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Hate Speech Up North

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From north of the border comes a reminder that freedom of speech is broader in the United States than nearly anywhere else, even our English common-law brethren.  Kirk Makin reports in the Globe and Mail:

In a highly charged case, the Supreme Court [of Canada] interjected repeatedly as it grappled with how to protect minorities from expressions of hate without damaging free speech - a decision that could have far-reaching implications for hate laws across the country.
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The case revolves around a 43-year-old, anti-gay proselytizer, William Whatcott, who distributed thousands of flyers in Saskatoon harshly criticizing gays and including information about homosexuality in school curricula.

South of the border, this would be an easy case.  Whatcott's intolerant flyers are not threats.  They are further from that line than Barry Black's cross-burning at a rally, which was held to be protected speech in Virginia v. Black.  [Burning a cross as a specifically targeted threat -- on the neighbor's lawn -- is not protected, the Court held in the companion case.]
A language trivia note:  Over 30 years ago, the US Supreme Court dropped the "Mr." in the traditional way of referring to Supreme Court Justices, e.g., "Mr. Justice Harlan."  Ronald Reagan had been elected after promising he would appoint a woman Justice.

But there is more than one way to do it.  Canada kept the "Mr." for the men, and the women are "Madam Justice."  Pennsylvania does the same.

1 Comment

Other than the freedom issue, the problem, ultimately, with these sorts of laws is that they are not equally enforced. Additionally, it breeds childish expectations that the world will be nice.

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