Our Senate gets it right on free speechCanadians who think the Senate is a temple to doddering uselessness have not been paying attention to the Upper Chamber's recent debate on free speech. Over the past two weeks, Senators have given a string of eloquent defences of free expression in response to a call from Senator Doug Finley's request for an inquiry into the status of free speech in Canada.
"Censorship," Mr. Finley said in his opening remarks, has begun to "rear its ugly head" in the form of aggressive human rights commission investigations into politically incorrect Internet postings and a university administrator's threats to American author Ann Coulter that she risked hate-crimes prosecution if she didn't curb her tongue while in Canada. "Despite our 400-year tradition of free speech, the tyrannical instinct to censor still exists."
On Tuesday, Senator Nicole Eaton explained how the desire to protect identifiable groups from being offended, while well-intentioned, had led to a "tyranny of the nice." She added that "to have a government agency monitoring the Internet, searching for certain political views to prosecute, is anathema to a liberal democracy."
Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Brazeau explained how the right to speak one's mind "is reflective of the notion that all men and women were created equal. Freedom of speech knows no political station, no power structure nor race, colour or creed."
Contrast that with the views of Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator Dean Stacey who at a hate-speech inquest three years ago testified that, "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value."
In a debate over who would better protect Canadians' ancient right to free expression, our Senate or the CHRC, it's not much of a contest.