March in Los Angeles is a sweet month full of sunny, windless, dry days. In 2016 just after Presidents’ Day, I was at UCLA to visit two museums. The weather was fine and the university was outdoors. To get from one museum to another, I passed through the central campus where students staffed busy kiosks flogging popular causes—complete with boom boxes and street dancing.
Soon I was nose to nose with four energetic students, two men and two women who wanted my signature on petitions.
Scholars in the United States and abroad have called for an academic boycott of international conferences in the United States in reaction to Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Free expression may be the most important freedom in a democracy. It is the lifeblood of truth. Free expression rights are ostensibly a measure to protect minorities, especially oppressed minorities. Enabling a minority to speak truth to power is a beautiful thing. Nevertheless, free expression can pose difficult challenges for minorities.
In January, perhaps reacting to some of the more interesting “alternative facts” stories emerging from the United States, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly tweeted the following:
Teaching a news “ethics” course in the fledgling journalism program at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, proved to be a challenge, given the restraints on freedom of expression now occurring under the regime of President Xi Jinping.
It was only April, but I could feel the sweat trickling down my neck in the oppressive heat in Guangzhou - a city of 12 million about two hours north of Hong Kong on the coastal mainland. But the temperature wasn’t why I was sweating.
The Peel District School Board, a public and secular board of education, met recently to decide what Muslim students should be permitted to say during their Friday Jumu’ah prayers.
A secular non-Muslim authority is requiring students to have their approval for the content of religious observances. What does this say about freedom of religion? And what about freedom of expression?
Last fall the news broke that Quebec police forces had been spying on journalists, over a period of time and almost as a matter of routine. Not only did Montreal police obtain warrants to tap into the phone and electronics of Patrick Lagacé (La Presse), close to a dozen reporters and journalists have been monitored by municipal and provincial forces, acting with and without warrants. The ensuing outrage focused on the alarming invasion of privacy and revelation that some violations took place with the law’s blessing, under warrants issued by justices of the peace.
Many people understand that humanity and the planetary ecosystem are at grave risk from nuclear weapons and climate change. But many more are only dimly aware or worse, ignore or deny these risks.
The Ontario Legislature has joined a number of other legislative bodies and political organizations in condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign directed at the state of Israel – which according to the campaign website is intended, “to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”.
Every interaction by or about a person on the Internet, whether intended as public, semi-private, or private, is vulnerable to instant digital tattooing. For this reason, the right to be forgotten is emerging as a compelling companion to privacy. Privacy, like Article 19, features in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 states: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.