Magazine | March 25, 2013, Issue

Death to Freedom

For half a decade, ever since the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, I’ve found myself waging a grim campaign for freedom of speech in my native land. We’ve had some success along the way, seeing off the Islamic enforcers, and getting a disgraceful federal law first rendered unenforceable and then repealed by the House of Commons. My comrade Ezra Levant and I are excitable chaps: As I like to put it, we went Magna Carta on the Canadian censors’ medieval ass. My publisher, Ken Whyte, is rather more house-trained, and used to say that the end game was getting the issue to the supreme court in Ottawa and having it ruled unconstitutional. He seemed confident we had the votes.

No, we don’t. Last month, the Canadian supreme court, at a stroke, undid all the good work of the last five years, reaffirmed the state’s role in the thought-crime business, rejected truth as a defense, and took a narrow, generation-old ruling on “hate speech” and carelessly broadened it. And they did it unanimously. Nearly four centuries after John Milton declared, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” on the highest court in one of the oldest democratic jurisdictions on earth there is not a single vote for the rough-and-tumble of unfettered speech necessary to any free society.

The case in question was a minor one. Way back at the turn of the century, Bill Whatcott was convicted by the Saskatchewan “Human Rights” Tribunal for distributing a couple of unread flyers around Regina and Saskatoon with titles like “Sodomites in Our Public Schools.” Ooh, yes, he said “sodomite”! In a free society, there’s always the danger someone will utter the word “sodomite.” As perilous as that is, erecting a permanent bureaucracy of aggressive apparatchiks to force us into state-mandated niceness is a thousand times more perilous. Not to mention just plain creepy.

It’s traditional at this point for us free-speech crusaders to say how personally reprehensible we find Mr. Whatcott’s musings. But to be honest I can’t be bothered. Apart from the peculiar intensity of his obsession, he seems a harmless enough fellow. He takes the traditional Christian position of hating the sin but loving the sinner, pointing out that “the Church of Jesus Christ is blessed with many ex-Sodomites.” Of course, if one were seriously interested in getting “sodomites” out of the public-school system, one would eschew the term as unlikely to win converts to one’s cause. Thus, the very expression identifies Mr. Whatcott as someone entirely without influence in the public discourse.

#page#On the other hand, the supreme court’s words are truly offensive, beginning with its breezy contempt for “truthful statements” and its preference for “group rights” over individual liberty. In Canada, gay marriage is legal coast to coast; “gay-straight alliance” groups are mandated in every school in Ontario; Catholic educational institutions are obliged to let students bring their same-sex partners to the prom; publicly funded “Pride” parades are obligatory in not just the louche metropolitan fleshpots but remote small towns; gay arts festivals are enthusiastically sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, Air Canada, and every other important corporation. As societal approval goes, that’s not bad for a demographic that represents 2 percent of the population. Mr. Whatcott’s minority group — evangelicals — makes up about 8 percent of the population but is in no danger of municipally funded parades, or mandatory “evangelical-secular alliances,” or corporate sponsorship from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. All Mr. Whatcott’s left with are his photocopied flyers, with handwritten margin notes.

But that clear and present threat “demonstrably justifies” the supreme court in sodomizing the hell out of Canadians’ free-speech rights.

By contrast, consider Bilal Philips, a Toronto boy who “reverted” to Islam in 1972 and was the keynote speaker at last year’s big shindig at the Muslim Council of Calgary. He doesn’t want the sodomites expelled from school life, merely from life in general: He believes that every homosexual should face the “punishment for deviant behavior . . . which is death.” But don’t get the wrong idea: “The media tends to take my words out of context,” he said, explaining that he only favors the execution of all male homosexuals in Muslim countries, which Alberta is not, yet. So the head of the Calgary Police Diversity Unit, Bill Dodd, and various other panjandrums of Canadian officialdom were happy to attend the conference with Mr. Philips, because, after all, you can’t get more diverse than a multiculti squish sitting side by side with a bloke who wants to behead every gay in town. The mayor of Calgary, an Ismaili Muslim called Naheed Nenshi, was less enthusiastic about Mr. Philips, but says he has “the right to say his piece.”

Exactly. In Canada, the law denies “the right to say his piece” to the likes of Bill Whatcott, a man who believes that homosexuals are sinners and in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, but it has no objection to those who think homosexuals are evil and should be put to death. Mr. Philips need never fear the scrutiny of the “human rights” commission, or the cost of ten-year legal battles.

No homosexual needs the state’s protection from Bill Whatcott. But all of us need protection from nitwit jurists blithely sacrificing core Western liberties to ideological compliance. It’s not about Left vs. Right, gay vs. straight, religious vs. secular; it’s about free vs. unfree. And on that most profound question, Canada’s supreme court is on the wrong side. Nuts to them.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

The Obamacare Long Game

To conservatives nationwide, New Jersey governor Chris Christie went from rock star to pariah in just four months. His slide began when he physically embraced President Obama days before the ...
Politics & Policy

Free the Cops

Opponents of New York City’s proactive style of policing struggle mightily to downplay its most obvious benefit: the largest crime drop on record, concentrated overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods. Now they ...

Features

Politics & Policy

The Next Climate Debate

In his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” ...
Politics & Policy

Sam’s Smear

‘Every contributor to this collection . . . blandly ignores the possibility that there could be any real issue of a rational kind in American politics today which would justify ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Did the Founders Fail?

Chilton Williamson Jr. has written a historically rich, erudite, and serious critique of what he calls contemporary “democracy” (and what others might label “advanced liberalism”). After Tocqueville is an intellectual-history ...

Sections

Athwart

Retail Politics

American dry-goods retailing is a miserable business. Imagine this: You’re the new head of a vast retailing empire — say, J. B. Dimey’s. Sales are soft; competitors nip at every ...
The Long View

Warner Bros.

FADE IN: EXT. URBAN DYSTOPIA — NIGHT The camera PANS across broken heaps of metal, smoking ruins of a once-proud civilization. Buildings in ruins, children in rags with dirty faces, the distant ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

POSTSCRIPT TO THE AENEID These are no arms or men the poet sings, But just some very ordinary things: The plastic station-wagon seat, the grass Of May reverberating through the glass; My brother hooting to ...
Happy Warrior

Death to Freedom

For half a decade, ever since the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, I’ve found myself waging a grim campaign for freedom of speech in my native land. ...
Politics & Policy

Letters

The South Side in ’62 Kevin D. Williamson’s recent cover story about Chicago’s South Side (“Gangsterville,” February 25) made me sad and brought back memories. I spent the summer of 1962 working ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ We trust that Hugo Chávez is now at an endless Politburo meeting. ‐ In a press conference on sequestration, President Obama said this about alleged Republican intransigence: “I am not ...

Most Popular

Education

Is Journalism School Worth It?

Clarence Darrow dropped out of law school after just a year, figuring that he would learn what he needed to know about legal practice faster if he were actually doing it than sitting in classrooms. (Today, that wouldn't be possible, thanks to licensing requirements.) The same thing is true in other fields -- ... Read More
Culture

Wednesday Links

Today is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli: Here's some history, a documentary, and a Lego re-enactment. How DNA Can Lead to Wrongful Convictions: Labs today can identify people with DNA from just a handful of cells, but a handful of cells can easily migrate. The 19th-century art of ... Read More
World

Microscopic Dots. Let’s Look at Them.

Stuart E. Eizenstat has written a big book on the Carter presidency. (Eizenstat was Carter’s chief domestic-policy adviser. He also had a substantial hand in foreign affairs.) I have reviewed the book for the forthcoming NR. Eizenstat tells the story of a meeting between President Carter and Andrei Gromyko, the ... Read More