As Americans, we are fortunate to have the First Amendment. For us, free speech is not just a value, it’s the law. Some nations are not so fortunate, and I’m not talking about poor third-world dictatorships. I’m talking about Canada.

Currently, the “Human Rights Courts” in Canada are busy punishing conservative Canadian bloggers because of their opinions. A gentleman by the name of Richard Warman has taken it upon himself to cleanse the nation of viewpoints with which he disagrees and has brought suits against some of Canada’s most popular conservative bloggers and discussion boards, labeling those citizens as “extreme right-wing” and thus punishable by the Human Rights Courts. Warman can do this because Canada has no immutable right to free speech. Classical Values has a comprehensive post on the situation and I urge you to read it. He does a far better job than I can in dealing with Canadian law and laying out the details of this matter.

This story is not just an opportunity for us to be thankful for our Constitution. It’s a moment for us to realize why we defend the First Amendment, why many of us go out of our way to vigorously support other people’s right to an opinion, even if we find that opinion ignorant, cruel or profoundly distasteful (or all three).

There are people in America who support hate speech laws and such rules exist on many college campuses. The idea is that certain opinions are so dangerous they should be banned entirely, not permitted in intellectual debate or common discourse. That idea is an affront to the very principle behind the First Amendment. As Richard Warman is proving, it only takes one determined, corrupt man to use hate speech laws to punish those with whom he disagrees.

There is no way to protect against the abuse of speech laws. That’s why they’re antithetical to the very meaning of the First Amendment. I’m sorry to see that the Canadian system has fallen into the trap of believing the regulation of speech can be beneficial. It’s not. It’s inherently oppressive. Fortunately we Americans have firmer protections. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant.

Thanks to regular reader Dos for alerting us to this story.

  • TerenceC

    Not to be a contrarian Alan, although I appear to be taking on that role, I agree with the post but not the conclusion. We have just as many problems here, if not worse actualy since our media appears to be very add revenue driven, rather than fact driven. See this url for some interesting reading.

    I agree with freedom of speech, I respect people’s opinions by and large – but I must confess that seeing a right wing’d bloviator get slapped down is very pleasing to me personally.

  • Warman is suing for libel. Now, Canada’s libel laws are a mess, and I am an advocate for reform, but Warman is suing bloggers arguing that a key piece of evidence attributed to him as author, is, he claims, not authored by him.

    The piece is a racist piece directed against Canada’s first black senator.

    Even in America, with its First Amendment, one can launch a tort of defamation over something like this.

    You can disagree with the Human Rights Commissions — I think they are wandering into territory not intended — but the lawsuit is not about the appropriateness of the commissions. The defendants maybe trying to make that connection, but it’s a red herring.

    I am being sued for libel myself, by the way, over online political actions in the Green Party of Canada. I consider the suit without merit, and have many criticisms of Canada’s antiquated libel laws.

    But falsely attributing racist writings to a human rights lawyer sounds actionable to me, if true.

    Oh, our Prime Minister recently sued the Official Opposition for libel for printing what was spoken in Parliament, and repeated throughout the media. A lot of these same characters screaming murder over Warman’s libel suit support the PM’s vexatious libel suit.


  • MW

    “Currently, the “Human Rights Courts” in Canada are busy punishing conservative Canadian bloggers because of their opinions.”

    Um… no the HRC is not doing that. Richard Warman is suing the aforementioned bloggers for Libel. It’s a tort. It’s got nothing to do with the HRC.

  • Thanks for the support Alan. Send Lawyers Guns and Money.

  • Dos

    MW – you’re simply incorrect. Yes, libel is a count to these charges, but he’s also using Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Acts, to wit:

    Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (the Act) empowers the Commission to deal with complaints regarding the telephonic transmission of hate messages:

    13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

    Furthermore, Warman was the lead investigator AND prosecutor of the HRC. To say the HRC has nothing to do with it is preposterous since that is where the cases are being investigated and heard.

  • Courts punish. People bring lawsuits. I don’t think the sentance was incorrect and I’d hoped the rest of the piece made clear that it wasn’t the courts acting independently but the actions of Warman who were leading the charge.

    And, from my understanding, it’s not “libel” in our American sense. It’s “hate speech” that’s at the core of the suit. It may be cast as “libel” but that requires an interpretation of the word far broader than American law, because of the 1st Amendment, would ever allow.

  • I was going to add what Mark did. This case is about libel, not human rights political speech.

  • This article is just another example of Americans thumping their chest so loudly, they fail to hear what’s actually going. Yo Carl… check your facts and dont count on redneck readers for accurate information. It was a lawsuit you rube..

  • kranky kritter

    Alan, the link leads to an unrelated article. I can’t make heads or tails of this.