Freedom of Speech, D.O.A. in our Dominion? In Canada, It’s 1984 All Over Again

(We posted this piece almost exactly a year ago today, but it may be even more relevant now, with Bill C-11 (formerly C-10) currently being debated in the Senate. See this discussion between Jordan Petersen and Rex Murphy as they muse on what may happen in our once-free Dominion).

The right to free speech is a bedrock of any free and open society – which seems almost tautological now that I write it. Hence, it is one of the first rights removed in a totalitarian regime. They don’t come out an muzzle the populace all at once – like most other rights – to property, a just wage, freedom of movement and religion –  they are whittled away gradually, under the pretense of ‘justice’, ‘fairness’, and ‘tolerance’.

We already had Bill C-16, now law, mandating the use of ‘transgender’ pronouns, along with other supposed rights and privileges, passed into law in May of 2016.

Now, we have looming on the horizon three Bills, C-6, C-10 and C-36, currently poised to become the law of the land here in Canada. If all three are passed – and passed they may well be with our supine Parliament and Senate – free speech will more or less deader than the proverbial doornail in this once-free Dominion.

Bill C-6

Here is an ‘overview’ of the proposed legislation from the government’s own website:

Bill C-6 would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit certain activities that relate to “conversion therapy”, which is defined as practices, treatment or services designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender or to reduce non-heterosexual sexual attraction or sexual behaviour. Specifically, the Bill would enact new offences to prohibit:

  • causing an individual to undergo conversion therapy against their will;
  • causing a child to undergo conversion therapy;
  • removing a child from Canada to undergo conversion therapy abroad;
  • receiving a financial or other material benefit from the provision of conversion therapy; and
  • advertising an offer to provide conversion therapy.

The Bill would also authorize courts to order the seizure and forfeiture of advertisements for conversion therapy or order their removal from computer systems (“take-down provisions”).

This law is coercive, totalitarian and, in a word, evil, with the second and the fourth prohibitions are the most troublesome: It is particularly bad, for it scandalizes children, God’s ‘little ones’, and those who promulgated this pernicious legislation will have a heavy price to pay before God – memento millstones. Even for adults seeking such therapy, no financial recompense may be sought by any counsellor or therapist, making such therapy in practise nearly impossible. And, what may be worse, Bill C-6 forbids any ‘conversion therapy’ for minors (18 and under) suffering from homosexuality, gender dysphoria or other like sexual disorders. This is even if such minors desire such therapy, and the law would forbid even sage and God-inspired advice from their parents, undermining not only free speech, but the very sanctuary of the family. As a recent article warns, they’re coming for our children, and it’s our duty to protect them, even with out very lives.

Bill C-10

Bill C-10 would permit governmental oversight, and censorship, of anything transmitted over the internet. The language is couched in legalese, with the purported intent to increase ‘Canadian (and particularly Indigenous and francophone) content’ of commercial providers, but the legislation would also allow the government to control pretty much anything it wanted, even from private individuals. Here is one ominous section:

The Bill would create a number of powers for the collection and disclosure of information analogous to those in other regulatory laws. Clause 7 would empower the Commission to make orders imposing conditions on persons carrying on broadcasting undertakings, including conditions with respect to the provision of information to the Commission. 

‘Imposing conditions’. Hmm. So if you upload your garage band covering too much material south of the border, like, say, K.I.S.S. and CCR, and not enough Bryan Adams and Anne Murray, woe is you. But at a deeper level, this would allow the government – read, the Liberals – to peruse, control, censor, regulate, shut down, to ‘make orders’ about anything they wanted not only on your private accounts, from FaceBook and Twitter (but Zuckerberg and Dorsey already do that, and I wonder why anyone uses these platforms), but even in your own webpages, blogs and on-line magazines (such as, say, Catholic Insight). Bentham’s proposed Panopticon is upon us.

Bill C-36

Now for the cherry on this communist cake, is Bill C-36, which is more or less the infamous ‘hate speech’ law, put to death a number of years ago under the impetus of the free-speech advocacy of the indomitable Mark Steyn and others. We should be clear that there are already laws in place for outright libel and defamation. What this insidious legislation does is extend ‘hate speech’ to mean anything that offends anyone, or that might offend anyone – note the terms ‘bias’ and ‘prejudice’ – all at the discretion of a secret tribunal. Here is a description of the bill’s provisions:

Bill C-36 would allow a person to appear before a provincial court, with the Attorney General’s consent, if the person fears that another will commit an offence “motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other similar factor.”

Hate is defined in the bill as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain,” but hatred is not incited solely because it “discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends.”

In addition, the bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to make it a “discriminatory practice” to communicate hate speech through the internet where it is “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination

This is all vague and inchoate, likely deliberately so. We all know who is likely to be most offended, and who will never be judged to be offended against, as the anti-Christian and anti-natural law basis of this legislation already evinced in its previous incarnation, where it was used almost invariably by one or a few individuals, committed to objectively immoral behaviour, to persecute those with whom they happened to disagree.

Penalties, to be doled out by judges for such ‘hate speech’ – remembering that this means anything that might be deemed as in any way biased or offensive to any ‘protected group’ pre-determined, of course, by the government – range from the forced wearing of ankle bracelets, abstaining from ‘drugs and alcohol’ and/or internet usage, all the way to prison terms – even for the possibility that one ‘will commit such a crime’.

All for saying or writing something that may, just may, make someone feel bad. Funny how ‘niceness’ and a false sense of tolerance can turn real nasty, and be a cover for a deep and abiding evil use of the full coercive power of the state into compliance. See my commentary on Josef Pieper’s classic and ominously prophetic treatise on the Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, written four decades ago in light of the Nazi and Communist regimes, but still relevant, perhaps even more so now than then –

Society requires vigorous and even acrimonious speech – debates, dialogues, essays – even if they’re upsetting and emotional, so that we might live together peaceably, even if we disagree. For without such free speech, not only is the search for a common, lived consensus impossible, but the pent-up frustrations will – and have in the past – almost inevitably lead to violence of one sort or another.

It never works to silence the truth, or to coerce people into believing what they believe to be false (especially if it happens also to be truly false). I would urge Canadians to resist with all that is in them this Trudeaupian totalitarianism, but I’m not sure the fight is in us; and it certainly does not seem to be in the Church. Has anyone ever heard a sermon or an episcopal letter mentioning any one of these proposed laws? If so, please do send it along, and I would be happy to publish it here.

But I fear it may be too late, and we may just have to suffer the consequences, as government control metastasizes in the body politic. In the meantime, we can form healthy intentional communities of various sorts, committed to living the truth. We may have to suffer some sort of martyrdom in its various forms, as Christ prophesies in today’s Gospel, which is not only a vivid witness, as its etymology implies, and may lead to some sort of rebirth of the Church and society in this life, and it is always a sure and straight path to heaven.

And we may always hope, for it’s never too late for God, who will intervene in His own good and providential time. The truth will win out in the end, when all things will be revealed, proclaimed from the very rooftops.

Martrys of China and of Gorkum, orate pro nobis!