Free speech: Your Ward News case appealed

Franklin Carter of the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council kindly writes to advise that James Sears, the editor of Toronto’s Your Ward News, has appealed a federal cabinet minister’s order that prevents Canada Post from delivering the publication (accusation of racism). A three-person board of review will be appointed to consider the dispute.

See National Observer and Now Magazine for background.

Carter helpfully quotes Alan Borovoy here:

Those who favour the anti-hate laws frequently remind us that Hitler too was once insignificant. They urge the prosecution of even marginal propagandists on the grounds that they are all potential Hitlers. These arguments overlook not only the vast political differences but also the striking legal similarities between pre-Hitler Germany and today’s Canada.

Remarkably, pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the Canadian anti-hate law. Moreover, those laws were enforced with some vigour. During the fifteen years before Hitler came to power, there were more than two hundred prosecutions based on anti-semitic speech. And, in the opinion of the leading Jewish organization of that era, no more than 10 per cent of the cases were mishandled by the authorities. As subsequent history so painfully testifies, this type of legislation proved ineffectual on the one occasion when there was a real argument for it.

– Alan Borovoy, When Freedoms Collide: The Case for Our Civil Liberties (1988)

Reality check: What many people avoid grappling with:

The question is not what caused Hitler to say what he did. (Who really cares?)


Why did he have a huge audience? How did he become chancellor of Germany? How could he have started World War II? Those are the questions we wrestle with.

The main reason anti-hate speech laws don’t really work is that hate-filled people are a dime a dozen. But they never really have much impact unless something else is going on. It’s the something else we need to address. and we can only address that by listening and watching.
My own view is that I’d far rather they are allowed to actually say whatever they want, so we can know whether they pose a threat and of what type. Then, if it is a deadly threat, we can act on it- if we really care so much. Or did we just want to pretend it isn’t out there?

See also: Profs protest firing journo prof who wanted journo student arrested