Question: Is someone you know or follow being denied their right to free speech?
People have been getting fired from their jobs for speaking their mind. People have been getting banned from publically speaking for freely speaking. Or is it speaking freely?
But is it their inalienable right to speak? What is “free speech” anyways? I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here is what it means in North America:
In the good old US of A it is defined by Amendment Numero Uno of the country’s constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Up here in the Great White North, it is defined under a 1982 act which added the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to our constitution. The rights prescribed here are guaranteed to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
There are quite a few rights stated in the charter, but this post is about Free Speech. Section 2(b) of the charter states:
Everyone has the fundamental freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
Sounds similar to the U.S.’s First Amendment. Canada also has the right to free assembly, etc. Those rights are under other subsections of the charter.
If I understand this correctly, it seems like everyone in North America should be able to say whatever they want! Not so fast! Maybe not. In Canada, our Criminal Code has a couple of sections that prohibit hatred. Under the law, you cannot do the following: advocate genocide – crim. code sec. 318, publicly incite hatred – sec. 319(1), or promote hatred – sec 319(2).
So how does the criminal code define hatred? Actually, it doesn’t. Since it is not defined by the criminal code, it is left up to the courts to decide what it means. And in numerous legal precedents over the years, the lawyers and judges have had a lot of fun doing just that.
In the two sections where the word hatred is used, we see the wording “against an identifiable group”. From my understanding, you can’t be charged for inciting hatred against people who, for example, “don’t brush their teeth”. It has to be any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.
If you’re wondering if I became a lawyer in my spare time, I did not. What I do like to do in my spare time is to catch a good movie at the theatre.
Unfortunately, if I bought tickets to see Jordan Peterson’s new movie at the Carleton Theatre in his home turf of Toronto, I will have to ask for my money back. In this article, I learned that the University professor-turned-public-speaking-sensation has been censored once again.
What about free speech? Why won’t they let the people see the feature film, The Rise of Jordan Peterson?
While his popularity has surged over the last few years (hence the name of the film), he is not popular with everyone. But has he said anything hateful? Is his message so divisive that he deserves to be shut out from speaking in his own home town?
I guess the audience will have to be the judge. If you don’t know who Peterson is, his rise to fame started in 2016 when he spoke out against bill C-16, a bill of law introduced by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. The bill did end up getting passed and added the words “gender identity and expression” to three places, one of which I referenced earlier in the definition of an identifiable group under the so-called “hate speech” law.
So what was Peterson’s problem with the new wording? He was afraid the new law would be used to compel a person to use words they did not wish to use. Specifically, he was talking about “gender pronouns”. While he has since stated that if a theoretical student in his classroom requested he use a specific “gender pronoun”, he would do so at that student’s request. He did not believe it should be the government’s place to compel him to do so.
He was allowed to speak at length about this issue during the Senate hearing on C-16.
Since that time, he has blown up on social media. He has written a book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos. He has appeared on numerous talk shows and participated in many debates. He has gained popularity around the world, but in the words of the article I referenced earlier, some just don’t want to contribute to the “cult of personality around Peterson”.
That is my example of the erosion of free speech in my country. What do you think? Feel free to answer the question I proposed at the beginning of this article, or tell me what you think about Peterson.
After all, I think it is still a free country.