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.

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