Columnists

Joyce Arthur
Repealing hate speech laws is a dangerous mistake

| July 6, 2012
Human Writes Performance Installation at UN Geneva. Photo: Eric Bridiers/ United States Mission Geneva/Flickr

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On June 6, Canadians lost a valuable tool in the fight against discrimination and hate. Through a backdoor private member's bill, the Conservative government repealed Section 13 of the federal Human Rights Act, which gave the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to hear complaints about public hate speech over the telephone or on the Internet. Although the repeal bill is not yet law, it is now in the hands of the Conservative-dominated Senate where it is fully expected to become law.

The campaign to repeal the bill was led by right-wing extremists and free speech absolutists, who were also about the only ones celebrating the repeal. The Criminal Code is now the only tool we have left to combat hate speech on the Internet, where most hatred is expressed nowadays.

One possibly valid objection to the hate speech provision in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) was that a separate clause (Section 54) provided for financial penalties against transgressors, which the Canadian Bar Association said was an inappropriate power for an Act that primarily has a "remedial and conciliatory" purpose. Although the CBA supported keeping Sec. 13 and repealing Sec. 54, both were repealed. Hate speakers now face a possible prison sentence, a criminal record, and fines under the Criminal Code, rather than just paying a fine under the CRHA. Why would they be happy about that?

For one thing, hate speech charges under the Criminal Code are much more difficult to prosecute and prove. Only three convictions have been obtained since 1970. More ominously, the next goal may be to gut the Criminal Code hate speech provisions as well. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wants to ensure that these provisions "focus on the prevention of violence and not on the expression of hatred." Further, right-wing extremists have vowed to get rid of the Human Rights Commission entirely, even though the vast majority of its work relates to employment discrimination.

I agree with commentators such as Yosie St. Cyr, who says: "Taking away the Human Rights Commission's authority over hate speech will make it much harder to prevent hate speech online, will continue to encourage racism, and could lead to more racial violence and intolerance." Other recently published viewpoints in favour of maintaining hate speech legislation include this strong one from Pearl Eliadis, as well as Warren Kinsella, to some extent Mercedes Allen, and of course, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself.

Opponents of hate speech laws advance a number of arguments for their position, which I will summarize as follows:

1. Who decides what is hate speech? Definitions are too vague and subjective. It's impossible to draw the line on when freedom of speech should be restricted.

2. Hate speech laws can be abused and used against vulnerable groups, the very people the laws are supposed to protect.

3. Prosecuting hate speech gives hate speakers another platform for their views and allows them to play the martyr.

4. Criminalizing hate speech drives it underground where it may fester and become ever more dangerous. The answer to hate speech is to keep it in the open where the public can scrutinize it and refute it.

5. The law is too heavy and punitive of a tool. Reducing hate speech and discrimination in society is best done through education, government policies and programs, community initiatives, more effective use of existing defamation law, and the like.

6. Hate speech laws remove accountability from those who commit hate-motivated crimes, turning violent perpetrators into "victims" of hate speech.

7. There is no proof that hate speech laws actually work to reduce hatred, discrimination, or violence. Similarly, there is no causal link between hate-motivated violence and hate speech (except perhaps where it directly urges violence).

A few of these arguments may have some merit at least in part, but in general I believe most are overstated, misleading, or entirely mistaken. I refuted most of them last year in a comprehensive article titled "The Limits of Free Speech." In contrast, I believe that arguments to support hate speech laws are much stronger. One factor that helped convince me was the reaction of my detractors, the majority of whom misrepresented or simply ignored my points, or were ad hominem (and sometimes viciously hateful). I also came to realize that some of the shibboleths of free speech absolutists are nothing but unsupported dogma, such as the claims that laws against hate speech drive it underground and make it more dangerous, and that hate speech does not directly lead to violence or even helps prevent it.

Laws in general are strongly supported by our society because they serve valid and essential purposes, and hate speech laws are no exception. We pass laws to deter behaviours that harm others, punish wrongdoers, protect rights, provide justice and redress to victims, bring order and promote social welfare, and officially sanction the values that most citizens support. The purpose of the Canadian Human Rights Act is to promote equal opportunity unhindered by "discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted..." In terms of hate speech, the purpose of Section 13 of the CRHA was to provide remedies to victims, foster respect for target groups, change behaviour, and capture conduct that falls short of criminal behaviour but still poses harm to vulnerable groups.

Canadian society has a clear consensus on the legitimacy of using laws to counter hate speech. Indeed, why should we tolerate hate speech when it directly undermines our human rights laws that protect vulnerable groups from discrimination? Of course, laws should be only one tool among many to fight hate speech. But they should stand as the tool of last resort for at least the most egregious cases, as a backup to social and political measures.

Other key arguments in favour of hate speech laws can be summarized as follows:

1. Words have power. Influencing others to act is a primary purpose of communication in general. Not only does hate speech have the ability to harm, it creates conditions in which violence becomes much more likely to occur, especially if hate speech continues unchecked over time. Further, words do not have to explicitly incite violence to cause violence, as proven by the assassinations of abortion providers in the United States.

2. Hate speech hurts, marginalizes, intimidates, and silences the vulnerable groups targeted by it. They do not have a level playing ground on which to respond because they are already discriminated against in society and do not have equal access to the media. (Perhaps one of the reasons racism and sexism are still so prevalent in modern society is because free speech is exercised largely by the privileged at the expense of the unprivileged.)

3. Hate speech, especially extreme hateful expression, has no redeeming value and plays only a destructive role in debate.

4. It's possible to define reasonable and fair criteria for defining hate speech and what should be prosecutable. The CRHC used the "Taylor test" for this purpose ("hatred or contempt...refers only to "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification.")

5. Many other western liberal democracies have anti-hate speech legislation, as well as criteria or tests for determining what is hate speech.

6. Courts and tribunals are capable of weighing evidence appropriately, evaluating the context of alleged hate speech, and applying tests and criteria objectively to ensure that legitimate free speech or merely offensive speech are not captured.

7. The preservation and enhancement of multiculturalism is a fundamental principle in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 27), which justifies hate speech laws to protect vulnerable groups.

8. Canada has international obligations to combat racism and the advocacy of genocide and racial superiority, which requires enacting hate speech legislation.

9. No right is absolute, including freedom of expression. Section 1 of our Charter allows reasonable limits on a fundamental right in order to balance it against other rights.

10. Free speech is already restricted in a myriad of ways, which society generally accepts. Examples include bans on threats, sedition, defamation, false or misleading advertising, profanity on public airwaves, and protests around abortion clinics. Tolerated types of censorship include gag orders and publication bans, publication refusals and censorship by the media, company confidentiality policies, quiet zones near hospitals or schools, and many other examples. There is no reason hate speech laws cannot be added to this long list.

Repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act will likely slow down the advance towards equality by fostering prejudice and reinforcing discriminatory practices. Even worse, it has the real potential to increase the risk of violence against vulnerable groups. The repeal is a dangerous mistake, one which we have allowed right-wing extremists to dictate at our peril.

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada's national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services.

Comments

"Further, right-wing extremists have vowed to get rid of the Human Rights Commission entirely, even though the vast majority of its work relates to employment discrimination." This, most likely, is the real agenda behind the attacks by the right on human rights commissions, although like the Harperite assault on the long-gun registry and its coming attempts to dismantle handgun prohibitions, it is also a useful fund-raising tool for the CPC. Most typically, though, the Harper Government is motivated by the prospect of economic advantage for its funders, and human rights commissions can be an impediment to that. Hence the Conservatives' commitment to "free speech," a topic for which they otherwise have little sympathy.

There are some good reasons for "progressive" people to be wary of any hate speech laws passed and enforced by right-wing capitalist governments.

Can anyone think of the biggest hate-speech issue that has been in the news in the past three years? Let me remind you: it's the concerted attempt by powerful forces in the government and civil society to label as "hate speech"  any criticism of the apartheid regime of Israel.

As for hate speech directed against "protected" groups like women, gays, aboriginals, or POC's, all you need to do is read the online comments from readers in the right-wing MSM websites - or even the CBC news - to get plenty of examples of right-wing hatred. All of this passes as standard political discourse and is never prosecuted under hate-speech laws.

The fact is that hate-speech laws (particularly in the hands of right-wing governments) are ineffectual for the protection of minority and disadvantaged groups, and are often resorted to as cudgels against those who dare to tell the truth about the criminal and inhumane behaviour of the rich and the powerful.

I find it particularly cynical of Joyce Arthur to argue (in point 10 above) that laws against hate speech are justified by reference to all the other socially coercive laws in existence that are designed to protect the stability of the status quo and the privileges of the exploiting classes. If she understood the social function of those laws, she would understand why adding another one to the list is counterproductive.

Hate speech arises from social conflicts and in particular from oppression and marginalization. Tackling the former is no substitute for dealing definitively with the latter. In fact, we should leave the business of suppression of free speech to the real purveyors of hatred and oppression, and not be so eager to join in with the chorus of those who seek to define the limits of free speech or any of the few other rights we still have left.

M. Spector, please try to avoid misrepresenting the argument you are countering. For example, your characterization of point 10 is not fair - unless you're arguing that limiting protest around abortion clinics is a defence of capitalist privilege? 

Why not ask Joyce Arthur whether she is arguing that laws against sedition, gag orders, publication bans, publication refusals and censorship by the media, and company confidentiality policies are all good precedents that justify hate speech laws?

Those are all examples of what I was talking about and they were all referred to in point 10, without any distinction being made between them and "limiting protests around abortion clinics". If Arthur is going to compile a "long list" of justifiable coercive laws and practices she would do well to leave out the ones I mentioned.

 

Now that's a fair question, based on point 10 in the column - better than the original comment, since the (rather disparate) list of examples included some that even the most libertarian or orthodox 'anti statist' leftist couldn't reasonably argue served the social function of upholding class privilege.  

To M.Spector:  Point 10 says that these limits on speech are those "which society generally accepts." Listing them doesn't mean I necessarily endorse them. Although most of them do seem justifiable, at least to some extent. Society could not function if we didn't have some reasonable limits on speech in some areas. I don't much like gag orders in court settlements, but they might be beneficial depending on the circumstances. And surely you're not suggesting that newspapers should be obligated to print unedited every letter they receive! Or that employees should give away their company's trade secrets to competitors with no repercussions. Many of the restrictions I listed are to protect peoples' rights and privacy, not the "exploiting classes."Of course, limits on free speech can be abused (like any law can), but the logical answer is to fix whatever the problems are, not toss the law itself.

Criticism of Israel does not even come close to meeting the definition of hate speech. If someone made a complaint to the CHRC on that, it would be quickly dismissed.

In cases of repeated hate occurring in the MSM, especially by particular people who have an audience, they should be prosecuted in my opinion. See my original piece  www.rhrealitycheck.org/reader-diaries/2011/09/21/limits-free-speech-5. Again, it's a question of applying the laws fairly, or amending them to work better, or rooting out corruption etc. - not removing the law itself. 

"The fact is that hate-speech laws (particularly in the hands of right-wing governments) are ineffectual for the protection of minority and disadvantaged groups."  That's not a fact, it's dogma. Admittedly, it can be very hard to quantify the real world effects of laws, including hate speech laws, but given all the arguments in my article (and my original piece), it seems clear that hate speech laws are more likely to have a positive effect than not. If they are not effective because a right-wing gov't is abusing or ignoring them, the problem is the gov't, not the laws. You are constantly scapegoating the laws, when other factors are to blame.

"...and are often resorted to as cudgels against those who dare to tell the truth about the criminal and inhumane behaviour of the rich and the powerful."

I've never come across any examples of that in my research, so I wonder if you're just repeating some right-wing trope you've heard but not verified yourself? If you're referring to things like "lese-majesty" laws and blasphemy laws, those are bad laws that should be repealed, as explained in my original piece The Limits of Free Speech. Criticizing a king or god is dissent, not hate speech.

You seem awfully keen on making "society" function through laws that, for example, allow judges to order "publication bans" on trials in order to protect the wealthy and powerful from embarrassment and public scrutiny, or corporate rules that "protect people's rights and privacy" by punishing whistleblowers ("company confidentiality policies"). It's as if you are convinced we have too much freedom of speech for our own good, and need to have limits set for us by our corporate and political masters, through the criminal law. 

You also seem unaware of the fact that Toronto's knuckle-dragging mayor and his cronies have repeatedly tried to defund the Pride festival on the grounds that Pride organizers do not crack down on publicly-expressed criticisms of Israel, which the mayor, B'Nai Brith Canada, and numerous Zionist lobby organizations have tried to characterize as hate speech. Or the fact that the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-semitism has managed to rally members of all political parties (except the Greens and the Bloc) around the idea that opposition to Israeli apartheid and to aggression against the Palestinians is hate speech. Perhaps you didn't come across those facts in your research. They are not "right-wing tropes", as you suggest.

Joyce wrote:
It seems clear that hate speech laws are more likely to have a positive effect than not.

The actual evidence does not support your hypothesis. The existence of the Canadian hate speech laws has done nothing to protect the disadvantaged from hate speech. Hateful speech is now common currency in U.S. politics, and it has spilled over into Canada. Read the comments posted by readers after any story on a Canadian MSM website that deals with aboriginal issues, if you don't believe me. And it's no answer to blithely assert that the thousands of racist loudmouths who make those posts ought to be prosecuted under the Criminal Code. The fact is they have never been prosecuted and they never will be.

Moreover, even if you could sucessfully use such a law to prevent hateful speech, you would be doing nothing to curb the hatred itself - to say nothing of the social order that by its very nature gives rise to the prejudice, sexism, xenophobia, racism, bigotry, and the violence (both physical and psychological) that nurture hatred among individuals and between entire groups of people. Nor would the law you champion make any distinction between the class hatred of the oppressed for their oppressors, and the hatred of the privileged towards those who would threaten that privilege.

"You seem awfully keen on making "society" function through laws..." We're talking about laws here, that is the topic. Obviously, laws are only one small part of society and how it functions. I wasn't talking about whistleblowers, I mentioned employees divulging "trade secrets" (such as how they make widgets). You're confusing different issues here, since whistleblowing should obviously be protected to ferret out corruption and wrongdoing. Also you're simplifying and dogmatizing things by blaming "corporate and political masters." Free speech restrictions are often to protect the powerless, with hate speech laws a leading example of that. People can make hate speech accusations all they want, whether they're in a position of power or not, but unless they can actually bring forward a complaint that meets all the definitions and tests for hate speech, it's meaningless. You say they "tried" to defund the Pride festival, they "tried" to characterize criticisms of Israel as hate speech. So what? It didn't wash because it's not hate speech. If right-wing powers ever do manage to take over by cynically using our democratic rights and freedoms in order to gain power (and then taking away those same rights and freedoms for everyone else), hate speech laws are only one example out of many that would be corrupted and abused. You’re just scapegoating them again. "The existence of the Canadian hate speech laws has done nothing to protect the disadvantaged from hate speech." Another piece of dogma. How could you possibly know that? But you then mention how hate speech is common in the U.S. - where incidentally there are no hate speech laws! Of course it spills over to Canada because we're so close, but you can easily argue it's not as bad here in Canada because of our hate speech laws and the anti-discrimination values that such laws communicate to our citizenry. I'm not advocating the prosecution of every Tom, Dick, and Mary who spouts hate on the Internet. That would obviously be impractical and impossible. I advocate going after their leaders and mentors - those who command an audience and spew hate on a regular basis. Likewise, if we prosecute those at the top of the hate chain, it inhibits or prevents them from influencing the average Joe and Jane. So I believe we CAN reduce hateful speech by targeting the primary purveyors. That, combined with public education, social disapproval and rebuttal etc., could indeed reduce not just hate speech, but hatred itself, over time. The law I champion (e.g., Section 13) already protects the disadvantaged and not the privileged. Again, you're confusing the law itself with how the law gets corrupted or abused by society. I disagree with your cynical view of human nature – yes, we evolved in small insular tribes, and prejudice against outsiders is ‘natural’ – but humans are extremely adaptable and can change. I honestly believe that we can largely defeat racism, sexism, etc. if we try. We’ve already come a long way. Hate speech laws are part of that progress.

joyce wrote:
Free speech restrictions are often to protect the powerless, with hate speech laws a leading example of that.


You seem to have an awful lot of faith in the power of the law to protect the powerless in a capitalist society. Anyone who has been paying attention knows otherwise, especially if they are among the powerless.

joyce wrote:
You say they "tried" to defund the Pride festival, they "tried" to characterize criticisms of Israel as hate speech. So what? It didn't wash because it's not hate speech.


... until some other authority decides it is hate speech. You seem blithely unconcerned that the law you champion has been used by our supposed "political leaders" to harass and marginalize the very people you claim it is supposed to protect. And that those leaders are able to influence the alleged minds of their multitudinous supporters to make them think that anti-imperialist speech is hate speech, regardless of the technicalities of the hate-speech law. 

joyce wrote:
If right-wing powers ever do manage to take over...


Um, hello? Ever heard of Stephen Harper?

joyce wrote:
"The existence of the Canadian hate speech laws has done nothing to protect the disadvantaged from hate speech." Another piece of dogma. How could you possibly know that?


How could you possibly be unaware of that? Hate speech is all around us. Even government ministers use hate speech against immigrants, first nations, Muslims, and gays. The same powerful politicians that you think are only there to protect the powerless; the "leaders and mentors" whose political statements set the tone for the coarsening of political discourse in this country and the encouragement of hatred against the disadvantaged; the ones you want to have deciding what you and I can or cannot say.

joyce wrote:
I disagree with your cynical view of human nature...


I don't have a cynical view of human nature. Human nature is very adaptable and malleable according to the social conditions and relations that prevail at any given time in history.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia have nothing to do with "human nature". They are ideological products of a society built on class oppression and exploitation. You don't even begin to tackle them with gag laws. It requires nothing less than changing the fundamental nature of society.

Bottom line: Disabuse yourself of any idea that the capitalist state and its laws exist in order to protect the disadvantaged. As soon as they perceive a threat to their ideological hegemony, their economic privileges, or their political control, the ruling classes will not hesitate to use their laws against us. They will use the language of freedom, human rights, and peace to justify their opposites, as we have seen repeatedly in their foreign policy, their "humanitarian" wars, and their militarized "domestic security" apparatus. We buy into their narratives at our peril.

Your analysis is getting quite general here. The problems you speak of are not the fault of hate speech laws, they are far broader than than. If we take your position to its logical conclusion, we should dispense with pretty much ALL laws because they might be abused by the privileged and powerful and used against the powerless. That's ridiculous. I think you should reread my article. There is broad, pretty much universal, support for having and enforcing laws, and they serve a valid purpose. The question of laws being abused by the powerful is a completely different issue than whether we should have laws and whether the positives outweigh the negatives.

Remember that to meet the test of hate speech, it must reflect "unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification."  I don't think gov't statements qualify for that. As far as I know, all the hate spech complaints the CRHC has dealt with involve hate speech against GBLT, racial or ethnic groups - the underprivileged. So what are you talking about when you say leaders and the privileged use hate speech laws agaist the powerless?  Bluster and talk are not the same thing as actually filing a hate speech complaint and winning. And that has generally favoured the powerless.

The disadvantaged do have their champions, including in government. Many of the laws and measures in gov't today are there to protect workers and the ordinary person. For example, what does universal healthcare and the Canada Health Act have to do with protecting the privileged? Or labour unions and laws against employment discrimination? What about criminal laws against assault or theft?  If I'm robbed, I can call the police and they will take it seriously, even though I'm not rich or powerful. I see hate speech laws as being more like a candle in the dark against those powers, rather than tools for their advantage. Of course things don't work perfectly, but we have to stand up for what's right and keep fighting to make things better.

Racism and xenophobia do indeed arise out of our tribal evolutionary heritage. (Perhaps not sexism or homophobia so much, that may have come later, with the rise of patriarchy.) The powers-that-be exploit those tendencies and exacerbate them of course. But the human rights movement of the last 70 years works against that abuse, and is a key force for "changing the fundamental nature of society." In that light, perhaps you can explain how and why you think the UN Declaration of Human Rights was created as a 'tool of the capitalist state to be used against the disadvantaged.' (to paraphrase your concern).  In fact, hate speech laws flow from human rights declarations, not laws protecting the powerful. 

Your argument that the ruling classes have adopted the framework of freedom and human rights etc. just shows just how powerful that paradigm has become. When the powerful co-opt that language, it does not mean they are winning, it means they've become more desperate - they realize they're losing their privilege so they fight back. This has happened across other issues - creationists are forced to adopt the language of science because science is hugely successful and prestigious. Anti-choicers are forced to adopt language that pretends they care about women, because almost everyone now accepts that women have human rights. Religious conservatives have to pretend they "hate the sin but love the sinner" to avoid being accused of homophobia. Muslim-haters have to pretend that the danger is Islamic culture and beliefs rather than their own fear and hatred of Muslims. All of this is because it's no longer socially acceptable to voice hateful beliefs publicly, due to the general acceptance of human rights and laws protecting human rights.

Of course, the Internet is a different matter because people can hide. One of the main reasons there's a lot of hate on the Internet is because people can be anonymous. They would never talk like that to people they meet in person. The necessity to hide is another indication of how powerful the paradigm of human rights has become - with the help of hate speech laws.

The suggestion that repealing section 13 will undermine equality-seeking groups is unsubstantiated. Indeed, the chilling effect of section 13 can be felt by both the right and the left wing, by both progressive and conservative forces. The language of section 13 is wide enough that it could be used to limit or attack anti-patriarchy speech or anti-colonial speech. Probably, anti-patriarchy or anti-colonial speech would not succumb to condemnation under section 13 after possibly a long judicial battle, the same way that most anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic speech remains untouched by section 13. In a way, the debate over retaining or discarding section 13 is the wrong debate. Discrimination and injustice is lived in a variety of forms, all insidious. The real issue is whether we can stop anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic people from acting on their beliefs, from getting elected or accessing powerful positions. We also must counteract discriminatory speech by a more forceful equality narrative. Going after hate-mongers always gives them more notoriety than they deserve. Section 13 could never, no matter how much money was spent on prosecution, free the Internet of anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic comments. Only more anti-discriminatory speech can. Being pro-speech does not mean being pro-hate or anti-equality. It demands more anti-discrimination speech, more equality-seeking actions and more denunciation of injustice. More speech, not less. Nathalie Des Rosiers General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Thank you Nathalie, I appreciate you chiming in.  Of course "more speech" is great but it's not enough. As I said, vulnerable groups are often not in the best position to defend themselves. I think your point about the language of section 13 being wide enough to be used against anti-patriarchy speech or anti-colonial speech is overstated. Have there been any complaints by patriarchalists or colonialists, even unsuccessful ones? 

I'm pretty outspoken at times, but do not feel any chilling effect, because I don't engage in hate speech. My personal concern (as an atheist) is when blasphemy gets mistaken for hate speech, because that's dissent, not hate speech. You state that "The suggestion that repealing section 13 will undermine equality-seeking groups is unsubstantiated," but you don't have any evidence for your position either. At least my position has logic and obvious common sense going for it. I'm referring to my points about the purpose of laws and the message they send, and how allowing hate speech directly conflicts with our society's commitment to human rights and anti-discrimination.

I partly agree with you that "The real issue is whether we can stop anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic people from acting on their beliefs, from getting elected or accessing powerful positions." One way to do that is to enforce hate speech laws that discourage them. Also, wouldn't a conviction for hate speech be just the thing to stop hate-mongers from being elected or achieving powerful positions? We need some kind of law to deal with the most egregious cases of hate speech, at least. But just as important as preventing hate crimes, is supporting vulnerable groups. Having no hate speech laws is disrespectful and unfair to them - it's as if we're saying that the human rights of gays, ethnic minorities, women, etc. are up for debate in the public square and "may the best argument win." That's deeply offensive to vulnerable groups (and can marginalize and silence them even further). E.g, I don't need a couple of male pundits debating on the radio whether or not I as a woman should have the right to live my own life and make my own decisions, or whether I should be forced to be a baby-making machine instead, as if that's a legitimate option open for discussion. (and if I tried to call in to provide a "more forceful equality narrative", they probably wouldn't let me on or would cut me off!)

For the latest instance of how allegations of "hate speech" can be used to suppress legitimate dissent, see RCMP admits grounding union-hired plane flying anti-Harper banner, in which we read:

Quote:
Ciambella said the RCMP officers who met him appreciated his cooperation in bringing his flight to an early end, but they told him that the message on the banner could be construed as hate speech — hence their request for him to return to the airport for questioning.

The fact that this stupid allegation would probably never stand up in court is no answer to the fact that the mere allegation itself is sufficient pretext for police to act in an oppressive manner.

Clearly, the RCMP officer who said that was either an idiot who misspoke, or just a bully. Individual cops say lots of stupid things, and many will lie to people to intimidate them. What he said was obviously BS and carried no authority. The real concern was a security threat for Parliament Hill and Harper. Case closed.

Quote:
The real concern was a security threat for Parliament Hill and Harper.

Nobody I know seriously believes that the aircraft was seen as a security threat. It was clearly flying in non-restricted airspace. If national security were the real concern, the RCMP would have said so from the outset, and the "hate speech" canard never would have arisen.

Everyone with a lick of political sense knows that the real reason the RCMP grounded the flight was the content of the message it was conveying. The only uncertainty is whether they acted on their own, or were ordered by their political masters to use any flimsy excuse to put an end to the flight. 

When forced to shut down any expression of free speech, the police will grasp at any straws, however spurious. Yes, they will lie, yes they will intimidate. Giving them the "hate speech" card to play only adds to the arsenal of phony excuses and bully tactics available to them.

The latest example of the suppression of free speech through the use of "hate crime" laws

Azhar Ahmed was convicted of a "racially aggravated public order offence" [sic].

A spokesperson for Yorkshire police said: "He didn't make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother." So, the penalty for not making a point "very well" is prosecution and potentially a sentence of up to six months in prison.

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