Wednesday, October 5, 2011

LEVANT: PM's chance to defend freedom of speech

After five years in power, the Conservative government finally has introduced a bill to repeal the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

That provision — called section 13 — gives the government the power to censor anything on the Internet “likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt”.

So it covers a Facebook link that you share that has an off-colour joke. Or a comment that you make on a blog that isn’t quite politically correct.

Finally, the Conservative government has taken the first baby step to repealing it.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. The Conservative government and the Justice Minister haven’t done a thing. But a backbench MP from the northern Alberta riding of Westlock-St. Paul has. Last Friday, Brian Storseth introduced a private member’s bill, Bill C-304, called “An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (Protecting Freedom).” Normally when a private member’s bill is introduced, it’s merely a symbolic act — pretend busy-work that’s little more than a press release, that has little chance of being passed, and often doesn’t even get a chance to be debated.

But Storseth’s C-304 isn’t at the end of a long line. It’s near the front — it’s 15th in line. So it’s quite likely that the bill will actually be debated, as soon as November, and voted on this year.

It should be a slam-dunk. Freedom of speech is so important to our society, it’s bigger than left wing versus right wing, or conservative versus liberal.

During the Conservatives’ two terms of minority government, they were afraid of offending the small group of Canadians who make their living by being professionally offended by things.

Literally a thousand lawyers and bureaucrats across Canada collectively take about $200 million from taxpayers to “work” in human rights commissions. And then there are all the lawyers-of-fortune and other shakedown artists and hangers-on out there who don’t work directly for the industry, but who have a stake in it.

Of course these censors have a political agenda of their own. They don’t believe in diversity — diversity of opinion, that is. All the people prosecuted by the Canadian government under section 13 fit a pattern. To use the language of the complaining left, the human rights commission engages in racial profiling. One hundred per cent of the people prosecuted under section 13 have been white and Christian. And 90% of them have been too poor to afford a lawyer.

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