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LETTER: Free speech is never 'free,' says reader

'Liberal government’s new hate-speech bill will ultimately fail to help victims and affected groups targeted by extremists,' says Barrie resident
2021-06-15 Parliament Hill 1
Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

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Public figures and intellectuals often glaringly and publicly praise our Charter of Rights and Freedoms contained within the Constitution Act of 1982.

That statute, a revision of the British North America Act of 1867, ultimately severed British control over our parliament and forever negated their ability to control Canada’s government.

That revision enabled Canada to withdraw from Britain’s colonizing control and, in short, gave us the liberty to form our own Charter rights of speech and thought.

Ironically, these figures rarely consider the danger posed by speech that is ‘free.’ ‘Free speech’ empowers people to say things that are potentially very evil.

More than an individual’s bruised feelings or bullying, free speech has the power to enable acts of hatred on a level that could cause affected persons to fear for their lives. This is why the Liberal government’s new hate-speech bill will ultimately fail to help victims and affected groups targeted by extremists who use the internet to express malevolent sentiments or intentions.

Justice Minister David Lametti and his friends hail Bill C-36 as a panacea to solving the problem of internet-spread hatred and extremism: victims can appeal to the courts and tribunals for removal of the offensive material, pursue peace bonds against the hate criminal and impose heavy fines.

Officials note that the measures would “take time” to implement because, as we all know, justice moves slowly.

This is a complete farce. Granted, the Liberals want to adjust the bill to allow for the punishing of corporations like Facebook or Twitter if they fail to remove hateful material or report malignant users to the authorities.

Experts even call for ISPs to face stiff penalties if they don’t take action against hate criminals using their network.

But greater care must be taken to consider exactly when free speech ceases to be “free” and infringes on the safety and dignity of others.

Christopher Mansour