A weekly newspaper in the Edmonton bedroom suburb of St. Albert recently informed its readers that Brent Rathgeber, Member of Parliament for Edmonton-St. Albert, is "an ardent advocate of free speech."
This is nice to know, as a major story about freedom of expression is looming on the horizon and, given Rathgeber's ardent advocacy of this fundamental freedom enjoyed by all Canadians (and apparently their visitors too), we can be confident he and like-minded Conservatives across the land will wish to be in the forefront of the commentary on this issue.
This is mentioned here purely as a public service, lest St. Albert's champion of free speech and his caucus mates happened to have missed the item, which for some reason seems not to have garnered much attention in the national press.
But first, the backstory: Apparently Rathgeber was disappointed because Ann Coulter, the odious American advocate of tea-partying and other unsavoury practices common south of the Medicine Line, had freely chosen to cancel a speech at the University of Ottawa last month because some Canadians had the cheek to exercise their constitutional right to criticize her offensive views.
It seems the noise of the demonstration gave her a headache. Or something. Alert readers will recall how this was portrayed by Coulter's supporters and their echo chamber in the mainstream media as an attempt to suppress her right to free expression, a claim that illustrated their astonishing brass if not their reserves of intellectual honesty.
Alas, it seems Rathgeber's hopes to pass a bleak evening in Ottawa -- the city Marc Lalonde once observed is proof Canada still has capital punishment -- had been frustrated by the ruckus surrounding Coulter's visit. This, in turn, provided him with a soapbox to mount and offer his commentary on the issue to the local press.
But where was Rathgeber just a year ago, when the Hon. Jason Kenney, Canada's esteemed Minister of Immigration, exerted himself in "a short but intense campaign" to ensure that British MP George Galloway did not have the opportunity to exercise his right to free speech in our country?
Astonishingly, Rathgeber was nowhere to be seen or heard, along with all the other Conservative Members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's House of Frequent Prorogation!
Galloway, readers will recall, is a law-abiding socialist Member of the Mother of Parliaments who has the temerity to hold views different from those of our prime minister and his neo-con acolytes on such topics as Israel's treatment of the people of Palestine and the United States' lamentable recent war in Iraq. Galloway was fatuously labeled a threat to Canada's "national security" and prevented from entering the country from the United States, where despite his views he was allowed to roam and speak as he pleased.
One suspects that it was not so much Galloway's views that were the real problem for our Conservative masters as his ability to communicate them effectively. Regardless, Canada's Conservative guardians of free speech -- either by commission like Kenney or by omission like most of the Conservative caucus -- ensured that Galloway did not have an opportunity to express his dangerous views in Canada.
It took a mild protest against Coulter's racist views and open support for political violence -- which unlike Galloway's opinions could in fact be said to constitute a threat to Canada's national security -- to arouse these tireless advocates of free speech from their deep slumber.
Now that he has awakened, however, Rathgeber will be pleased to learn that the issue of Galloway's right to free expression is about to return to the news, so he will have the opportunity to redeem himself for his previous silence.
Lawyers representing Galloway and the Canadian government are scheduled to face off in the in the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto next Monday, April 26. There, the organizers of Galloway's suppressed tour will attempt to overturn Kenney's ban. Soon after that, they hope, Canadians will have an opportunity to hear for themselves what Galloway has to say.
If Galloway speaks in Ottawa, one can only assume that Rathgeber will be there to express his support for the British MP's right to speak, if not his opinions.
After all, as Rathgeber told the local press in St. Albert: "When the government defines free speech, when the government tells you what is and what is not acceptable speech, that is antithetical to true free speech."
Right on, Brother!
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