At the risk of dragging us off on another tangent...
Well. In Canadian legal theory, as I've mentioned in my discussion with Jazra, it comes down t recognizing that certain groups are placed at socioeconomic disadvantage due to attitudes and actions like this. If we want to work toward equality of opportunity, then it needs to be recognized that further victimizing and disadvantaging these groups is a negative action in and of itself
, beyond what was actually done.
That said, I strongly question whether enhancements or harsher sentencing are an effective means to that end. I'm not sure what is,
but we've seen in lots of other cases that harsher punishment isn't really much of an increased deterrent. Further, as far as I'm concerned, the role of a justice system is twofold: To rehabilitate the offender, and to minimize the damage they can do to society and the people around them until that happens. I think the idea of justice-system-as-punishment is toxic; nobody, offender, victim, or bystander, "deserves" anything, and all it does when we think in those terms is encourage abuse that serves no real end.
Jazra: I understand you don't want to drag out this discussion much longer, but there is one question I'd like to see your answer to. How would
you go about resolving a situation where one person's exercise of their rights infringes upon another person's rights? This is part of what I don't understand about the other side in this discussion; the verdict from that POV appears to be "Let Person A continue; the effects on Person B are irrelevant." That strikes me as... a bit problematic.
To may way of thinking, Canada protects the rights of the group over the rights of the individual. When you point out that advertising illegal goods and services arguably serves a useful function and may help bring attention to such a business (the point of advertising) and then argue the actual advertising does not damage society or any individual’s rights, yet you applaud government silencing people who want to speak out against certain groups that they consider problematic, you lose me.
I think about the damage to society done by the Ponzi’s and Madoff’s of this world, the damage done by people being tricked out of their live savings and homes as compared to the damage done by someone saying, “Homosexuality is a sin.” As a world, we thankfully are moving to more and greater freedoms for the LGBT community. And I am so grateful for this fact. We’re doing this despite the hateful opinion of so many people being expressed. But how really are the rights of the LGBT community violated when a Phil whatever-his-name-is from Duck Dynasty tells us his belief that homosexuality is sinful? I would far rather people counter his belief’s with their own. And while Mr. Duck Dynasty is still on the air, I think you will find that his ratings have taken quite a hit (not that it matters). But to me, in most instances, the strongest counter to hateful speech is more speech.
Well. As far as Ponzi and Madoff go? Fraud is still fraud. They weren't advertising illegal services, they were illegally deceiving customers. I may have confused this matter; I'm sorry about that. On the other hand... well, to me it's about halting the spread of ideas that are toxic and harmful. The spread of the "Homosexuality is evil and should be punished" meme lead to disgraceful cases like Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde - clear losses to society. The idea that trans people aren't real lead to the humiliating and dangerous treatment of Avery Edison. The idea that rape victims are "asking for it" or that rape is okay in some cases leads directly to low reporting rates, re-victimization by police, and difficulty in accessing vital resources. The idea that "abortion is murder" leads directly to situations where unwanted children are raised in homes unprepared for them by people who are incapable and unwilling, as well as to dead women. We need to minimize the harm that these ideas do. I note, by the way, that both of the examples you've brought forth are cases where the infringing act was explicitly trying to violate the Section 15 rights of gay people. Canada's laws (which, while not perfect, I think are an excellent starting point) don't say you can never express a negative opinion about a minority - they say you cannot incite hatred,
ie, turn public opinion in a direction that endangers people.
I'm all for letting ideas be pitched and countered in public debate and discussion. This thread should be a pretty good indicator of that. And it should be noted that we hardly enforce these laws in every case - I've personally been to a Heritage Front (neo-Nazi) rally in the most pblic place possible in my city, which went completely unmolested by the authorities who showed up. When these ideas run a real and immediate risk of causing harm to already at-risk groups, though... well, utilitarian values tell me that we should take the path of least damage, and that's very often stopping the speech.
I’m not satisfied with your argument, which appears to be that barring people like the Bishop from making "Bible-based" statements “in no way violates his freedom of conscience, thought, or belief - he's still perfectly free to find gay people as icky as he wants, and to not have all the gay sex he wants, and to think of it as immoral and wrong. He's just not allowed to propagandize against them.” In other words, as I understand your position, you can believe anything you want, you just can’t practice your religion publicly, you can’t tell other people what you belief. So what do these people do? Is it like ancient Rome or China where people go underground and gather together secretly in their homes?
My point was that this is about freedom of expression
and only freedom of expression. I don't see how any other right is being infringed upon here - unless you're saying that "You must say that gay people must be disenfranchised by law" is a fundamental tenet of Catholicism, and one cannot be a practicing Catholic without it? He can still be Catholic. He can still preach. He can still try to convert others. He can still shout as loudly as he wants through whatever medium he wants that gay people are icky and gay sex is Satan's favourite pastime. In fact, though I disagree strongly with this*, there is an explicit defense against hate-speech charges "if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text". What he cannot do is build a campaign centered around the goal of denying gay people their Section 15 rights. (It's worth noting, by the way, that this was the explicit and stated goal of both of the notable examples you've mentioned.)
I’m not happy with that view. I know in the past that not just society but governments used to universally condemn homosexuality. It wasn’t just considered icky, it was illegal. Over time, people’s opinions changed as did governments. Now we have vigorous … if imperfect … protections in place for the LGBT community. But more importantly, it has the support of the majority of people in Europe, the US, and Canada. If we go back far enough, we find a world where Jim Crow laws governed the right of non-whites to vote and you can still see in parts of Texas and the South the historical remnants of whites only drinking fountains etc. Government’s benevolent protection for the LGBT community, etc., didn’t change people’s opinions about them or in the case of the African American and other non-white communities, what changes people’s opinions was activism, vigorous debate, protests, and confronting people with the hateful affect of their opinions.
What we're talking about is protecting the rights of minorities. Building taboos is the most effetive way to go about that, absolutely. And a taboo with government backing... is a law. It seems that the alternative is to say that government has no place in protecting the rights of minorities, which seems to be a pretty big failure of a central function of government to me.
What about pedophiles, Catholic priests, felons, Holocaust deniers, members of the Northern Alliance, skinheads, the Aryan guard. Can I say that all members of the Aryan Guard are racist, misogynist pricks who should be rounded up and jailed? What about the Amish? Can I say that they’re a bunch of backwoods, technophobes who should be forced to attend normal schools and install telephones in their homes, etc.? Can I say that all members of the WBC should be silenced and locked away so they can’t spew their filth out on the community? What about polygamy? It’s a criminal offense in Canada (though prosecutions are rare). Will the government let me say that polygamists are all criminals and they should be locked up, etc.?
Are any of the above visible groups that are systematically placed at a socioeconomic disadvantage due to inherent traits? Because... well, that's the definition we go by here. Looking over your list... maybe (and that's a whole other debate, really), oh hell no, close but not quite, absolutely not, nope, nope, no, no, no, and no. Further, in your final example (polygamy), yes you absolutely can say all polygamists are criminals and should be punished by law - because such a statement is so true as to be tautological (people who commit crimes are criminals by definition) and truth is an absolute defense.
So... yeah, you're absolutely free to express (almost?) all of those opinions, and Canada's hate-speech laws won't - and in fact cannot - stop you in the slightest.
I know we can't say the Bible is “unbelievable” and written by people “drunk on wine and smoking some kind of herbs” at least in Europe given that the singer singer Doda (Dorota Rabczewska) was charged with violating the Criminal Code for saying just that in 2009. I personally like my freedom to say that whoever wrote parts of the Bible must have been as high as I get once or twice a month.
I'm with you on this - that is a terrible law, and I think that laws against offending religion are a major free-speech issue all over the world. I am by no means defending every restriction, or even most restrictions. What I am defending is restrictions aimed at preventing further victimization of identifiable already-disadvantaged minorities. This is not about suppressing unpopular ideas - it's about preventing them from becoming popular ones at the expense of the rights of others.
As I mentioned above, even neo-Nazis are free to spew their filth as long as it's not hurting anyone. David Ahenakew
is free to call Jewish people "a disease" and praise Hitler. Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine
are free to insult, stereotype, and even explicitly lie about Muslims, as long as Muslims are not silenced or harmed by it. (In fact, the BC ruling in that case explicitly notes that human rights laws are not designed to silence political debate and should not be used in such a fashion.)
Do I think that Canada's laws are perfect? Absolutely not - I have huge issues, for example, with the policy of letting Customs and Border Services seize basically anything they find objectionable with minimal oversight, and force the victim to fight legal battles to get it back. Do I think that a lot of them are good ideas, and that the core principles they're built on are sound? Absolutely.
I could go on and on, but I think we understand our respective positions. I've really enjoyed your comments, they've made me think, and now I’ll let you have the last word on this. I’m not much of a debater as you can probably tell.
I'm comfortable with letting it stand here, and thanks for a very interesting discussion. You've made me think and consider my positions, and I appreciate that.