Monday, January 29, 2007

Free Speech in Canada

Ed at Dispatches has an interesting post about what appears to be censorious overreach on the part of the government of British Columbia. Coincidentally enough, I just last night finished the chapter on Canada's approach to free speech in Ronald Krotoszynski's The First Amendment in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Its a book that bears reading if you're going to critique freedom of speech in other developed countries.

According to Krotoszynski, behavior such as Ed cites is a direct result of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Among other things, this document requires respect for "cultural and group identity", effectively granting collective rights to groups. This idea of collective rights is a concept which is largely foreign to the US, which is one of the reasons why some of these incidents coming out of Canada seem so odd to us.

Incidentally, he also notes that these rules, which were formulated to protect Canada's minority populations, often backfire and end up perpetuating the discrimination they were originally designed to prevent. In that sense Ed is right in saying that these sorts of things are not a preservation of human rights, but a violation thereof.

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