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It is becoming increasingly popular - and effective - to impose security fees on student groups that seek to host a controversial speaker, or to express an unpopular view. By extorting those who seek only to exercise their legal rights, universities are blaming the victims and encouraging the bullies.
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When Rebel Media sent out emails claiming that "Canada is on the verge of passing a law that would prohibit criticizing Islam" and that "If this motion passes, Canadians can be persecuted for expressing any criticism of Islam, even when warranted," I pointed out that M-103 is a motion, not a law, and that it will not change a single comma of existing speech legislation. Apparently, Prime Minister Trudeau disagrees.
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Censorship always stems from the same impulse: the authorities are firmly convinced they have the absolute truth, and are therefore entitled to suppress what they deem to be false. A recent display of this censorship impulse occurred at the University of Alberta Law Faculty.
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"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue," goes the old saying. At Canadian public universities, hypocrisy threatens to destroy one of higher education's most cherished and long-standing virtues: the free exchange of ideas.
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If I were a teacher starting my career, or even in a well-established position, I would be very concerned that any publicly unpopular view I might hold could affect my employment. Even if I never chose to let my students know my views, my public political participation would be deeply chilled.
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Ezra Levant is angry with the NO delivered to Energy East from the 82 mayors of Montreal's Urban Community to TransCanada Pipelines last January, and is accusing Mayor Coderre of favouring "Shariah" petroleum by saying NO to the "ethical" petroleum of Canada. But there is an important major flaw in Mr. Levant's argument.
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Long before human rights commissions, the common law provided victims of false accusations with a real remedy to protect their reputation: defamation. When someone says something about you that is false and that hurts your standing in the community, you can seek and obtain monetary compensation.
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Being an adult, a parent, grandparent, caregiver, teacher or other adult who interacts with children is very hard work. If we are doing our job, we must tread in dangerous waters. How can we do this in a diverse and multi-layered society? Can we nurture, protect and educate children, all at the same time?
Should York University accept funding that is contingent upon agreeing to remove a controversial piece of art? Without the ability to explore and express ideas that are troubling and even transgressive, universities would become mills that deliver pre-approved doses of information in community sanctioned packets.
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Freedom of expression has cost my husband, Raif Badawi, his own freedom. As we speak, he is locked inside a small cell in a remote prison in Saudi Arabia; a country where censorship prevails. A country, my country, which views women as second class citizens. A country, my husband's country, that he so loves -- all of its land, its women and men, his love of his country, which extends right up to the doors of Shura, which is set on ruining the aspirations of an entire people. A country where the young are choking in a whisper that should be a scream.
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The prospect of considering expanded blocking for copyright purposes validates the fears of civil liberties groups that the introduction of blocking requirements invariably expands to cover a wider net of content. Canadian copyright was already on track for a boisterous debate in the coming years with changes such as copyright term extension mandated by the Trans Pacific Partnership and a review of the law scheduled for 2017. If government officials envision adding VPN usage, access to U.S. Netflix and website blocking to the list of issues, copyright could emerge as one of the government's most difficult and controversial issues.
The problem with this particular group of guys isn't that they invoked the Vietnam War at all, it's that they did it for a really shitty reason. To suggest that any subject matter be restricted to any artist is a low-key expression of censorship and should be resisted. Politically sensitive, controversial imagery needs to be available; to declare it off-limits infantilizes the role of music and art, and our expectations from it.
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Last Sunday, a group of students at the University of South Dakota planned to attend a screening of our film, Honor Diaries, a documentary focused on the abuses women face under the honor system. Due to "stealth repression," the film screening was mysteriously canceled.
So there you have it: censorship takes place when authorities -- i.e. those with real power -- issue fatwas, demand a book be withdrawn, remove it from schools/libraries, burn or otherwise prevent people from reading it. It would be censorship if Mr. Harper's Minister of literature turned around and said, "Take that sucker off the shelves. No one's gonna read about tampon lollipops on my watch!" No matter how hard Galloway et al. twists it, a petition to the Canada Council to reconsider an award just doesn't qualifies as censorship in the real world.