Our free speech is already under attack
Editor’s Note: While this article does not specifically deal with Motion M-103, it illustrates the controversy surrounding the accommodation of Muslim demands on Canadian society – the criticism of which many believe Motion M-103 is intended to silence. Many Canadians oppose the use of the term “Islamophobia” used in M-103 precisely because it conflates legitimate criticism of Islam or opposition to special accommodation for Muslims with anti-Muslim bigotry.
Freedom of speech is vital for a free society. The principle behind freedom of speech, however, isn’t simply the ability to scream and shout down opinions we don’t like. The purpose of free expression is tied to our ability to debate and to engage in civil discourse with our fellow Canadians — including those with whom we disagree. These discussions allow us to work through our differences and reach an understanding of where the other side is coming from. At the end of the day, we may not agree on the issues, but we reach a consensus – where both sides have honest convictions and are sincerely working to make Canada a better place. The ability to voice concerns, to work through ideas, to critique one another and to find solutions together is what unites us as Canadians. Unity is our strength, and it’s the foundation of our free society. But our ability to discuss issues publicly is being undermined. This week, we’ve seen examples of intolerance, bias and dishonesty working against Canadian unity. When it comes to intolerance, look no further than the Liberal and NDP MPs who walked out of a meeting simply because the meeting’s chair, Rachael Harder, opposes abortion and backed a bill to impose stricter penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women. Intolerant NDP and Liberal MPs refused to be in the room with Harder simply because she holds a different view — a view shared by millions of Canadians of all political stripes. They don’t want to talk about it, they just want to shut her out and take away her voice — and that of Lethbridge voters who elected Harder to represent them in Ottawa. Sure, these leftist MPs were exercising their own freedoms, but this act of political theatre sets an example that you can silence and exclude those with different opinions. Childish MPs weren’t the only example of a refusal to engage honestly on issues of the day. Earlier this week, I wrote a column critiquing a CBC article over its claim Sharia law is already in place here in Canada. When CBC News shared their article on Twitter, they wrote “Shariah is already in Canada.” My column — “Stop normalizing Sharia law in Canada” — refuted the idea “Sharia is already in Canada”, and encouraged freedom-loving Canadians to join forces with moderate Muslim activists in campaigning against Sharia creeping into our society. Sharia is more than just a set of spiritual guidelines for Muslims. There is no separation of mosque and state in Islamic societies, and therefore, Sharia governs both private and public life. But rather than having an honest discussion about Sharia and our secular Canadian society, rather than challenging my points and perhaps explaining how the two might be compatible, leftist critics simply attacked me and mischaracterized my argument. They accused me of fear-mongering by saying Sharia is already in Canada — a claim made by the CBC, not me. A Huffington Post article took my words out of context to promote the Trudeau government’s agenda and to demonize conservatives. These tactics work to intimidate would-be critics and silence those with opposing views. They undermine the freedom of speech and civil discourse necessary in a healthy democracy. If we cannot have an honest discussion about the realities of Sharia law, how can we safeguard our society against it? When we allow freedom of speech to be curtailed for short-term partisan objectives, in the long run, other freedoms become collateral damage. This article was originally published on the Toronto Sun website on September 27, 2017 and can be viewed on their site by clicking here.