Friday, June 06, 2008

The Freedom to Write - Gregoire

I don't know how many of you have been following it, but our freedom of speech in Canada is under direct attack.
A group of radical Muslims has taken Maclean's magazine before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (and will soon before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal) to complain about the excerpt from Mark Steyn's book America Alone. It subjected them to contempt and hatred, they say.
The hearing has been live blogged (you can see it at Ezra Levant's site and Andrew Coyne's blog) and is being analyzed well by our own Deborah Gyapong. This is one that we mustn't let go.
It really doesn't matter whether you agree with what Steyn wrote or not (I happen to think he was right; but there are others who were prosecuted by these tribunals that I think were wrong that I also don't think deserved to be prosecuted. Marc Lemire falls under this category). The point is that truth is not a defense. As Maclean's lawyer McConchie pointed out this week, it does not matter if everything Steyn said was factually true. If it caused Muslims to feel intimidated, the tribunal can still declare such speech out of bounds.
For those of us who write from a Christian perspective this is very grave indeed. Imagine if Muslims could take you to a tribunal to declare that we cannot criticize Muhammad? Or imagine if they could take us to a tribunal if we refused to handle promotional material for a gay pride event? Oh, wait. That already happened to Scott Brodie.
Or what if they took us to a tribunal for expressing our belief in God ordained marriage? Yep, that's been taken to the tribunal, too, and in that one the Christian was found guilty. The Bible being declared hate literature? That's been done by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal, too.
In fact, over the last decade the human rights tribunals, both at the provincial and federal level, have declared out of bounds much of mainstream Canadian writing. We just haven't been paying attention.
The Mark Steyn case, though, is getting loads of attention, and most of the sympathy is falling on his side. The Privacy Commissioner has recently launched an investigation into the federal tribunal's method of operation; the RCMP has joined in; and now the federal government is about to launch its own investigation.
Best of all, Liberal MP Keith Martin has proposed a bill to eliminate Section 13 from the Human Rights Act, which would effectively restore freedom of speech in Canada.
The momentum is moving towards freedom's side, and we can't let it drop. I don't mean to be so political, but there has never been a moment in Canadian history when freedom of speech was so much at stake, and when we also had as much of a chance to do something about it. As writers, we need to act.
So let's write. Let's write letters to the editor. Let's write blog posts. Most of all, let's write our MPs, our MPPs, and our Prime Minister and Premiers. Let's restore liberty, or soon we just might find that writing from a Christian perspective in Canada is no longer possible.
Sheila blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. Her columns and articles can be found here.

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