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Bench Memos

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Fear and Loathing in Toronto, Part II



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Canadian human rights commissions (HRCs), both provincial and federal, have preyed on journalists like Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine; on clergy such as Rev. Stephen Boissoin and the Catholic archbishop of Calgary; and on numerous other less well-known victims who have said or published things “offensive” to the sensibilities of gays and lesbians, or radically-inclined Muslims, or members of other protected and favored groups.  (A good overview is given by Douglas Farrow in “Kangaroo Canada” in the latest First Things, so far restricted to subscribers.  See also the columns of the Ottawa Citizen’s David Warren for January 16, January 20, May 3, June 4, June 28, July 5, and August 20 of this year.)  Academic, journalistic, and civil liberties groups in Canada have spoken out against the practices of the HRCs, without any real success so far.

 

Clearly freedom of speech is in a parlous condition in Canada today.  Isn’t it a bit odd that the American Political Science Association should schedule next year’s meeting in Toronto?  And if the meeting was set there by a decision made years ago, before things looked as bad in Canada as they do now, shouldn’t the APSA seek some assurances from Canadian authorities that its members will be “welcome” there to say whatever they feel moved to say on controversial topics?  And shouldn’t the APSA perhaps place such controversial topics, and Canadian suppression of speech regarding them, at the center of the meeting it will have on Canadian soil?

 

Some political scientists, their consciousness raised by the recent flap over New Orleans, think the answer to all these questions is yes.  A small working group in the discipline (including your humble blogger) has put together a petition to the APSA Council noticing the problem with a Canadian site for an organization devoted to academic freedom, and asking the Association to take steps to assure that its members will encounter a “welcoming environment” no matter what they say in Toronto next year.  The petition and a page of accompanying “talking points” can be found here; after just a few days, the petition already has dozens of signatories, including some of the most distinguished political scientists in America.  The Canadian press has already noticed the effort—see this article in the National Post.  Any political scientists reading this are encouraged to consider joining us after reading the petition; current members of APSA can become signatories by writing to [email protected], and more contact information is available on the petition itself.



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