The following are 4 letters appearing in the nationally circulated Toronto Globe and Mail. I note that only one of three letters (the first to be listed here) argues for controlled speech–given the identity of the writer and of his affiliation that is par for the course. The last letter is a mild rebuke to an old nemesis of Doug Christie’s, McGill University law professor Irwin Cotler. The 2nd and 3rd letter argue in favour of free speech–one even has the “temerity” to wave the flag for Ernst Zundel’s libertarian struggle. The battle for free speech here in Canada has been joined.
Please contribute, won’t you? <Marvin Kurz | January 20, 1999 Toronto — Re Give Free Speech A Very Long Leash — Jan. 15: Your editorial contains a number of mistaken assumptions that opponents of human-rights commissions commonly make. You claim that human-rights codes attempt to deal with speech that simply “offends” sensitive people. This misrepresentation ignores the fact that the laws are aimed at the most dangerous speech: statements that are likely to create hatred and contempt for groups. To describe Jews as “parasites” and international “swindlers,” or gays as deserving to die (as two parties in recent human-rights cases did), is far more than offensive. It is an attack on its victims as equal participants in our society. It offers a not-so-subtle invitation to view its subjects as inferior and worthy of discrimination. That is why Parliament has rightly decided that the principles of free speech should not be abused to allow hatemongers to attack the rights of others. Your editorial also ignores the fact that human-rights codes do not aim at punishing criminals. The Criminal Code was created for that purpose. Human-rights laws were created to prevent discrimination. They do so by dealing with the discriminatory effect rather than the punishment of the speech. If there is a finding of discrimination, the most likely result is an order to stop the illegal activity.
That is not punishment. The willingness of human-rights commissions to deal directly with the effects of hate propaganda is a relatively new phenomenon. In doing so, our legislators are simply meeting Canada’s international-law obligations to combat hate propaganda. Like all new areas of the law, it will take some time until the process works smoothly. Rather than offer a defence of absolute free speech, The Globe and Mail would better serve its readers by considering the need to protect groups from the most insidious of attacks. Marvin Kurz National Co-Chair and Legal Counsel, League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada =-=-=-=-=-= Hate laws and free speech | Kim Kramer | January 20, 1999 Langley, B.C. — Congratulations on publishing a very fine editorial on the issue of Human Rights Codes or “hate laws.” I hope you will not let go of this topic and continue to editorialize against these pernicious infringements on freedom of speech. If politicians are to take notice, more than an editorial or two a year will be needed to get their attention away from the special-interest groups who promote these laws. I know you are not fond of Ernst Zundel (which is your privilege), but at present he is at the cutting edge of the free-speech issue in Canada and I hope that you will pay some attention, in a fair way, to the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s attempts at shutting down an Internet site in the United States with which he is associated. If an individual citizen writes to the government on this matter (as I have), I’m sure he is written off as a “nazi,” “neo-nazi” or possibly “neo-nazi sympathizer,” but if a newspaper with the credentials of The Globe & Mail speaks against such harassment and persecution, these types of rationalizations lose all effect Hate laws and free speech | Tom Blair | January 20, 1999 Perkiomenville, Penn. — The trend toward making freedom from offence a new Canadian human right is frightening, and not simply because it is hypocritically applied by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (which it is). It is frightening because the two values, freedom of speech and freedom from offence, are mutually incompatible.
The first, however, is universally recognized as the cornerstone of freedom and true diversity; the second is the price you pay for living in a free society. No excuse for Pollard | Reg Whitaker | January 20, 1999 Toronto — Re The Pollard Case And American Justice (Commentary — Jan. 19): Irwin Cotler is a distinguished civil libertarian who has represented some famous victims of judicial injustice. Why is he pleading such a bad case as that of Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel? Pollard betrayed his country for money, selling troves of secrets to which his position of trust allowed him access. After his conviction, he suddenly discovered an ideological rationale for his greed: a higher loyalty to Israel. Instead of being deeply embarrassed by Israel’s behaviour in running paid spies within the government of its close friend and ally, the United States, the Israeli right wing has organized a dishonest campaign to portray Pollard as a hero and martyr and has demanded his release. Professor Cotler speaks of “important principles of justice” allegedly violated by the U.S. government in the Pollard case. He relies on technicalities and limitations in the formal indictment. As much could be said for any espionage cases prosecuted in the U.S., or Britain or Canada.
And why pick out Pollard as if he alone were the victim of such proceedings? A true victim of injustice is Mordechai Vanunu, currently entering the 12th year of an 18-year sentence at the hands of the same Israeli government now whining about Pollard. Vanunu’s crime? He blew the whistle in a British newspaper on Israel’s secret nuclear-weapons program. Note: He did not sell Israeli secrets to a foreign power; he acted solely in the name of the public interest. Comparing these two cases, there can be no question about where the proportionality of injustice lies. Until the Israeli government can come forward with clean hands, self-serving campaigns to free their paid spies should be given short shrift. And so, alas, should the pleas of otherwise sincere civil libertarians like Prof. Cotler. Reg Whitaker, Professor of Political Science, York University Return to CAFE website