The Velvet Revolution of 1989 brought most Czechs and Slovaks the first opportunity to speak freely, without fear of prison or loss of property, that they had enjoyed in fifty years. We agree with Benjamin Franklin that the freedom to speak as one wishes is the lodestar by which one judges a nation civilized, or barbarous:
Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.
Indeed, the freedom to voice one’s opinion, no matter how foolish, is nearly as important as the freedom to bear arms as a check on tyrannical government.
So it behooves us to congratulate the people of Canada on their ascension to the ranks of civilized nations. Canada has abolished its national speech code, also known as Section 13 of the Human Rights Act:
For decades, Canadians had meekly submitted to a system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups. All that was required was a complainant (often someone with professional ties to the [Canadian Human Rights Commission itself) willing to sign his name to a piece of paper, claim he was offended, and then collect his cash winnings at the end of the process. The system was bogus and corrupt. But very few Canadians wanted to be seen as posturing against policies that were branded under the aegis of “human rights.”
That was then. Now, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the enabling legislation that permits federal human-rights complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet,” is doomed. On Wednesday, the federal Conservatives voted to repeal it on a largely party-line vote — by a margin of 153 to 136 — through a private member’s bill introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth. Following royal assent, and a one-year phase-in period, Section 13 will be history.
To appreciate the horror that was ancien regime Canada, imagine a nation run like a modern American liberal arts college. Under the old code, the Canadian tribesman lived in fear that the merest off-color joke might provoke a lawsuit, in which he might be deprived of his property for offending his privileged betters. A Canadian might even be placed in a dungeon for recording an offensive message on the primitive Canadian device known as a telephone answering machine.
It’s true that the savage Canadians are taking baby steps into the waters of liberty. The repeal of Section 13 requires the assent of a person known as The Queen, a hereditary chieftain whose ancestors were given the office by virtue of their skills at tribal warfare. And the repeal doesn’t take place for a year, to allow time to adjust to life in a world where the Canadian cannot freely indulge his natural instinct to rob and imprison those with whom he disagrees.
Now, Rome was not built in a day. It will take the Canadian more than a year to emerge from his mud wattled hut, but this is a fine start on the road to a higher culture.
If you’re an American living on the northern frontier, and you see one of these primitives walking the street, gazing in awe at the majestic skyline, be sure to approach, cautiously, to congratulate him on his newfound freedom.