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Lethbridge Herald: Free Speech is Under Attack in Canada


“Freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”


There couldn’t be a more apt quote for this period of time than this one by President Ronald Reagan, particularly when it comes to the protection of free speech.


Perhaps the most fundamental right in a free and democratic society is the right to free speech. Without the liberty to speak freely, we cannot profess to be truly free.


It is through the use of speech that most of us share our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. It also provides us with a means to criticize, challenge, and correct those we believe to be in error. The exercising of free speech, especially in the public square, is what allows us to discover the truth and progress as a society. It is the very foundation of a democracy.


Given this fact, it is beyond alarming that our current government is intent on regulating and censoring speech. This is not a partisan quip. It is not a matter of interpretation. It is reality.


The Trudeau Liberals are planning to push through three separate pieces of legislation, all having to do with restricting freedom of expression.


Not only is there a concerted effort to restrict speech with which the government disagrees, but there is a less overt effort to place greater control in the hands of the government and grant less autonomy to individuals. This is the very opposite of a free and equal society.


Under the guise of fairness, equality, and safety, the Liberal government is attempting to regulate the content you see, hear, and post online. In a bizarre attempt to cover up the real impetus for one piece of legislation, Bill C-11, the Liberals are claiming their only aim is to “level the playing field” among traditional and non-traditional artists in Canada, while promoting Canadian culture.


They claim they will do this by putting a commission in place to evaluate content on YouTube or TikTok according to how “Canadian” it is. If it is deemed to be very Canadian, it will get forced in front of the eyeballs of Canadians, whether they want it or not. If it fails to pass the government’s definition of “Canadian,” it will be pushed down in the queue where it can’t be found.


Effectively, the government, through the commission, will pick which Canadian creators get to succeed and which ones don’t—what you get to watch and what you don’t. There’s no doubt about it, this is censorship at its finest.


Furthermore, digital first creators—those who function outside the box by working hard to generate an online audience, rather than depending on traditional broadcasters—will be forced to pay 30-percent of their revenue into an arts fund used to support conventional artists who produce material for which there is dwindling demand. Essentially, digital first creators will be forced to supplement the failure of traditional artists. Does that sound like “leveling the playing field” to you?


But I digress. The main point I wish to make today is how this legislation is a direct attack on our freedom to speak (and be heard).


This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it is. The government is trying to position itself as the arbiter of what speech you should be exposed to, as opposed to you making those selections for yourself. It’s wrong.


Bill C-18 mimics C-11 in that it gives more power to the government-appointed commission to determine which news outlets are approved to pursue monetary compensation for articles being shared on social media platforms and which media companies are plain out of luck.


In other words, the state will determine whether a news source is legitimate. Does this remind you of any other countries where the state dictates to the press?


This is another crafty way for the government to control what information is shared, and therefore what information you can freely see. Yikes!


The third, and perhaps most horrifying piece of censorship legislation, is one that will regulate “online harms.” This was presented as bill C-36 last spring, but it died when the election was called.


Currently, the new draft is at the proposal stage, and so far, the feedback is damning. In documents the government tried to hide, but were accessed through an Access to Information Request, we learned that many individuals, academics, and industry experts are concerned this bill would put ethnic minority groups at risk, violate freedom of expression, and even liken us to countries like North Korea, Iran, and China.


Under the pretext of safety and protection, the proposed legislation would move what is currently legal language into the category of hate speech, thereby criminalizing language that is “likely to” cause offense or harm. Also troubling is the possibility that someone could preemptively accuse someone else of hate speech because of what they fear is possible. In other words, a person will be punished for something that could happen, rather than what did happen. Have you seen the movie “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise? I recommend giving it a watch.


It’s undeniable the federal government has launched an attack on free speech.


We must take a stand against this infringement on our rights and defend freedom, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. To take action, please write the Prime Minister: Justin.Trudeau@parl.gc.ca




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