An Important Lesson in History

Dear Jason,

Canadians actually have had freedom of expression for some time, not just since 1982.

As an example, you may wish to look to the Bill of Rights, passed by Diefenbaker in 1960. Ineffective? Probably. But we also had an implied bill of rights, inherited from Britain with all the other unwritten parts of our Constitution. So, we had freedom of expression in 1981 in the same way that we had a Prime Minister as head of government, and not some unelected grandmother in Britain. (Here’s a fun game: see how many times the word “Prime Minister” is mentioned in that document.) Also, as a good Nova Scotian, I’d be remiss to not point out Joe Howe.

Splitting hairs? Perhaps. But, you see, it bothers me when people start talking about how the Charter created rights like freedom of speech. It didn’t. Trudeau and 9 premiers didn’t suddenly realize that it would be awesome if people could speak there minds, they reaffirmed something that the law had long ago recognized: that the right to expression is innate and can only be taken away, not given. That’s why the very first clause in the Charter limits your right to speech.

It’s also important to remember that the charter can be changed, hence Paul Martin’s famous hail mary pass about removing the notwithstanding clause. When we start thinking that we are given things, rather than already having them, we become more comfortable with them being taken away.

Also, there is an important difference between a Private Member’s Bill and a Motion. One becomes a law; the other indicates that the house believes something should be the case. Warren should know better too. That doesn’t mean that Keith Martin’s motion isn’t stupid.

Steyn and Levant? Levant likes attention, which is why he published cartoons that anyone could find on google faster than they could find a copy of his poorly-read magazine. Steyn’s article was a waste of paper, but I’m not sure it advocated hate. Steyn probably should be fined for abusing his thesaurus in describing the awesomeness of Conrad Black, but that’s another story. That both are getting attention is dangerous not because they are specious complaints, but because it undermines the important and good work that HRC’s and hate crime restrictions do.