Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kathy Shaidle: Persecution of Free Speech in Canada & Paul Fromm

First They Came For… Canadian "Hate Speech" Totalitarianism Is Not New

By Kathy Shaidle

Before December 2007, most Americans had no idea that bureaucrats in their neighbor to the north had been waging a war on free speech for over a decade.

Then well-known conservative columnist and author Mark Steyn announced that he and Macleans, Canada's oldest weekly newsmagazine, were being charged by a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal  with "flagrant Islamophobia" for printing an excerpt from Steyn's book America Alone

At the same time, Ezra Levant, a lawyer and lifelong libertarian pundit based in Alberta, was brought before an Alberta  Human Rights Commission tribunal for his own "crime": publishing the controversial Danish "Mohammed" cartoons (his Western Standard, now defunct, was one of only two Canadian publications to do so.) Ever media savvy, Levant videotaped his defiant opening statement—and uploaded it to Over a half-million views later, Levant was a free speech hero.

(At least on the internet. U.S. media bellwethers like the New York Times and Washington Post still don't seem to have reported the story.)

Levant and Steyn are campaigning for a drastic overhaul of Canada's "human rights" bureaucracy, which dates from the 1970s and has mission-creeped from investigating housing and employment discrimination to suppressing politically incorrect speech. Recently, a Christian printer was fined for declining to print gay activist propaganda, and a Catholic bishop was harassed with a human rights complaint for a pastoral letter explaining Catholic teaching on homosexuality— filed as part of a "gay marriage" publicity stunt.

But the fact is that a long chain-gang of other Canadians—not as famous, articulate or resourceful as Steyn and Levant and in some cases positively insalubrious—have been persecuted and punished for years because they've offended Canada's politically correct Trudeauvian Establishment. But almost nobody complained. This is a case where anti-Nazi German theologian Martin Niemoller's much-cited lines ("They came first for the Communists, and I did not speak up because I wasn't a Communist") really apply.

For example, Paul Fromm.

The former schoolteacher's problems started back in 1994, when his employers, The Peel Region Board of Education, learned about the far right company he kept outside the classroom. After thirteen years of litigation, Fromm was stripped of his license to teach, although it was conceded he had never promoted his views in the classroom.

Now, given their druthers, libertarian human rights champions would have chosen a more ideologically photogenic poster child than Paul Fromm. Many articles claiming to detail Fromm's far right activities have appeared in Canada's admittedly liberal media over a period of more than thirty years. (See his—very volatile— entry on Wikipedia.)

Nonetheless, Fromm had a few respectable supporters, too, because the circumstances of his dismissal were nothing less than Orwellian.

A particularly eloquent condemnation of Fromm's fate appeared in the Calgary Sun in 1997—written by...Ezra Levant:

"Three years ago, Fromm was investigated to see whether he was infecting his classrooms with his own ideologies. He was exonerated. Its sole condemnation: that Fromm's political activities outside of school 'were inconsistent with the fundamental or core values' that a teacher was supposed to teach…

"Fromm is not using his classroom as a pulpit. According to Fromm's employers, Fromm had 'demonstrated a profound disrespect for the principles of multiculturalism and ethnocultural equity.'

"But it is the Peel educrats, not Fromm, who have demonstrated a profound disrespect for our traditions of free speech and political association."[ Free Speech Is Too Important, by Ezra Levant Calgary Sun, January 17, 1997]




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