMENT WHICH USES HISTORY
TO JUSTIFY ITS FREELOADING ON THE TAXPAYERS OF CANADA, NOW
o THE BRITISH SOLVED THIS PROBLEM ONCE BEFORE WITH THE ACADIANS, WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR …?
Compare this to an excerpt from Steyn’s book:
Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography—except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out—as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.
It was not considered relevant that the defendants were themselves party of the group targetted, rather, that their actions would reasonably lead to undesirable consquences.
From his evidence the Court concludes that the meaning of a message resides in the receiver, based on his own conceptions as opposed to the initial intent of the sender… there is that certain segment in every community whose views would be reinforced and increased by the message.
Martin J.A. explained how the reasonable person could foresee the consequences of their actions,
Since people are usually able to foresee the consequences of their acts, if a person does an act likely to produce certain consequences it is, in general, reasonable to assume that the accused also foresaw the problable conseqences of his act and if he, never theless, acted so as to produce those consequences, that he intended them. The Greater the likelihood of th relevant consequences ensuing from the accused’s act, the easier it is to draw the inference that he intended those consequences. The purpose of this process, however, is to determine what the particular accused intended, not to fix him with the intention that a reasonable person might be assumed to have in the circumstances, where doubt exists as to the actual intention of the accused.
Steyn himself acknowledges the adverse outcomes of his hypotheses,
My book isn’t about what I want to happen but what I think will happen. Given Fascism, Communism and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, it’s not hard to foresee that the neo-nationalist resurgence already under way in parts of Europe will at some point take a violent form…
I think any descent into neo-Fascism will be ineffectual and therefore merely a temporary blip in the remorseless transformation of the Continent.
Even if discounting its utility, his position does normalize genocide. It is worthy to note that his disclaimer occurs distinct from his book.
R. v. Keegstra defines “wilfully” as follows,
The interpretation of “wilfully” in Buzzanga has great bearing upon the extent to which s. 319(2) limits the freedom of expression. This mental element, requiring more than merely negligence or recklessness as to result, significantly restricts the reach of the provision, and thereby reduces the scope of the targeted expression. Such a reduced scope is recognized and applauded …this stringent standard of mens rea is an invaluable means of limiting the incursion of s. 319(2) into the realm of acceptable (though perhaps offensive and controversial) expression. It is clear that the word “wilfully” imports a difficult burden for the Crown to meet and, in so doing, serves to minimize the impairment of freedom of expression.
In other words, in order to transgress s. 319(1), one need not have intentionally promoted hatred. Neither must the communicating statements have been intended for a public audience. All that is required is that the accused actually succeeded in inciting hatred which was “likely to lead to a breach of the peace.”
The post-9/11 backlash is well documented in both Canada and the U.S.
Given two global wars of invading Western armies into predominantly Muslim countries, one of which Canada is directly involved in, and the accompanying propaganda that typically accompanies such military endeavours, the likelihood of breaches of the peace appear obvious.
The reasonable person could assume that such statements could plausibly lead to violence.
As Martin J.A. also said,
It is evident that the use of the word “wilfully” …reflects Parliament’s policy to strike a balance in protecting the competing social interests of freedom of expression on the one hand, and public order and group reputation on the other hand.
Again, this balance is decidedly different than, for example, in the U.S.
Spin-Offs in Calgary
The contentious statements were posted on a blog owned by the Western Standard, in response to Ezra Levant’s response by Maclean’s on Steyn. They included the following:
There is no such thing as innocent Muslims…
They must all be killed. All of them.
Matthew Johnson, the new owner of the Western Standard (Ezra Levant of Maclean’s was their former publisher), said,
I apologize to you and the Calgary Muslims who took offence to the comments
found on our website. I took offence to these comments as well, as did the
vast majority of our readers. On January 15, 2008, the new Western Standard website will be launched. I invite you to judge our commitment to fostering respectful debate at that time. In the future, please contact us directly with any concerns you might have about our content. You’ll find us to be very responsive.