Events of early 2017 in Canada and the US raised once again the question: why are Islamic people so often subjected to discrimination, repression and violence in our societies and abroad? Among the reasons is denigration of Islamic religion and culture by intellectuals whose writing has long been given prominence by Western mainstream media. Their disinformation helped to generate a political environment in which some people in the West uncritically accept severe actions against Muslims by governments, groups or individuals, and curtailments of rights for all.
Freedom of expression creates a metaphorical “marketplace of ideas” where truth and falsehood can do battle, the eventual victor given time, always being truth. This concept is a foundational principle of liberal democracy found in the philosophies of John Milton and John Stuart Mill. The concept even exists in Islamic theology where the Quran states “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error” (2:256).
By Abbas Kassam / Posted Monday June 12, 2017
We should applaud the public outcry that recently helped to restore Saskatchewan library funding. This situation served as an important signal work needs to be done to protect libraries and the people who work in them, who are often in difficult political situations, including over the freedom of expression.
[Co-written with Andrea Gonsalves and Carlo Di Carlo] In late 2015, the Ontario Legislature identified a problem: it saw an increasing number of defamation cases in which the plaintiff’s goal was not to obtain compensation, but instead to drag a defendant into interminable and costly litigation as a form of retribution against the defendant for speaking out against the plaintiff.
As local newspapers across Canada are being downsized or shut down and the discussion increasingly turns to addressing the growing problem of fake news (indeed, the U.S. President calls any information he doesn’t like “fake”), there are still local newspapers valiantly determined to inform their communities and to speak truth to power.
One gets the sense that the Supreme Court of Canada does not have a good feel for free speech questions. It took some time, for instance, for a majority of the Court to acknowledge that legal constraints might ‘chill’ free speech. The Court confidently proclaimed, on more than one occasion, that civil and criminal legal prohibitions should not be expected to deter speakers.
By David Schneiderman / Posted Tuesday May 9, 2017
The Free Speech movement at Berkeley in the 1960s is within the memory of many of us. In Canada as in Europe, the 60s saw lasting improvement in the way universities run themselves, along with important reforms in the whole society. There was a push for access, equality, and fairness, a campaign led as much from below (the growing popular sentiment for egalitarian policies in health care and education, for instance) as from above (Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society).
On March 23rd, Parliament passed a motion tabled by Liberal back-bencher Iqra Khalid. The motion differs from a bill in that it has no effect in law; it acts as a suggestion, recommendation, or opinion. It is important to read the actual words of the motion -- the full text of which is:
Systemic racism and religious discrimination
By Danielle S. McLaughlin / Posted Wednesday April 5, 2017
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPPs”) are when Big Resources (private or public sector) sue Little Resources (individuals, non-profit organizations) in order to silence them. If the person or organization being sued (often for defamation) can’t afford to fight the case, they are effectively prevented from speaking out on the subject that got them SLAPP’ed. The case may be weak or even ludicrous, but the merits of the case don’t matter if you can’t afford to defend yourself in court.
Disinformation, claims of competing economic imperatives and an inadequately informed public account for why governments have not acted effectively in response to the grave dangers posed by climate change.