We have been discussing the alarming erosion of free speech in Canada in the last few years — part of a trend in the West. Those concerns have been rekindled by the trial of Roy Arthur Topham, who was charged with promoting hatred against Jewish people through his website RadicalPress.com. He was arrested by the RCMP Hate Crimes Unit in 2012.
While these postings would be viewed as distasteful and hateful in the United States, they would be fully protected under the first amendment. However, in Canada, the indictment charges Topham with two counts of “communicating statements, other than in private conversation, that wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group, people of the Jewish religion or ethnic origin.” In the articles Topham accused “World Jewry” of starting World War II, controlling the media and planning for world domination. He also used the phrase “Synagogues of Satan.” Topham wrote a long statement on his blog in response to his arrest.
The government argued in court that all of this is untrue and that “[t]here is no global conspiracy. There is no secret kabal of Jews wanting to control the world.” However, that misses the point. Few people would take these arguments seriously but that does not change the fact that he has a right to articulate such views. If the government witnesses want to prove him wrong, they can exercise the same free speech rights to denounce him and his views.
This trial comes in the same month as the conviction of 12 people in France for merely protesting Israeli products as a form of hate speech. It is all part of the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England and Canada ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws.
A few examples from our cousins in the North are quire chilling:
• Comedian Guy Earle was found guilty of violating the human rights of a lesbian couple after he got into a trash-talking session with a group of women during an open-mike night at a nightclub.
• Marc Lemire, the webmaster of a far-right political site, was punished for allowing third parties to leave insulting comments about homosexuals and blacks on the site. Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley ruled that “the minimal harm caused . . . to freedom of expression is far outweighed by the benefit it provides to vulnerable groups and to the promotion of equality.”
• “The Rev. Stephen Boission and the Concerned Christian Coalition for anti-gay speech, censured future speech that the commission deemed inappropriate.” While the Human Right Commission found “no direct victim . . . has come forward,” it still ordered damages paid to a college professor to brought the complaint and ordered the defendants to stop any future such “disparaging remarks.”
• In 2008, right-wing publisher Ezra Levant investigated by a tribunal for his publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons for “advocating hatemongering cartoons in the media” and allegations from a Muslim that he was “defaming me and my family because we follow and are related to Prophet Mohammed.”
• In 2008, Maclean Magazine was charged with hate speech for publishing an article written by Mark Steyn entitled Why the Future Belongs to Islam. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, demanded answers on why a few pages of the book were viewed as derogatory by complaining Muslims.
These cases represent more than a lack of support for free speech. They represent a comprehensive assault on free speech.
The problem with free speech is that you often have to support the claims of people you may find hateful and even disgusting. We do not need free speech to protect popular speech or speakers. However, once we place ourselves on the slippery slope of speech regulation (as has Canada), the result is the diminishment of all of our rights.
What do you think?