Calling the Censor a Censor Gets You in Trouble in Canada

Canada, all joking aside, is a separate country, and free to develop its own legal norms.

And we are free to mock those norms when they suck.

Case in point — a recent example of Canada's increasingly spotty record on freedom of expression, asseen here at Volokh. The bullet: former Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer files complaints against web sites featuring "hate speech," as permitted by Canadian law. Free speech advocate (who has defended unpleasant expression such as anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial) calls him, among other things, an "enemy of free speech." Lawyer sues — and wins. Because he's not an enemy of free speech, you see, because that speech isn't free in Canada, QED.

No, really.

Here is the Canadian trial court decision. As Volokh notes, the trial court's rationale is that because the "hate speech" was prohibited by Canadian law, and because the lawyer was successful in suppressing it, it was not free speech, and calling him an enemy of free speech was defamation:

26] The plaintiff was using legal means to complain of speech that he alleged was "hate" speech.

[27] The evidence was that Mr. Warman was successful in both the complaint and a libel action which he instituted.

[28] Freedom of expression is not a right that has no boundaries. These parameters are outlined in various legislative directives and jurisprudence. I find Mr. Fromm has exceeded these. This posting is defamatory.

I don't think Eugene Volokh is exaggerating when he says this:

Yet the Canadian justice system not only allows the suppression of certain viewpoints, and excludes them from free speech restrictions. With this case, it also tries to deny critics the right to label the speech they support "free speech," and the dissenters they like "dissidents."

The court is insisting that Canadians' speech not only follows the government-approved ideology on the topic of race, ethnicity, and religion (an ideology that I agree with, but that I don't think should be legally coerced). It is also insisting that Canadians' speech follows the government-approved ideology and terminology on the topic of free speech itself.

Ridiculous and contemptible. THIS is real political correctness.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Patrick says

    As an enlightened society Canada is of course one of the nations Justice Breyer would have us look to when interpreting the meaning of our own Constitution.

    This isn't a curtailment of free speech. It's just cutting edge first amendment jurisprudence.

  2. PLW (Former Patrick) says

    The best part is that now you could, perhaps, be sued for defamation in Canada for calling the judge a free-speech opponent. No more Molson for you.