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The university argues that a loud, unruly, physically disruptive mob should be entitled to shut down campus events, as long as the mob is non-violent.
Last year the minister responsible for Canada Post issued what a prohibitory order to stop delivery of a disgusting hate rag known as Your Ward News by Canada Post carriers. Defenders of Your Ward News say this is a free-speech issue, and their rights are being denied. They are completely wrong on both counts.
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A few days ago, the (usually) brilliant writer Andrew Potter resigned as the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada amid scrutiny over an ill-received March 20 article in Maclean's. As such, many in the journalistic community are left horrified about the state of free speech in Canada - as they ought to be.
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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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On January 20, 2017, producers for the CBC program Marketplace printed t-shirts containing racist logos and mottos, including "white power" and "white pride world wide [sic]," and hired a middle-aged white man to stand on a Toronto street to peddle the t-shirts and yell racist slogans. Not only is this episode the epitome of so-called "fake news" -- fabricating a story in order to report it -- it's also deeply ironic. By broadcasting this content in Alberta, the CBC likely violated Alberta's hate speech law.
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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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The reality is that every single person who wants to engage in free expression on university must deal with the campus thought police, first. The Canadian Taxpayer Federation's (CTF) student initiative, Generation Screwed, which deals with government debt and fiscal issues, has had its own share of challenges.
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Freedom of speech does not only protect one's right to be offensive, it also protects individual and communities' right to express their diversity. By staging the debate, focusing on anti-trans and anti-black freedom of speech, the University of Toronto is inflaming the toxic environment its trans and racialized students are facing.
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Badawi has been languishing in a Saudi prison since his first arrest in 2012, and his subsequent sentencing in 2014 to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes, itself constitutive of torture and a standing violation of international human rights law. Raif Badawi's "crime"? Establishing an online forum and exercising his right to freedom of expression.
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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.
Like it or not, Canada is a country that celebrates freedom of expression. Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Everyone has freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication." That "Everyone" includes people who say objectionable, false, foolish, misguided, or even ugly things.
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The student union is now being sued because it continues to insist on banning the peaceful expression of pro-life opinion at Brandon University. BUSU claims that the pro-life message makes some students feel "uncomfortable."
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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.
Free speech, we say, is a principle we will defend to the death. Until perhaps we don't agree with what has been said. Then, suddenly, we are able to find very valid reasons to rationalize ourselves away from a supposed absolute value. Cases like Yiannopoulos' push our proclaimed moral positions up against the wall, compelling us to confront our human tendency towards personal bias. And that's why they are so interesting.