- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 1999

Most Americans tend to think of Canada as very much like the United States, but nicer less crime, happier, more friendly people, fewer hassles. But that may not be entirely accurate; especially the part about fewer hassles. Canadians live under one of the most strident regimes of thought control (e.g., the softer kind of authoritarianism that pesters and fines you, but usually doesn’t actually shoot you) erected in the Western world.

The Canadian government, empowered by a series of “hate speech” and so-called “human rights” laws, restricts the content of television (both advertising and programming), print communication and other forms of oral or written expression. Canada’s hate speech code prohibits “any statement that is likely to expose a person or group of persons to hatred or contempt … because of their race, color, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age.” The omission of “astrological sign” must have been an oversight. This statute basically outlaws everything from cross burnings to social slights, real or imagined. It is kindergarten disciplinarianism run amok.

Using the hate speech law as its blunderbuss, the Canada Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), which regulates TV content, recently put the kibosh on a perfectly harmless TV commercial featuring an actor wearing an Indian headdress (heap big trouble). CBC reporters, meanwhile, cannot use the dread word “Indian” in any broadcast. Too insensitive. During coverage of a fishing-rights dispute in New Brunswick, for example, reporters referred only to “native” and “nonnative” fishermen. The Taco Bell commercials (“Drop the Chalupa!”) popular in the states might get someone arrested (maybe stoned) in Canada.

The politically correct wet blanket extends to print as well even to privately financed advertising. Hugh Owens, a Christian activist, was prosecuted for having an ad published at his expense that criticized homosexual conduct. Mr. Owens simply had a graphic of a stick figure of two men holding hands within a circle and a slash running through it along with quotations from the Bible critical of homosexuality published as a paid advertisement in a local paper. This was considered “hate speech” under Canadian law.

“Our position is that you can’t rely simply on the free exchange of ideas to cleanse the environment of hate and intolerance,” says John Hucker, who is secretary general of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. “In Canada, we respect free speech but we don’t worship it,” said chairman of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council Ron Cohen. “It is one thing we value, but not the only thing.”

“There is no way of escaping the mandarins of political correctness,” says radio talk show host John Collision. He lost his job after criticizing Winnipeg’s openly homosexual mayor, Glen Murray.

It’s unfortunate that the Canadian government believes it can’t trust its own citizens with free-speech rights that U.S. residents take for granted. Its policies bespeak a contempt for Canadians no hate-speaker there can match.

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