Canada's Shackled Speech

Article excerpt

Most Americans tend to think of Canada as very much like the United States, but nicer - less crime, happier, more friendly people, fewer hassles. But that may not be entirely accurate; especially the part about fewer hassles. Canadians live under one of the most strident regimes of thought control (e.g., the softer kind of authoritarianism that pesters and fines you, but usually doesn't actually shoot you) erected in the Western world.

The Canadian government, empowered by a series of "hate speech" and so-called "human rights" laws, restricts the content of television (both advertising and programming), print communication, and other forms of oral or written expression. Canada's hate speech code prohibits "any statement that is likely to expose a person or group of persons to hatred or contempt . . . because of their race, color, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age." The omission of "astrological sign" must have been an oversight. This statute basically outlaws everything from cross burnings to social slights, real or imagined. It is kindergarten disciplinarianism run amok.

Using the hate speech law as its blunderbuss, the Canada Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), which regulates TV content, recently put the kibosh on a perfectly harmless TV commercial featuring an actor wearing an Indian headdress (heap big trouble). CBC reporters, meanwhile, cannot use the dread word "Indian" in any broadcast. Too insensitive. During coverage of a fishing-rights dispute in New Brunswick, for example, reporters referred only to "native" and "nonnative" fishermen. …