Gay magazine: abolish human rights censorship
I've noted many time, with admiration, that Egale, Canada's largest gay lobby group, has opposed section 13, the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Here's Egale's chief, arguing against censorship, even against anti-gay "haters".
Egale even went further; in the abominable case of Lund v. Boissoin, where a busy-body activist complained against a Christian preacher, and the Alberta human rights commission sentenced Rev. Boissoin to a lifetime ban against him preaching about sexuality, Lund had originally requested that Boissoin be fined, and that the fine by paid to Egale.
When Egale heard about this, they advised Alberta's HRC that they were utterly against such censorship, and would not accept the blood money. (Lund then chivalrously requested it for himself, and the commission happily agreed.)
In its latest issue, Xtra, the Canadian gay magazine, has "come out" against human rights censorship yet again. Here's the column. Some excerpts:
...the very nature of the right to free speech is that they get to say it. Then, the rest of us get to argue with them, denounce their views, call it drivel — basically, joust with words.
But, instead, now folks go racing to human rights commissions and say, "I'm offended."
...we may all have a right to free speech, but no one has a right to be published in the newspaper. A free press means that the folks who own and publish and edit the press get to back those decisions.
...The hate speech provisions create an incentive to bring a complaint, so that you can actually then attract attention to your claim that something is offensive.
Sorry, but this is crazy. Human rights commissions should not be censors. They should not be deciding just what words are too offensive for the Canadian public to hear. Imagine how gay presses might have fared over the years with these kind of laws, since lots of Canadians think that the stuff that gay people say is, well, totally offensive.
Allow me to draw a comparison between Canada's gay activists and Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is far more hawkish in the war on terror, and in standing up to Vladimir Putin's passive aggression, than Western Europe is. That's because everyone in Eastern Europe can still remember when they lived under Soviet repression. They still value their freedoms, and remember how much they endured without them.
Western Europe (Old Europe, as Donald Rumsfeld accurately called it) has lived in freedom since the Second World War. The fight for freedom is the stuff of dusty history books, and black and white film archives.
Do you see the comparison? It wasn't too long ago that Canadian gays were themselves the targets of censorship, and other violations of civil liberties. Even I'm old enough to remember when Little Sisters book store had their, uh, materials seized by Canada customs. And it wasn't so long before that that homosexuality was actually a crime in the criminal code.
My point is that for many Canadian gays, especially those for whom being gay is a political statement, memories of censorship -- especially at the hands of the government -- is still fresh. For the bulk of Canadians, the idea of government censorship is completely alien.
I like moral support in the war against censorship from my conservative friends. But I must admit that I like it even more from left-wingers who, like Xtra's colunnist, think my views are "drivel". Because that's the point here: no-one needs political or legal support to say bland, inoffensive things that everyone agrees with. It's those things that cause divisions that are prone to censorship. For those on the other side of the political divide to support my freedom of speech, despite their own political tastes, is an act of principle that I admire.