Free Speech in Canada?

What mistake did these students make? They forgot to identify themselves as bombastic foreign Members of Parliament whom have provided material support to Hamas. Silly students… freedom of speech on the campus of a school at which you attend and live? Preposterous!

Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Human Rights Commissions, the public works protection act, pro-life voices shut down on campus…

Is it time we had a serious review of how flexible our rights to speech and assembly have become in this country?

Senator Doug Finley Interview on Freedom of Speech

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview Senator Doug Finley on the inquiry that he is asking for in the Senate regarding the state of free expression in Canada. I wrote about this move by Finley late last week when he first rose in the Senate on the issue. I asked the Senator about his initiative, his concern over recent events, whether s.13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be repealed and if there should be a special section of the criminal code for those that inhibit freedom of expression. I also ask about Elections Canada and the in-and-out appeal by the non-partisan arbitrating body.

Senator Finley calls for an inquiry on the erosion of free speech in Canada

Today Senator Doug Finley rose in the Senate to give notice that he would “call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country” and that this would be done through an inquiry.

Under the rules of the Senate, a minimum of two days must be given before a sponsoring senator can speak to an inquiry he or she would like to initiate. This means that Senator Finley is expected to speak to the issue next Tuesday at the earliest. Also, the sponsoring senator can provide a reply at the conclusion of the inquiry.

This move by Finley is likely in reaction to recent events by university officials and students at the University of Ottawa to intimidate US conservative commentator Ann Coulter from appearing on campus. Coulter’s scheduled speech was cancelled due to safety concerns this past Tuesday. The Senator will also rise during a time when federal and provincial human rights commissions have run amok, hearing complaints by politically offended groups and individuals.

The Ann Coulter cancellation at the University of Ottawa has further mainstreamed public opinion against censorship of speech drawing defense of the American firebrand by a broad cross-section of Canadian opinion-makers.

Finley’s call for a Senate inquiry will promote discussion of the values of free speech and will draw lawmakers to consider the broader view of how far this freedom has slipped away in Canada.

UDPATE: Hansard record of Finley’s notice.

Erosion of Freedom of Speech

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of freedom of speech in our country.

The War on Thought Error at Queen’s University

Another tale of PC gone amok
Queen’s new ‘dialogue’ monitors

To the students of Queen’s University,

Our school has, in recent years, been infiltrated by subversives who would pollute this academic environment with their improper thinking, “free speech”, and conversations behind closed doors.

The rogue agents who threaten our society must be brought to justice for their crimes. We must be ever vigilant in this war of ideologies. We must smoke out thought offenders wherever they dwell, unleash a campaign of shock and awe on their reputations and commence an operation of enduring freedom against their freedom to offend.

Queen’s has a reputation as a modern liberal university. The evil-doers have perverted the liberal faith to their own ends calling their followers to fight under a banner of free-speech. Queen’s is at risk of descending into sectarian violence as the so-called freedom fighters terrorize the feelings and post-modern sensibilities of the student body. Queen’s should ‘liberated’ rather than ‘liberal’ and when the thought insurgents are defeated, students will greet us as liberators.

For the errorists that offend us and those who ought to find offense, we have left their reputations in utter ruin, made them know that they shall find no safe quarter and have questioned their freedom from imprisonment. Some have condemned this campaign as a “disproportionate response”, however, let there be no doubt, in a post-9/11 world where the self-esteem of the marginalized victims of the neo-conservative heteronommative colonial imperialists were attacked under a clear-blue sky on a Tuesday morning, we must be ever-vigilant. Either you are with us, or you are with the thought errorists.

What to do with the subversives who disrupt our order? Thought errorists with potential information as to the locations and activities of other speech insurgents will be subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Their leaders will be put into a number of stress positions which include calling for resignations in the Queen’s Journal, debasing their names online and most importantly, forcing the abandonment of their neo-liberal views followed by full reprogramming (please vote “yes” in the upcoming referendum on the proposed thought errorist re-education mandatory student fee).

Appeasers of liberal fundamentalists will readily point out that some errorists have recognized their mistakes and have apologized. However, if they (or anyone) has the ability to offend again, the emotional freedoms of we the drum-circling, pachouilli-burning, self-loathing truth-speakers are at risk. I call for all Queen’s students to rise up against the errorist threat, whether you are a victim of American hegemony, an empathetically marginalized philosophy major or if you simply harbour guilt that your father is the vice-president of TD bank and is paying your tuition. Together, we can turn Queen’s from a place where a diversity of ideas are debated to an institution where the lives of those whose thoughts do not conform to our standard are destroyed.

We stand united against thought error, indeed against those that are an affront to the collective single-mindedness of the student body. Though they have infiltrated our governments at many levels, their thought crimes are not representative of the student body. All students must stand against these abominations to the new world social order. When the Society of Graduate and Professional Students unilaterally spoke with one voice against Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, they did so bravely standing against a majority of thought errorists in the graduate student population. The SGPS did not speak for all students, but they spoke against the errorists and we salute their tough stand. We are heartened to see the counter-errorist troops in the SGPS fighting to gain a thought foothold among graduate students. Once they do, proper thinking will spread like wildfire to all students in all nations. Agents from the elite dialogue facilitation division have been deployed to correct thought among those who still harbour errorist sympathies. Room 101 of the John Deutsch University Centre has been allocated for dialogue readjustment.

It is the hour of our calling, and for those that hear it, they will stand to serve in defence of all that is just and right by our collective voice. We must stand against the evil of offense wherever it shows its face and stand ready to uproot it wherever the seeds of thought error are sown.

May the non-denominational post-deistic spirit of the Queen’s collective bless you all.

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Speaker election – interviews

In general, I’m asking the same four questions

1) 30 second to 1 minute pitch on why you should be Speaker
2) Why replace the incumbent?
3) It’s a minority Parliament and the election was framed to reinvigorate a “dysfunctional” Parliament (Prime Minister’s framing of the situation). How would you work to improve the behaviour in Parliament?
4) The Speaker delegates authority of press-related matter to the Parliamentary Press Gallery which is slow to change to recognize the evolution of new media be it blogs, youtube, facebook, twitter. Will you direct Parliament to recognize new actors in the press space?

Merv Tweed:

Barry Devolin:

Andrew Scheer:

Joe Comartin:

Royal Galipeau:
[attending other business in the riding today]

Peter Milliken:
[not doing press]

Mauril Belanger:
[his helpful staff are trying to set up a phone call for later today. UPDATE: It appears that this won’t be possible.]

Is s.329 of the Elections Act quixotic?

Section 329 of the Elections Act reads,

“No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”

The polls in Newfoundland and Labrador close at 8:30pm local time whereas those in BC close at 7pm. In reference to the Eastern time zone, those eastern polls close at 7pm and those polls on the west coast at 10pm. Therefore, it is technically illegal to broadcast results of any poll between 7pm and 10pm tonight though results should be available as early as 7:45pm.

In this age of new media, bloggers, facebookers and twitterers are expected to operate in the framework of an antiquated law. When this provision of the Elections Act was written, the intent of the law was to prevent television networks from broadcasting results in Newfoundland to British Columbia in order to prevent BC voters from having results before they cast their own ballots. Now that new media offers populist broadcasting to everyone with a mobile phone or a computer, how will Elections Canada enforce this provision of the Elections Act?

In my opinion, this section is a violation of free speech. Yes, I understand the reasoning behind it, yet I do believe that the law does not reflect reality in this age of self-broadcasting. Laws should be enforceable because when it is impossible to enforce a law, a law ceases to have effect. If the purpose behind the law is valid (to prevent “specially informed” voters), a more realistic method of achieving it is required. It is much more reasonable to close all polls at the same moment no matter the time zone.

What is to stop an Atlantic Canadian from updating her twitter status as to the result of her Newfoundland riding? Or the Prince Edward Islander from posting who is in the lead on his Facebook wall? Since the possible forums for national broadcast have gone from a limited three television networks to practically limitless social media outlets, this particular provision of the Elections Act is de facto unenforceable.

And who is responsible for the rebroadcasting of early results? Do I shut down Blogging Tories for three hours this evening because a blogger whose RSS feed I aggregate there may put me in violation of the Act? Is the situation similar for Google Reader and iGoogle which both act as an RSS reader? More broadly, will Google shut down its Blogger site to Canadian IP addresses? Will Twitter face sanction because a Canadian might convey information to another Canadian through its American-hosted service?

Indeed, the law does not reflect reality and must be changed. What remains to be seen is whether change will come from mass social media violation of s.329 or through the legislative process.

Freedom of Speech defeat

Today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against speech with respect to the communication of election results in Eastern provinces to voters in Western parts of the country where polls are still open.

First of all, the law is absurd because it reflects wishful thinking on behalf of the state and doesn’t at all reflect the reality of the situation. If the state wished to prevent the dissemination of election results, it could mandate that all polls close at the same time. Specifically, a poll in Halifax would close at 10pm and a poll in Vancouver would close at 6pm (local times).

I understand the rationale behind the decision in that it is desirable to keep all of the electorate on the same level with respect to information available prior to casting a ballot.

However, the burden is upon the government to manage the situation using a solid and foolproof method, and not upon citizens that have the right to speech whether online, via txt message, via instant message, via telephone or telegraph. As it stands, the state is patching its leaky bucket with rights inherent to Canadians.