Monday, April 04, 2005

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press – It’s About the Charter Stupid!

Everyone would agree that the rights guaranteed to Canadians under the charter are not absolute. Freedom of speech does not mean the right to libel someone. It does not give Canadians the right to preach hatred or genocide of ethnic minorities. Freedom of speech does not include the right to commit mischief by yelling fire in a crowded theater or the right to say bomb on an airplane.

Yet, consider the freedom of speech that exists in the world’s totalitarian regimes. You can choose any one of them: Ayatollah’s Iran, Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea, even Castro’s Cuba. How about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Before Saddam’s ouster, Iraqis were more than free to preach hatred against Americans and Jews. Under UN sanctions, most of them did. Terrorist groups like Ansar Al Islam not only talked about bombs on airplanes, they practiced doing it. Iraqis were afforded freedom of speech under Saddam’s totalitarian rule that made western democracies look rigid, with one glaring difference. It was absolutely forbidden to utter any speech that was in any way critical of the governing power.

It is true that democracies do not give people the freedom to libel, slander, and preach hatred and genocide or to commit mischief. Freedom of speech exists in a democracy for one reason and one reason only. That is to ensure that opposing political views can be voiced without fear of intimidation or reprisal. Freedom of the press exists for no other reason than to ensure that government is transparent and accountable. The right of Canadians to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is guaranteed for reasons that are 100% political.

Here we are amid the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the nation. Evidence given at the Gomery Inquiry last week detail how the sponsorship program was created for the sole purpose of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars through liberal friendly ad firms and back into the liberal party to win elections. According to testimony this was done under the guise of saving the country so that when scandal broke the liberals could fall behind the classic liberal mantra of good intentions. Yet because of a publication ban, the rights of Canadians to learn the extent of liberal corruption are being suppressed. The original intent of the charter in guaranteeing these rights is to prevent exactly what is happening here.

In spite of this, the liberal friendly mainstream media is all too wiling to accept the publication ban as an excuse to aid in the suppression of information critical to the governing liberals. The CBC spent the weekend acting as though there was no Gomery Inquiry. Even conservative bloggers are weary of defying the publication ban.

Conservative bloggers that refuse to publish Gomery evidence seem to fall into two groups, the timid and the self-righteous. The timid ones talk about fear of reprisal from government. The self-righteous talk about how important it is to obey the law.

The timid are easy to understand. When you live in constant fear, like the Iraqis did under Saddam, you will risk your life under death threats, with suicide bombers and mortar attacks to vote for a chance to taste freedom. When you are born into freedom, as almost all Canadians are, fear of spending even one night in jail is enough to scare you away from doing something that is entirely within your right to do.

The self-righteous bloggers talk about the publication ban as being the final authority under the law. The publication ban is not the final authority under the law, the Constitution is. During the 2000 election, Paul Bryan broke a publication ban and published election results from eastern Canada in clear violation of Elections Canada rules. The BC Supreme Court ruled that such a ban is of no force or effect in British Columbia. Paul Bryan proved that a Canadian’s right to free speech is only guaranteed if people are willing to assert their rights.

The point was also made that this publication ban is necessary to ensure that Jean Brault receives a fair trial. You can bet that 99% of Canadians had never heard of Jean Brault before last week. He is a peon in the grand scheme of things. No person can argue in a credible way that the right of one person to a fair trial supercedes the rights of 32,000,000 Canadians to learn the extent of government corruption. Especially in a minority government situation where the government could fall at any time sparking a sudden election.

When it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the romper room wing of the liberal party says it best.

“It’s about the charter stupid!”

1 Comments:

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Good post, Michael.

I admit I'm in the "timid" group, mainly because I don't have the time or money to head off to court to defend myself against the government. In fact the decision to delete references to the "blog that shall go unnamed but is already named by a number of news sites" is mainly financial. If breaching the publication ban would entail nothing more than a day or two in jail, then it would be a no-brainer. But the one whom the government decides to take to court will spend grievous amounts of money and time defending one's actions. With a young family, mortgage, etc. (you know how it goes) that's a risk I currently will not take.

If you are in the position to take such a risk and plod that road for us all, then I applaud you. If you are not in the position, but are still willing then I applaud you even more.

For now, though, I shall point visitors to my site to the news sites that have either the post name or the actual name of the blog.

Weak-kneed me. :-)

 

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