December 20, 2007

Free speech is not a human right in Canada

Rather like those polygamous Mormon separatists who live right on the Utah-Arizona border and build their houses on skids so they can drag them just across the dividing line when the state police are coming to arrest them, Voltaire spent his last two decades on the French-Swiss border in the village of Ferney, near Geneva, just in case.

Canadian native Mark Steyn lives in a small American town, not far from the Canadian border. The wisdom of residing in a country with a constitutional protection for free speech (or should I say, the country?) was pointed out by his being called before Canada's Human Rights Commission to account for the crime of publishing an excerpt from his bestseller America Alone
in Maclean's, Canada's leading newsmagazine. Apparently, freedom of speech is not a human right in Canada.

The Canadian Islamic Council that filed the nuisance suit may not win against somebody as globally-connected as Steyn, but the lesson for anybody actually living in Canada is clear.

This abuse isn't as severe as what psychologist J.P. Rushton had to put up with a decade and a half ago in Canada -- he was under police investigation for over half a year. But, it is indicative of how diversity and civil liberties are increasingly in collision.

The future of the world may well look like the old Ottoman Empire writ large: multiculturalism on a remarkable scale, but public liberty close to non-existent -- it was simply too dangerous in such a diverse community.

In the short run, we may be able to slow down the arrival of the long run by organizing boycotts of tourism and conferences in countries, such as Canada, that are throttling free speech.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

We have a little more protection here because free speech is spelled out so clearly and there's vestiges of a tradition of protecting unpopular speech, but it's already in the process of being removed via hate crimes legislation. (Any bets on how long until VDARE is sued out of existence?) The ultimate irony is that the free speech clause was originally conceived only to apply to political speech - the thought of protecting, say, pornography would have been inconceivable to the framers. As it's evolving between hate crime and campaign finance laws, pornography will be the only thing considered to be under first amendment protection in another generation...

Anonymous said...

I read that article and was not impressed because it was pretty tame. I kept saying to myself, "You fool!! All the west needs to do is stop letting them immigrate and all their high birth rate will do is provide redemption for Malthus."

If Steyn had suggested something like ending third world immigration or, God forbid, somthing about racial differences in intelligence, he could have found himself in the criminal courts. Multiculturalism is the state religion here.

Steve, you're lucky you write from the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK? Do they value protecting people's feelings over protecting the right to free speech, or is this something that has been imposed by an elite against the wishes of the general population? I'm asking seriously, and I would love to hear from Canadians on this point.

It's part of the American constitution - literally and figuratively - to believe that people have a right to free speech. Why do we believe that while our cousins to the north - whose way of life is otherwise so similar to ours - seem not to?

TGGP said...

I discussed just how bad things have gotten for free speech in Canada here.

Garland said...

"In the short run, we may be able to slow down the arrival of the long run by organizing boycotts of tourism and conferences in countries, such as Canada, that abuse the right to free speech."

Wait...what? Canada is abusing the right to free speech? It's not *recognizing* a right to free speech.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. I appreciate the proofreading / editing suggestions.

Anonymous said...

There is also the NY State Court decision enforcing the judgment of libel tourism.

Short version: NY State citizen writes a book published in the US about Saudi financing of terrorism. Book is shipped to the UK via and the Saudi financier sues and wins for libel.

NY State court upholds that US citizens must be liable for any decision handed down overseas -- AND they cannot counter-sue and enforce decisions abroad. It only goes one way.

Hotair and NRO call it a "nuclear bomb" and Andy McCarthy at NRO Online has more.

All in all a very bad day and it needs to be made a constant political point, particularly against Liberals to point out their gutless non-enforcement of basic rights when Muslims use the legal system for Jihad.

Anonymous said...

Just for the edification of your readers, Canada does have a Constitutional right to freedom of speech (s. 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). However, a good number of rights in the Charter - including this one - are subject to s. 1 which says rights exist only "to such reasonable limits... as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

This functions as a back-up argument for gov't if one of it's laws is found to abridge a certain right (for example, it's by this means that drunk-driving roadblocks can be used by the police, despite the fact that they amount to arbitrary detention contrary to s. 9).

Unfortunately, Steyn is being prosecuted according to the terms of Human Rights legislation, which is enacted at the provincial level. All 10 provinces would have to repeal the legislation for it to be completely excised (especially in the case of a nat'l magazine like MacLean's).

Indeed, Human Rights Tribunals have long been a concern of conservatives in Canada, but we're relatively few. Perhaps this abuse might spur some sort of reform but I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

They started with race based science and holocaust skeptics, and they have moved on quickly to more "mainstream" topics.

You can't avoid this. It is the "ring" in the lord of the rings.

the Narrator... said...

The same concept is applied in the military. 'Relative' social harmony can be achieved within a racially diverse community only so long as a militaristic style dictatorship is enforced...

Anonymous said...

From the left's point of view, the harm mass immigration does to free speech is another excellent reason for supporting it. See Mr Foxman.

And, American-born Asians are increasingly driven by the political climate on elite campuses, with their obsession with minority victimhood.

Self-pity goes with other-hatred, and people who see themselves as victims very easily get vicious. See John Derbyshire's disturbing article:

Importing Sino-Fascism?

"Cherish the Motherland, which never has done, and never could do, any wrong. Hate the foreign devils, who have inflicted untold miseries on our people, and who never cease plotting to weaken and dismember our country. The borders of the People's Republic [which are actually those of the Manchu empire, minus Outer Mongolia] are sacred and inviolable, and must not be questioned."

This is the world-view with which Chinese people emerge from their schools and universities. "England Big Nose" and "hairy hand" are the terms in which China's M.A.s and Ph.D.s address foreigners who question these dogmas. What thoughts swirl in the minds of less well-educated, less-privileged young Mainlanders, one can only wonder.

Ali said...

It's a completely daft lawsuit. Doing this does no favours to the image of us Muslims at all. I'll be writing to the Canadian Islamic Council.

Anonymous said...

I do boycott Canada. Got an invitation to submit a film of mine to Toronto. I replied: "I wouldn't submit a film to Stalin, and I won't submit a film to be reviewed by your so-called 'Human Rights Commission.'" Canada is a tyranny and is far more deserving of a general cultural boycott (could any ever be enforced against it!) than is Cuba today.

The Ayn Randers even had some of their literature (whooping for Israel) stopped at the border some years back, on hate charges. I will defend to the death their right to say it, etc.

A government that treats the citizens as children to such an extent is a tyranny. Many people are in prison there for saying only a fraction of what Steve says in his articles here.

We're inclined to think of Canada as a big, dumb, harmless wasteland full of funny little folks who are sedate and who say "Eh?" but years behind bars for thinking outside the PC box isn't funny.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing JP Rushton might have something to say about this. Then there's that unmetnionable miscreant, Ernst Zundel, who sat in a Canadian jail for years before being deported to a proper German prison.

Anonymous said...

In the liberal city where I live (Victoria), my sense is that people are uncomfortable with the Steyn/Macleans case, but not enough to do anything about it. The people who are voicing outrage are tagged as conservative wingnuts. The Harper government is not likely to act, and if they don't, who will?

The standard view is still that human rights commissions are on the side of the angels, and if you're against them, well, you know which side YOU'RE on. The view that free speech is an American rather than Canadian value is a minority view, but still within the spectrum of respectable opinion.

intellectual pariah

Anonymous said...

Most American seem to think free speech is some sort of human right that's in the Bible or something. But even most Western European countries have limits on what you can and can't say, and people do get thrown in prison if what they say incites a mob.

It's mainly the media in America that creates this hysteria about free speech, as if it's some kind of be-all, end-all for human living. For example, everyone is up in arms right now about Putin getting the Time Person of the Year award. "Wait, isn't this the guy that shut down those TV stations and threw the reporter in jail! He's worse than Hitler! He's worse than Stalin!", while completely ignoring the fact the man turned a failed state into a booming and respected power in about 7 years. The average person cares not about free speech, so long as he has food to eat and something to watch on TV.

Anonymous said...

The law isn't everything. I suspect that speech might de facto be freer at Oxford and Cambridge than at Harvard and Yale.

My Pen Name said...

Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK?

Mr. Wood, like the Canadian government cares?! LOL that's the last thing on their minds.

Snake Man said...

As if this is news that Canada does not allow free speech. Is everyone here too afraid of the Thought Police to even mention the name Ernst Zundel?

Anonymous said...

Was it not the Canadian Jewish Congress that first put the hate-propaganda proposition to the House of Commons, formally, in 1953?

Anonymous said...

Steyn is a fellow traveller of the people who are responsable for these Orwellian laws.

Anonymous said...

In Franklin Bialystok's book, Delayed Impact: The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community, the main push for the Cohen Committee and the subsequent hate propaganda law, was a rise, mainly in Toronto, of the disbursement of antisemitic literature. Bialystok claimed a "score" of incidents across Canada, one of which being a mailing campaign, organised by a follower of George Lincoln Rockwell, which sent leaflets to all Jews in Toronto named Rosen. It stated "THIT ITH THE END".

More tension arose, according to Bialystok, when the CBC's "This Hour HAS Seven Days" sent the irreverent Larry Zolf, a Jew, to interview Rockwell in Virginia. True to form it elicited such statements from Rockwell as "we want to liquidate Communist traitors", "about 80% of Jews are Commies or traitors," "It's a lie that six million were gassed," etc.

The Cohen committee was established, not long after and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anonymous said...

"Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK? Do they value protecting people's feelings over protecting the right to free speech, or is this something that has been imposed by an elite against the wishes of the general population?"

Canadians have a long tradition of deference to authority, combined with a willingness to put up with the inconveniences that the actions of authority might temporarily incur. In the past, 'authority' meant the British crown and, broadly speaking, British civilization. Today, we have a very different political class, but the old reflexes still remain, particularly among Canadians of British descent.

Yes, we value our freedoms, but we have always seen 'authority' as the best instrument for defending them. Unfortunately, we have no way of conceptualizing how we can defend ourselves in defiance of authority.

Among Canadians, especially English-Canadians, I see a silent helplessness that may seem strange to Americans. It's not that we are cowards. In the past, we fought valiantly in both world wars, but we did so on behalf of recognized authority -- and not as part of some revolutionary action.

Things are starting to change, slowly and particularly more so among French Canadians (who do have a tradition of defying authority).

Anonymous said...

"...or is this something that has been imposed by an elite against the wishes of the general population?"

It's imposition, and as Peter Brimelow argues, it has classic Marxian dimensions.

Dresden (a samll town in Ontario, near Detroit, the home of Uncle Tom's cabin, where some whites would not serve blacks) was one of the first issues facing this new committee. NUA Executive Secretary Hugh Burnett had attended a JLC-sponsored Race Relations Institute as a delegate from his carpenter’s union, and deeply moved the others with his stories of discrimination in Dresden. As a result, the Ontario human rights community took the issue to the new Conservative premier, Leslie Frost, on 7 July 1949. Accompanied by about 35 other human-rights activists, Irving Himel presented a brief from the Toronto Association for Civil Liberties on behalf of a "policy network,"62 of various churches, different ethnic organizations (including Jewish, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, and black), several women’s groups, and a number of non-communist trade unions: the International Bookbinders Union, the ILGWU, the Oil Workers Union, the Printing Pressman’s Union, the Street Railwaymen’s Union, the Textile Workers Union, the United Packinghouse Workers Union, the CCL, and the TLC-affiliated Toronto and District Labour Council.63

Premier Frost was genuinely upset about racism and discrimination in his province, partly because he believed that bigotry against Jews and blacks was incompatible with the Christian faith. 74 His attitude, however, can also be explained through class analysis. As Mark Leier has argued, "[w]hatever the dominant sexual and racial ideologies of the day have been, capital has always been quick to jettison them when they no longer served," and race discrimination in the immediate post-war period had far less utility than in earlier times. 75 For Leslie Frost, the world was turning to democracy rather than communism for the protection of human rights, and anti-discrimination legislation in Ontario could therefore combine both practical politics and ideological warfare — stealing some of the thunder of Ontario’s communist MPPs as well as demonstrating the virtues of "democratic freedom." 76

Frost also saw discrimination as threatening the class interests of those who, like himself, were interested in speedy economic development. Knowing that immigration from Britain was drying up, he believed that discrimination against new arrivals from countries such as Italy or Greece might interfere with immigration rates, as well as contribute to domestic social problems. His concern was therefore not entirely with "racial" discrimination against blacks, but rather embraced the broader problem of "ethnic" prejudice.77

Canada, held the same restrictionist ideas as the US and most Canadians disliked the idea of mass immigration from eastern and southern Europe. However, for the political and business elite, as Master Brimelow suggests, mass immigration meant wealth transfer.

Anonymous said...

Is anti-Putin hysteria really sweeping America? Maybe in the circles of neocon hyper-interventionists and their stooges-but nowhere else.

Anonymous said...

"Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK?"

The only Canadian I know personally is an active opponent of free speech, a convinced communist and passionate America-hater who would say that Steyn, as part of the evil imperialist American propaganda machine, had no business being published in the first place. (He had said similar things about the Don Imus affair.)

By the way, this man, who can be quite charming when the subject is not politics, is not a Jew, but rather a proud Scottish-Canadian.

Derek Kite said...

"Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK?"

What will change? I don't read Macleans now. Most Canadians read US publications. The debate on most issues is done in the US.

This same rule applies to almost every important facet of Canadian life.

So I fully expect the HRC to rule against Macleans, and no one will notice.

There is no way that Canadians will permit the first amendment to their constitution to be a guarantee of free speech. Too humiliating.


Tom Merle said...

What did Canadians do about Borat? Sacha Cohen must have really thrown them off their game. His intensity of ridicule is unparalleled.

Anonymous said...

Do ordinary Canadians think this is OK?

Ordinary Canadians have never heard of Mark Steyn or this threat to free speech. I'm only aware of this case because I read American blogs like this one. Not once have I heard a reference to this on Canadian national or local news on TV or radio.

Anonymous said...

the Narrator "The same concept is applied in the military. 'Relative' social harmony can be achieved within a racially diverse community only so long as a militaristic style dictatorship is enforced..."

True. At least that ends once one leaves the military. And at the moment the military is voluntary (no draftees).

Anonymous said...

I'm suprised no one here reprised this famous old line:

"Democracy, Multiculturalism, Diversity: Pick any two."

It appears to me that what conservatives lack - what conservatives desparately need - is to adopt the tactic of civil disobediance. Until we do so we are little more than puppets in the hands of the leftist, open borders, increasingly totalitarian establishment. The Steyn case is the perfect starting point because disobeying the "Human Rights Commission" doesn't disrupt any of the critical functions of government. What if every opponent of free speech infringment wore clothes with anti-Muslim sayings and put anti-Muslim bumper stickers on their car?

And for those who don't think this is coming to the United States: Wake Up. It's almost here (on college campuses, it already is).

Anonymous said...

One thing that bothers me about Steyn's defenders is their reaction to this line:

Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes.

This line appears it Steyn's book, America Alone, but it's not his. It is actually a quote from an Islamofascist. His defenders argue that he shouldn't be held to account for it because he was just quoting.

But why should it matter even if he did write it?

Anonymous said...

A Calgary Herald writer describes the Canadian Human Rights Commission:

Canada's Human Rights Commissions were started in the 1970's on the recommendation of activists who said that there needed to be a cost-free informal court system where vulnerable people like immigrants could seek redress in cases of discrimination in matters of employment, services and accommodation. The legislation bringing them into existence gives them permission to disregard the usual rules of legal procedures meant to protect defendants' rights such as rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, bias of witnesses or representation. Its officers and adjudicators do not have to have legal training but are political appointees, commonly representatives of special interest groups.

The HRC's have been used most effectively by organisations on the far left, especially homosexual lobbyists, to impose restrictions on members of religious groups and other conservatives. The defendant in all HRC proceedings must cover his own legal expenses but the state does not charge the complainant. This system, many have said, leaves the HRC's wide open to abuse as a completely taxpayer paid (for the complainant only) weapon in political battles that would be prohibitively expensive in the legitimate court system.

The Chilliwack Times' John Martin, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley, wrote, "[T]hese commissions have become little more than support groups for those who would censor and deny any speech they disagree with. It's ironic that they're referred to as 'human rights' commissions when, in fact, they have become the champions of groups who insist others are not entitled to differing opinions, voices or expressions."

Ezra Levant, formerly the editor of the Western Standard that had stood against HRC cases brought by the CIC, wrote on the Shotgun 'blog that a large part of their usefulness to lobby groups is the lack of cost. "The CIC learned their lesson: there's no point suing in defamation law, where the CIC would have to pay for their own lawyers, and our lawyers if we won, and where silly things like the rule of law apply".

"Better to go to the human rights commissions where the taxpayer pays for the prosecution, traditional rules of evidence and procedure don't apply, and free speech is not protected," Levant continued. "It still has all of the down-sides for the defendant -- the hassle, the cost, and a lower bar for a 'conviction' -- but none of the cost for the complainants."

Others have pointed out that the Human Rights Commissions are so weighted in favour of the complainant that it is wide open to abuse as a means of making money. Richard Warman, a far left human rights lawyer based in Ottawa, is a former employee and investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Warman has filed an unusually large number of complaints with the HRC against groups on the right and admitted that he files complaints in his spare time.

In 2006, in a keynote speech to the violent Anti-Racist Action group in Toronto, Warman described his high volume, tax-funded activism the "maximum disruption" approach to leftist agitation. "I've come to the conclusion that I can be most effective by using what I like to describe as a 'maximum disruption' approach...If I think that they've violated the Canadian Human Rights Act, then I'll look at all of the potential targets and file complaints against them starting on a 'worst offender' basis".

He added, "Sometimes if I just find people to be particularly annoying this may move them up the list a bit." Publicly available documents show that Warman has been awarded at least Cn. $48,500 in "special compensation" via Human Rights Tribunal complaints since 2003.

Among Mr. Warman's efforts are attempts to block access to American-based internet sites, allegedly because they called for his murder. That may be true, but we all know what lies at the wide end of the wedge, and that it'll eventually be used.

I never thought I'd say this, but there's been a huge price to pay since government got involved in the business of "anti-discrimination" laws. The elimination of free speech and the erosion of basic property rights have been foremost.