CBC: Want to protect freedom of expression? Strengthen hate speech laws

You might want to think twice before swearing that “you’ll defend to the death” a person’s right to say something you disagree with. That saying, a popular rallying cry in defence of freedom of expression, is misguided at best and sets expression, regardless of its content, on a pedestal which it may not deserve.

Words are powerful. Anyone who has been the target of racism, homophobia, misogyny or other bigotry will tell you that the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is far from accurate.

This debate misses the point…

Canada’s hate speech laws?

…And in one of the most egregious examples of society not self-regulating, in late 2012, Sun News host Ezra Levant went on air with a tirade targeting Canada’s Roma community (he referred to them as ‘Gypsies’, a pejorative term), which made use of language reminiscent of the propaganda used by the Nazis before the Holocaust.

Although Levant “apologized” nearly half a year later, the damage was done…

…In the aftermath of the attack, one French Member of the European Parliament, Aymeric Chauprade, published a video which claimed that “the roots of violence and totalitarianism are in Islam, even in its sacred texts.”

If you want to have a respectful debate about important political issues, Canadians should be able to expect that such a discussion will be had respectfully and in a way which promotes, rather than stifles, debate.

The abuse of free speech to demean and strip minority groups of their basic human dignity has no place in a truly democratic society.