Monthly Archives: February 2009

The unpredictability of hate laws

It is bizarre and confusing that David Ahenakew was just quietly found not guilty of hate speech. If his venomous ravings weren’t hate speech, what is? And how is anyone meant to understand our laws or court system now?

In case you missed it, a provincial court just let him off, following a 2005 conviction and successful appeal, because his, although his statements “about Jewish people were revolting, disgusting and untrue,” he lacked the intent to spread hate — and you need to have intent for the remarks to be criminal. Now this is foolishness because, as Lorne Gunter wrote in the National Post, Ahenakew repeatedly spewed filth in public settings, even after a theatrical apology, including during his first trial.

I trust you remember the gist of his original 2002 outburst. For one hesitates to repeat his various revolting statements, even when they are well known and even though there now seems to be no legal jeopardy in making them enthusiastically, let alone quoting them critically. Continue reading

More leeches!

Remember the jokes about medicine in the bad old days where they’d bleed the patient and he’d get weaker so they’d bleed him some more until, for instance, George Washington lay dead? Well, today’s news from the New York Times is that the financial firms and car companies that have slurped tens of billions of dollars out of the healthy economy now desperately need to slurp down tens of billions more or the economy will get sicker.

Even Quebecers should celebrate Montcalm’s loss

The kerfuffle over re-enacting the battle of the Plains of Abraham has ended, as expected, with a humiliating sacrifice of our history on the altar of political correctness. Possibly I should be glad they didn’t restage it with Montcalm awakened by Jean Chrétien, as the latter famously wished in 1999, in time to win the battle. But unless you’re in the Louis XV fan club, I can’t understand why you’d want to falsify or deny our past.

The outcome of this squabble has rightly been deplored as a victory for intimidation. I do not think it is an invitation for everyone to play this game and I do not think that anyone should.

But it distresses me that anyone who dared threaten a group of separatists would not merely be arrested and punished, but would in the process probably be given exactly the same stern lecture about peace, order, good government and the Canadian way that this ragtag band of odious sovereigntists were not. Almost as though those in power were in sympathy with their motives. Continue reading

Open security

It might seem odd that on the day of President Obama’s visit to Ottawa a newspaper would publish details of his limousine’s security features (the Ottawa Citizen, on A5; it doesn’t seem to be on their website). But it is a feature of open socities that we have open discussions of everything including of threats and responses. And while it’s true that in any given instance the revealing of specifics might seem helpful only to the bad guys, the cumulative effect of having everybody able to analyse, discuss and suggest improvements is immensely increased security. (Hmnnnn. Maybe there’s a lesson there for those who would use the power of the state to silence potentially offensive speech.)

Freedom of whine

Ottawa atheists are crying censorship, the Citizen reports, because OC Transpo won’t run their ads on buses. Must one point out once again that freedom of speech means not that you have a right to an audience, or a publisher, but only that if you find both the government will not forcibly intervene to silence you? If they claimed instead that they’d been denied equal treatment before the law (because public buses run some people’s ads but not theirs) I’d be a bit more sympathetic. Only a bit, because governments quite properly tend to regulate public spaces not so everyone can say whatever they want but so everyone must avoid highly provocative or offensive displays in the street. But at least the atheists would not be putting forward a blatantly silly and petulant pseudo-constitutional argument which, among its other flaws, makes me doubt that their ads would impress me if I did see them.