More on Offensive Speech

Discussion of hate speech regulation continues in my neck of the woods.

Alan Borovoy, General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association spoke at the university. “In general … democracies should seek not to muzzle racists but to marginalize them. It’s too dangerous for the law to censor [though] it’s appropriate for citizens to censure.” It’s too dangerous for the law to censor; fight offensive speech with more and better speech – and don’t forget the power of ridicule prudently applied. That’s been Borovoy’s position throughout his long and distinguished career. Until now he’s been at odds with most of the legal community. Things may be changing. I noted with interest that the aging professor who introduced Borovoy, described himself as a recent convert to Borovoy’s position.

The next week, David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, spoke at the orthodox synagogue. Matas defends Canada’s restrictions on offensive speech, including the national and provincial Human Rights Tribunals. He admits that legal restrictions can be misused. (Everyone listening was thinking of Mark Steyn’s tribulations.) And he is all in favour of fighting bad speech with good speech. But in Matas’s view the “good speech remedy,” good as it is, isn’t good enough; it won’t suffice. It isn’t enough to advance good arguments, or to marginalize racists, or ridicule them. Canadians need legal remedies, including the Human Rights Tribunals.

I note that the American Political Science Association meetings will be held in Toronto this fall as scheduled. Harvey Mansfield and others have objected to the location because, as they say, Canada’s restrictions on freedom of speech could put controversial academics at risk of prosecution. I guess the question now is whether Professor Mansfield will be at the meetings.

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2 Responses to “More on Offensive Speech”


  1. 1 Brian D. November 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Madame,

    Your faithful readers would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    Sincerely,

    Brian.


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