A Canadian’s Perspective: Freedom of speech laws in Canada

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By Maverick Lynes, Staff Writer

As a Canadian, I have experienced some people’s surprised faces when I tell them “hate speech” is a legitimate law in Canada. Canada still provides freedom of speech, just to a different extent than America does.

Many Canadian officials have been quoted saying that freedom of speech is an American concept. This point is reinforced by section one of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom which states free expression is limited by, “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The modern era is seeing a dramatic shift regarding freedom of speech, meaning that free speech is no longer entirely absolute. It has become more debated regarding what is classified as hate speech and what is still protected by free speech.

In Canada, hate speech is criminalized by section 319 The Criminal Code of Canada; it is meant to counter racism and bigotry. The law was put in place to prevent the incitation of violence and the promotion of hatred. Cases regarding section 319 are relatively rare and even require the consent of the attorney general to press charges, which is something very few other sections require.

However, there is still plenty debate within the country whether the law has made Canada a more harmonious nation or if this law has farfetched hopes. Nonetheless, this law promotes compromise and even a more communal country.

In America the most vile and hateful speech is protected under the constitution. American’s have absolute freedom, from fighting for their right to new legislation to voicing your displeasure regarding a particular group, both are protected.

This particular debate on which is better, absolute freedom or controlled freedom, will continue to be prevalent for a long time.

I would not put myself firmly on either side of the debate; I believe that both realities are essential. The discussion for absolute freedom is apparent, you live in a free country and you do have the right to your own opinion and views. The debate over hate speech is that every citizen, despite race, sexuality or spiritual beliefs deserves to feel safe in their country. I do believe that hatred can cause people to feel as though they are in significant danger and these laws help impede that.

When it comes to hate speech and the controlled freedom it insinuates, where is the line drawn? That is the grey area that is hard to differentiate. I believe that is why requiring the attorney general’s permission to lay charges is a crucial feature of the law.

I will admit that I am biased to my home country and I support the law of hate speech. While you live in a free country, it is free for all the citizens surrounding you as well. Freedom to express is an essential component of both countries that we take for granted. If you feel as though implementing hate speech into your own countries laws would impose on your rights, I believe you need a different outlook on the real values of free speech. Why would taking away the power to promote hatred and encourage violence make your country less than others?

Primarily, I believe you have the right to a peaceful protest of an issue you are passionate about; do you need to be passionate about hatred? With all the hate that seems to be in the world today, enforcing something that would help eliminate just a bit of that hate does not come off as such a bad idea

With that being said, when it comes to hate speech and the controlled freedom it insinuates, where is the line drawn? That is the grey area that is hard to differentiate from, but I believe that is why it is so crucial to require the attorney general’s permission.

1 COMMENT

  1. Your argument has one huge flaw. The term hate speech itself is subjective and open to abuse of the opinion of the political party in power. Ceding any power to censor the people gives the state enormous advantages over dissenting opinion. The press is ultimately at the mercy of tbe state for fear of sanctions that could result in imprisonment or loss of employnent.

    Islam is the most oppressive religion in the world today. Dissent from its Quranic teachings is punishable by death in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and not just to Muslims, yet any discussion of Islam’s shortcomings is now prohibited as hate speech in Canada. This is only one example how Canada has become the policeman of hurt feelings. At one time everything in Canada could be publicly discusses, but today, a bad idea cannot be discussed because it might hurt the feelings of Muslims or some other party, because it may be deckared by the state to be hate speech. Self censoring in of the press in Canada and the UK are now common. Only speech within approved state limits are acceptable. Robert Spencer, an American expert on Islamic jihad had to give his speech on the subject in a private home in Canada, in secret, because of fear of arrest. Is this the Canada you wish for, because you already have it. I would rather live in the US any day, and risk giving the occasional nut a speaking platform than live in the ever repressive state of Canada or the UK, where if I say something these governments disagree with, I’ll likely get a knock on the door from the speech police. That kind of approach should have disappeared with the fall of Nazism, but appatently not. Some history lessons never stay learned. You needn’t wish for your dystopic control of freedom of speech becsuse it’s already here. Just pray that you never find yourself on a side of an issue dissenting from the politically correct view.

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