Kangaroo Courts in Canada
The /. crowd isn't known for its love of the political right, so I was surprised to see the reactions to this story which came up in my RSS reader over the weekend: Author Faces Canadian Tribunal For Hate Speech. The "Human Rights Commissions" here in Canada don't have a great track record in terms of treating people as innocent until proven guilty, or requiring actual evidence, or anything else that you normally expect from a system that has the power to pass legal judgement on people. The gist of the story is that a well known Canadian Author, Mark Steyn, will be put "on trial" before one of these "Human Rights Commissions" for his book, America Alone. I haven't read the book, so I won't speak to its claims or accuracy. It could certainly be considered controversial, and I'm sure many people wouldn't like what he was trying to say. What this issue is all about is a person's right to freedom of speech and our distorted notion of tolerance. Are people offended by Mark Steyn's book? Most definitely. Do people have a right to not be offended by the free speech of others? I don't think so. We (here in Canada anyway) have gone a bit overboard in our promotion of "tolerance." We've abandoned a healthy attitude of tolerating behaviour that while not illegal or immoral is somehow distasteful to us (maybe just because it's different?) and embraced tolerance as a sort of prime directive, or 0th commandment, "Thou shalt not offend thy neighbour." The trouble is, my neighbour being offended has more to do with my neighbour's values and state of mind than it does with my actions, so in the name of "tolerance", the state has begun to legislate what is and is not offensive.