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A profile in Courage

A profile in Courage

These days, it appears that increasingly, the weapon of choice against hatred and intolerance is… hatred and intolerance. We have seen two recent examples recently, first, here in Hamilton when an 81 year old woman using a walker was prevented from entering a Maxime Bernier campaign stop while undergoing a torrent of verbal abuse including being called “Nazi scum.” Then later last month outside a Toronto library, hundreds of protesters hurled abuse at people attending an appearance by feminist author Meghan Murphy, known for her criticism of the transgender rights movement. The star in this latest event is Toronto Public Library Chief Vickery Bowles who allowed a library to be used for the event because the TPL has “an obligation to protect free speech.” Bowles took her stand despite calls from Mayor John Tory to cancel the event. Somewhere along the line the whole notion of what constitutes hate speech has become distorted out of recognition. The federal hate speech legislation makes a clear distinction between the expression of honestly-held opinions, extreme as they may be, with incitement to hatred. The language in the federal law that applies to hate speech defines hate speech in part as “likely to lead to a breach of the peace.” In the two incidents we mention here, the only breach of the peace came from the so-called anti-hate groups. There is a growing misguided belief that preventing people from freely expressing views—views that may be controversial, maybe even just plain wrong—is somehow going to stamp out hate. Whether one agrees with Bernier’s attitude towards immigration, or Murphy’s position on transgender rights is beside the point. A far greater danger to our society than the opinions of these two figures, is the alarming growth in the number of people, especially younger people, who think it OK to suppress free discourse. It is a dangerous trend, as those who on the one hand, demand tolerance are themselves increasingly intolerant. Congratulations to Librarian Bowles for reminding us of the value of free speech.

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