Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

No Free Speech North of the Border

My father-in-law has lived in Southern California for more than 50 years but he has never visited Mexico--not even TJ--because he insists that once you cross the border "you have no rights . . ." He exaggerates, of course. But, having heard sufficient numbers of real or concocted horror stories concerning wayward and unsuspecting Americans rotting away Mexican jails, one can at least understand his sentiment. But a healthy fear of Mexican Federales was never joined by a similar fear of Canadian Mounties and, unless you count the fear of being stricken by some horrible illness while traveling in Canada and consequently having to utilize their socialized medical establishment, I should think there is no good reason to eschew travel in Canada. My father-in-law reports that it is, indeed, quite beautiful. That being said, those of a more outspoken temperament may now want to reconsider . . .

If you don’t know what I mean, just ask Mark Steyn who is now facing a tribunal in Canada because some Muslim students were offended by the reprinting in Maclean’s of some passages from his book America Alone. David Warren writes a thoughtful piece on the implications of these tribunals here. And here is an amusing attempt by a Canadian liberal to come to grips with the monster their side of the debate has created in Canada. Without wanting to support "free speech" exactly . . . he has to defend Mark Steyn . . . well, just a tad.

UPDATE: More links from the man himself.

UPDATE #2: More from Steyn and see especially his pull from one of the articles found to be too inflammatory in Canada.

Discussions - 16 Comments


I don't think Glavin's piece was "amusing"; it was a centrist Canadian perspective. Perhaps even that degree of deviation from your position is too much and therefore "amusing?" I think that's not being serious on your part.

To be sure, Glavin isn't patting Steyn on the back for his writings, but he's taking a pretty unequivocal, and dare I say, idealistic, stance against the human rights tribunals, which is really the matter at issue here.

Glavin clearly lays out the bankruptcy of both the Human Rights Tribunals' rulings as well as the Islamic Canadian Congress's position(s) against Steyn. Glavin is concerned about the situation and rightly so. But he takes a different tack on the issue than you because he is a Canadian committed to a uniquely Canadian perspective that is informed by his country's founding and jurisprudence--which he also laid out in the article. In fact, his defense outlined in this article is nothing short of the way the Ashbrook Center teaches students to think about American issues, only it substitutes a different national history, national culture, and national jurisprudence.

If anything, the Warren piece is the less thoughtful piece here. Where's his measured tone and his grasp of Canadian history?

Without wanting to support "free speech" exactly...well, not OUR conception of free speech. What did you expect him to say? It's not the US. Is he going to revise their national history to support our concept of the First Amendment? How much umbrage would you take to a foreign commentter that suggested we revise our conception of the First Amendment to suit another's perspective on our (in)ability to handle our own free speech grey areas? That's such a straw man to say that because he doesn't support the American conception of free speech that he's somehow against free speech.

What is free speech? What Voltaire says it is? The way the First Amendment reads verbatim? The record of jurisprudence in First Amendment cases? Whatever you and people that agree with you say it is? Do you think that this is somehow a settled question for all times and places?

[H]e has to defend Mark Steyn . . . well, just a tad. The whole THING is a defense of Steyn! Not of his writing per se but of his right to write! How did you miss that? Did you stop reading as soon as the word "multi-culturalism" popped up in a positive light? This is about the least serious reading of a piece that I've seen on this board.

From Glavin: So we haven't suddenly fulfilled the fears of Yankee paleoconservatives and degenerated into Soviet Canuckistan. We've actually been like this for several decades already.

Well . . . he's right about that!

There is an interesting piece on the MacLean's Magazine web site ( by two moderate Canadian Muslims on this issue entitled 'MArk Steyn has a right to be wrong". They rightly point out that "the reaction of the CIC has only given credence to his (Steyn's) premise—that Muslims in the West cannot accept the values of individual freedom, a free press and the right to offend." Their conclusion:

"Steyn may be wrong. His writings may even lead to a negative image of Muslims. But he has the right to voice his views and Muslims must defend his right. Only when we Muslims stand behind the right of authors and writers to freely express their views—even if they are offensive—will we have proven Steyn wrong. By trying to censor him, the CIC only proves him right."

This strikes exactly the right note and is a healthy sign that some Muslims--and there may be more than we expect--understand what it means to live in a truely pluralist liberal deomcracy.

Perhaps, but it also underscores how antithetical those liberal values are to Islam.

Aren't liberal values antithetical to ANY fundamentalists within religion? Maybe Islam cannot accept liberal values, but certainly Muslims can, if you get my drift.

Others don't blow up buildings and kill innocents all over the globe because of their hatred of those values, if you get my drift.

A couple of points here:

Liberalism (Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke) arose in reaction to the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. It saw religion as intrinsically a threat to peace and security and therefore is based on a deliberate attempt to reduce the public influence of religion. It was not automatically accepted by all branches of Christianity. In fact it's acceptance by certain branches is a relatively recent event. It is no accident that early liberals such as Spinoza and Locke allied themselves with minority sects that were naturally more more inclined to appreciate the benefits of tolerance.

I'm not an expert on Islam,--I don't know Arabic, for instance-- but what little I know leads me to believe that it has a fairly complicated history. It is not a monolithic phenomenon. It has various currents and undercurrents some of which might be more compatible with liberalism than others. Need I remind people here that the Latin West's reception of Aristotle was in large part the result of contact with Islam.

Shouldn't we be encouraging moderate Muslims, particularly here in West? Shouldn't we cheer those who defend the rights of someone like Mark Steyn who is critical of Islam?

That's a great historical perspective on fundamentalist movements, Tony. I'm glad that you're no longer terrified of either Catholics or Protestants because their killings have subsided in recent years.

I'm not an idiot; don't treat me like one.

Obviously terrorist actions by any people are terrible and completely deplorable. How dare you try to tie my comment to some sort of relativistic nonsense.

My point still stands that fundamentalism of all stripes is most certainly over and against liberal values. I will agree that contemporary jihadists are worse than contemporary cloistered Christian fundamentalist communities in terms of the scope and extent of their damage (no one sensible would argue otherwise). However, where does that understanding run up against the idea that Christians came to embrace liberal values when the history of Christianity showed them to be eminently hostile to the values of liberal society?

the idea that Christians came to embrace liberal values when the history of Christianity showed them to be eminently hostile to the values of liberal society?

Maybe its just me, but that sentence seems a tad confusing. What does the "them" in "Christianity showed them" refer to? Christians? Liberal values?

I guess that was a bit ambiguous.

the idea that Christians came to embrace liberal values when the history of Christianity showed them to be eminently hostile to the values of liberal society?

I'm trying to say that it's interesting that despite Christianity's intolerance of liberal values in the past (most notably in the Inquisition and Reformation), Christians have become attuned to liberal values since the Enlightenment. However, I think it's hardly reasonable to say that Christianity will always be attuned to these liberal values in the way that we now know it. Liberalism and fundamentalism always ebb and flow over time.

Paul's right. The only difference now is that we've become so technologically post-industrial that the religious fundamentalists/fanatics can get their hands on bombs.

I don't know if anyone is still paying attention to this issue, but here is an article by a moderate American Muslim that is worth looking at. Canadian Islamic Congress stubs its toe

It essentially agrees with the article by the Canadian Muslims I cited earlier.

And just for the record here is a response from a a member of the Canadian government.

A Conservative cabinet minister says the Canadian Islamic Congress is attempting to undermine basic Charter freedoms by filing complaints against a journalist who wrote a book on the Muslim world.

Jason Kenney, the secretary of state for multiculturalism, weighed in Wednesday on the controversy surrounding columnist Mark Steyn’s bestseller America Alone. The Canadian Islamic Congress has filed complaints with federal and provincial human rights commissions based on an excerpt of Steyn’s book that appeared in Maclean’s Magazine in October.

“To be attacking opinions expressed by a columnist in a major magazine is a pretty bold attack on the basic Canadian value of freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” Kenney said in an interview. “I think all Canadians would reject that kind of effort to undermine one of our basic freedoms.”


Great posts. Sorry they're drown out in silence.


Thanks. Time moves on, etc.

Julie, After all these remarks mine should be the least.

The article you quote remarks that someone should have known before it came to this. Perhaps those involved in their own interests were not attentive enough.

Thanks for you pointing to a problem. I would have not known of it before.

Let me end with something "inspiring"--as long as these fucks who have power in the activist movement keep looking for redresses to their bullhit grievances, they will find justice at the expense of those who really exemplify freedom.

Why can't they re-examine the traditions of liberty from which they come? Because they see themselves as those who must pose themselves as that which has not been prefigured in the mainstream of law and culture before themselves. They must embark on new frontiers. This desire to be counter-cultural is now that which holds podition in many courts to this day. It is unfortunate.

I just read David Horowitz's memoirs (ten years too late). But this man knows the attitude of those who will persecute a David Steyn. He knows the bad church. I used to subscribe to it, and now I say I am no longer a member of that church.

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