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Senator about his initiative, his concern over recent events, whether s.13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be repealed and if there should be a special section of the criminal code for those that inhibit freedom of expression.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.
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.