Washington Post staff writer Steven Pearlstein reveals some frightening things about our northern neighbor in his article (12/12/99), "In Canada, Free Speech Has Its Restrictions." Andrea Wylie, a member of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), sums up the Canadian attitude about free speech with the observation, "We don't have the hang-up you Americans have with free speech." That means politically incorrect speech is banned in Canada. The government's most powerful weapon against politically incorrect speech is its hate speech law. The law prohibits any statement that is "likely to expose a person or group of persons to hatred or contempt" because of "race, color, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age." If you think that's bad, hold on it gets worse. Pearlstein says, "Prosecutors are not required to show proof of malicious intent or actual harm to win convictions in hate speech cases, and courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that it does not matter whether the statements are truthful." That means you can say, "The average woman cannot fight as well as the average man," and wind up facing fines or imprisonment.
In 1994, Douglas Collins wrote several columns, for Vancouver's North Shore News, questioning whether as many as 6 million Jews died in Nazi concentration camps. A commission tribunal ruled his columns showed his "hatred and contempt . . . subtly and indirectly" by "reinforcing negative stereotypes" about Jews. The tribunal fined both Collins and his newspaper $2,000. The newspaper was ordered to publish a summary of the tribunal's decision.
New Yorker Harold Mollin tried to market his new "weather insurance" to Canadians planning weddings or vacations. His 30-second TV spot featured a huckster dressed in Indian headdress leading senior citizens in a rain dance. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation refused to run it because they deemed the ad insulting to Native Americans and the elderly.
Canadian advertisers have strict politically correct guidelines. Thus, a national restaurant chain was forced to pull a TV ad featuring a helpless dad trying to prepare a dinner for his kids. He gives up and takes the kids out for hamburgers and fries. A hearing officer ruled that the commercial "reinforced negative stereotypes" about men that "cannot be excused by an attempt to engage in humor."
Last November there were violent protests in New Brunswick over Indian fishing rights. On orders from CBC network officials, reporters had to refer to the participants as "native fishers" and "non-native fishers," even though the Mik'maqs call each other Indians.
You say, "Williams, why are you telling us this? Those are Canada's problems." No they're not. There are speech codes at many American colleges and universities. Students can face up to expulsion for politically incorrect speech. Both professors and students can be required to take sensitivity lectures, a la the Chinese reeducation camps. Sex harassment regulations similarly restrict free speech in the work place and in the military. Simply telling an off-color joke in the presence of a female employee can bring charges of "creating a hostile workplace environment." In the military, simply looking at a female soldier for longer than the prescribed amount of time can get you into trouble.
In the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism our socialists used to criticize conservatives for wanting to silence dissent and free speech. But who's stifling free speech now? It's America's socialist elites, mostly for now, on university campuses.
During Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that government may limit free speech in the name of other worthwhile goals that include ending discrimination, ensuring social harmony or promoting sex equality. If we allow America's socialist elite to continue to incrementally eat away at our liberties, we'll find Canada's totalitarian laws here.
Walter E. Williams
December 17, 1999Return to Articles page