Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Freedom to Read, to Think, to Speak

Censorship is gaining traction in Canada. To a frightening degree.

Last month, the President of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council testified before a Canadian House of Commons committee investigating online hate.

After declaring that his organization desires a “respectful and harmonious” society, he linked the 2017 murder of six in a Canadian mosque to “conservative commentators” and US Republican President Donald Trump.

Specifically, he alleged:

The evidence from [gunman Alexandre] Bissonnette’s computer showed he repetitively sought content about anti-immigrant, alt-right and conservative commentators; mass murderers; U.S. President Donald Trump; and the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Quebec.

Many people interested in current affairs are likely to have used their computers to search for information about the US president and immigrants. Many others, including students working on class assignments, search for information about mass murderers.

After all, true crime books have long been a lucrative staple of the publishing industry. Television channels are replete with programs such as Law and Order, CSI, and preposterous BBC productions such as Midsomer Murders in which multiple people get slain per episode.

All of the above is perfectly innocent – and legal – behaviour.

Let us also never forget that the most extensive mass murders have been carried out by governments. Not just in Germany, but in places such as China, the Ukraine, and Cambodia where those in power were far-left. That should serve as a warning to people who think it’s a good idea to let governments decide what’s acceptable reading material.

Decades ago, the American Library Association defined an absolutely crucial concept:

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. [my italics]

The library association website goes on to explain that intellectual freedom “is the basis for our democratic system.” Ultimate power rests with voters, who must therefore be well-informed.

Grownups who wish to make their own decisions rather than meekly accepting other people’s opinions, need to hear multiple points-of-view. Mainstream media does a bad job of presenting a full range of views these days, so it’s perfectly understandable that free citizens living in free countries might seek out alternative perspectives online.

There’s nothing remotely anti-social about reading commentary written by someone who happens to be politically conservative. There’s nothing wrong with reading the work of someone who has been labelled (accurately or inaccurately) as ‘alt-right.’

One may vehemently agree or disagree with Marxists, leftists, social justice warriors, conservatives, right-wingers, or alt-right activists. Everyone should have an opportunity to examine the ideas associated with each of those categories firsthand. Direct from the horse’s mouth.

That’s what freedom looks like.


coming Wednesday: Canadian government censors Member of Parliament’s objection to the linking of mass murder with conservative commentators


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This entry was posted on June 17, 2019 by in ethical & philosophical, free speech and tagged .
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