In the battle for freedom of speech in Canada, Mark Steyn is losing. True, there’s been a flurry of discussion on the blogosphere, and a number of powerful Canadian Op-Ed pieces on the controversy. But don’t be fooled, Mark Steyn is losing.
For one thing, the opinion pieces protesting the case against Steyn have come largely from Canadian conservatives. Unless these political outliers are joined by more “classically liberal” Canadians, there is little chance that Canada’s system of Human Rights Commissions will be reigned-in or reformed.
Consider the conclusion of David Warren’s “Then They Came for Mark Steyn…:”
For nota bene: this should not be a Left or Right issue. Freedom for one is freedom for all, and tyranny against one is tyranny against all…
I mentioned last week the case Mohamed Elmasry and the Canadian Islamic Congress have brought against Maclean’s magazine for publishing Mark Steyn — simultaneously before multiple human rights commissions, a tactic that is itself an egregious abuse of process. It is a case that should clang alarm bells right across Canada. Yet we’ve heard only a few modest tinkles.
Warren’s piece is a must-read for its powerful portrayal of the real-life slippery slope Canada’s Human Rights Commissions have fallen down — so powerful that it’s easy to miss Warren’s point about the minimal reaction to the Steyn case in Canada to date. But Warren is right. The seriousness of the threat to Canada’s free speech has not yet been recognized.
Have a look at this editorial on the apparent murder of Aqsa Parvez in Canada’s National Post. This piece rightly notes that assimilation problems among Canada’s Muslim immigrants are not as severe as the problems we’ve seen in Europe. Even so, it seems to me that the piece goes out of its way to underplay the problems that do exist. And note the swipe at “high profile conservative columnists” who have been “particularly vigorous about highlighting these pathologies.” This implicit swipe at Steyn, without adding a public plea for his right to free speech, bodes ill indeed. The National Post is far more hospitable to conservative views than most Canadian outlets. I would be delighted to be corrected on this, but so far as I know, the National Post has yet to speak out on the case against Steyn, or on the abusive powers of Canada’s Human Rights Commissions. If even the National Post is silent on the Steyn affair, free speech in Canada is in trouble.
Now look at this post from Gary J. Wise, a Toronto Attorney who runs the Wise Law Blog. Wise has been alerted to the controversy by posts at the Volokh Conspiracy. He blames the fracas on American conservatives, and seems unaware of the various columns on the controversy by Canadians. (For some links to Canadian columns, go here. And be sure to read John Robson’s hilarious, “Self-Censorship? Me? Absolutely!“) Wise has little to say in reply to core concerns about this case–that simply bringing cases against expressions of opinion creates costs (financial and more) that have the effect of chilling speech. He also has nothing to say about the vague powers of these bodies, or about changes in their functioning unanticipated by, and even repudiated by, some of their founders. (Again, see Warren’s latest column for more on the history of these commissions. And for my own view, see “Steynophobia” and “The Case Against Steyn“.)
In any case, I take Wise’s post to express the current attitude of Canada’s liberal elite: untroubled by the vague and expanding powers of Human Rights Commissions, uninterested in the chilling effects of accusations on conservative opponents, unaware of the views of Canada’s own conservatives on the Steyn affair, disdainful of American criticisms, and only barely aware of the controversy itself. Combine this with the silence to date by the National Post, and we must conclude that Mark Steyn is losing.