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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Andrew Lawton: Canada’s Parliament wants to fight Islamophobia by killing free speech


...Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is putting Muslim feelings above free speech. Without defining Islamophobia — a term often applied to legitimate criticisms of radical Islam — these motions tell Canadians that their government deems some types of speech off-limits. Americans may shrug off this legislative virtue signaling, assured of First Amendment free-speech protections. Canadians aren’t so lucky, however. Our 35-year old Charter of Rights and Freedoms — part of our Constitution — does afford us “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression” — but only with a catch. The very first section of that charter sets out “reasonable limits” against which all of our supposed freedoms are measured. This caveat has given other arms of government carte blanche to curb allegedly offensive speech in the past decade.

Federal and provincial human rights tribunals have gone after authors, bloggers and radio hosts — the most notable of which is Mark Steyn — for “hate speech,” even when comments fall short of the criminal threshold, which requires incitement to violence and public disorder. Steyn and his then-publisher, Maclean’s magazine, faced a slew of complaints over publication of an excerpt of Steyn’s bestseller, “America Alone,” which Muslim groups said was Islamophobic (despite how prescient Steyn’s message was.) Ezra Levant similarly found himself in front of a human rights tribunal to defend his right to publish the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons in 2006. Both Steyn and Levant emerged victorious, but the process itself was the punishment. Both cases came about because the government had been empowered to enforce incredibly loose definitions of hatred.

Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah said the anti-Islamophobia motions will target moderate Muslims like himself; he fears his criticisms of sharia law, radicalization and the Muslim Brotherhood’s widespread influence in Canadian Muslim organizations are effectively being stifled...

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