Canadian lawyer and free-speech activist Douglas Christie said free speech in his country is limited by Canada’s criminal code, which allows for the punishment of those that publicly promote hatred against any identifiable group. Identifiable groups are defined as “any section of the public distinguished by color, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
He said the rule creates a double standard since prosecutions typically happen of speech opposing liberal opinions.
“There’s really no restriction on liberal free speech,” said Mr. Christie, general counsel for the Canadian Free Speech League.
Mr. Coren also cited the issue of liberal views and expressions being more accepted in Canada, and although he said it is better than it has been in the past, “it is still overwhelmingly one-sided.”
Mr. Christie also cited a section of the Criminal Code which allows a judge to remove hate propaganda, defined as “any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence, from a computer,” basically giving judges the authority to take down Web sites.
Canadian law also empowers human rights commissions at both the state and federal level to investigate claims of hate speech and refer cases to quasi-judicial tribunals that can impose fines or issue restraint orders without even the protections of criminal due process. Complaints have been filed against such conservatives as National Review columnist Mark Steyn and Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant.
Mr. Christie said free speech is necessary for citizens to be knowledgeable about all sides of issues.
“Thank God for Ms. Coulter because she sparked interest in this debate,” he said.
Miss Coulter’s visit has sparked criticism, though. Susan G. Cole, a columnist for Toronto’s weekly entertainment tabloid Now, wrote that she could not believe there was more outrage over Mr. Houle’s letter than over the invitation to Miss Coulter to speak at a Canadian university.
“Is this really the kind of discourse that university campuses should be promoting? I don’t think so. It’s a university’s responsibility to create the kind of environment where people can think and learn. Coulter’s speech does the opposite.” Ms. Cole said.
Miss Coulter has frequently been accused by liberals of fomenting hate, citing her cutting sense of humor and cracks about Islam, Mr. Obama and some of the Sept. 11 widows.