Silenced Citizens

by JRajotte on February 23, 2015 - 11:31pm

Many countries have been attempting to reduce or limit freedom of expression. Canada for has not been spared. After the attacks in Ontario and Quebec in October 2014, the federal government want to create laws that would silence citizens and certain views. In the article New anti-terror bill could put chill on freedom of speech written by Lucas Powers and published January 29, 2015 on CBCNews it is stated that the government of Canada would like to create a law that would prevent or make it illegal to express radical viewpoints. It is done so in order to prevent home grown terrorist recruitment efforts. According to some discussion about this subject is essential and by making certain type of speech illegal then it can be possible to have further radicalization and strip communities of the ability to deal with the issue of radicalization through dialogue.

The situation is also becoming worst internationally. For example certain views or statement going against France’s value can result in arrest. The article Leaders Who Vociferously Backed Charlie Hebdo's Right to Expression Suppress Speech Too written by Sam Adler-Bell publish on February 4, 2015 on states that at “least 69 individual have been arrested for speech acts. An 8 year old was also questioned by the police for having expressed views in favour of the gunman of Charlie Hebdo attack. One of Frances most controversial comedian was also arrested after posting “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” which was one of the attackers. In general there seems to be a sense of censorship on the views of individuals. The United Kingdom has also been facing critizim concerning the fact that it is capable and has intercepted communication between newspapers such as the NewYork times along with BBC, Reuters and LeMonde. The article also States that a double standard does exist in the United States when it comes to freedom of expression. For example a teen used emoji in a way that demonstrated an Anti-New York city police department and was arrested for doing so. While on the other side of the spectrum the article claims that “Hundreds can threaten violence against Arabs online without risking arrest.”

In Quebec a wave of anti-fundamentalist seems to be sweeping across Quebec municipal scene. The article Officials walk fine line between fear of terrorism and intolerance in Quebec written by Steve Mertl and published in Yahoo’s News on February 20, 2015 describes how Quebec has been censoring certain type of religious material such as fundamentalist views. The article claims that “Outremont also cancelled plans to allow an Islamic school to hold a graduation event due to two fundamentalist teachers attending”. Other attempts to making area or building available for religious purposes where barred to the Muslim communities on fear of radicalization. In itself fundamentalist is not illegal, by preventing individuals from accessing buildings in which to preach and practice religion, Quebec is contributing to the radicalization of the society in general.

              As an individual the situation seems to be grim since the attack perpetrated in various countries. This is sad since in Canada it took two individuals to change the way in which society view minority groups but also their freedom of expression and religion as protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. It is essential to keep in mind that the few who did do atrocious acts do not represent the majority, which are currently paying for the actions of others. Solutions exist:  inclusion should be sought rather than exclusion. Societal debate is essential in order to clarify the views which represents our society, by preventing freedom of expression Canada could regress when it comes to human rights. Communication and understanding is essential in order to stop radicalization. The proposition of the federal government could cause more harm than good as it prevents some subjects to be openly disscused.





  Adler-Bell Sam. "Leaders Who Vociferously Backed Charlie Hebdo's Right to Expression Suppress Speech Too." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

                                      Mertl Steve. "Officials Walk Fine Line between Fear of Terrorism and Intolerance in Quebec." Yahoo News Canada. YahooNews, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

                            Powers, Lucas. "New Anti-terror Bill Could Put Chill on Freedom of Speech." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.


Your post surveys the conflict between freedom of speech and communal security well. I'm impressed with the manner in which you express the dangers of censorship--more than anything else, it is a regression on human rights advancements.
I'd like to point you towards a 1919 American Supreme Court case, Schenck v. United States. In a unanimous opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. noted:
"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."
In other words, the right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. If an expression poses a clear threat to the community, then it is unjust to allow it on the grounds of protecting the freedom of speech. But we walk a slippery slope in prioritizing security. For one, Justice Holmes cites “a clear and present danger” as the requirement for limiting speech. The crux of the problem is in ruling whether such a danger exists, which you have touched upon. However, we should be mindful of the difference between productive speech and incitation of harm.

Your topic points to the ongoing debate in today's society regarding freedom and liberties. The facts are well presented and we clearly sense your opinion through the words. This issue is now more important than ever, with the recent attacks, as mentioned in your post. The issue with terrorism is that unlike other crimes, it cannot be prevented since the perpetrators are mostly hidden within the population. All around the world, governments are taking extreme measures to limit the damages as much as the situation allows, which leads to certain restrictions. From what I can see, you seem to have a deontological point of view on the matter, as you suggest that people's freedom should not be sacrificed in order to stop terrorists. People therefore should not be used as a mean to an end. On the other, the utilitarian point of view would agree with the opposite and see these decisions as moral. Indeed, for utilitarianism the goal is to maximise happiness, whatever the price is. Thus, only the consequences matter. For the hedonistic branch of this theory, the idea is to use a calculation to determine the morality of an act; the more happiness it brings to the entire population, the more moral it is. In this case, such legislations will help prevent the attacks thus it is moral for governments to restrict certain freedoms.