Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Freedom of Speech and Alberta Human Rights Commissions

To Lindsay Blackett, MLA, and Sun Columnist, Rick Bell,

Thank you for taking such a strong and principled stance on freedom of speech and the need to reform the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.

I agree with Ezra Levant's view, Mr. Blackett's "words are stirring; and if he follows up in like-minded deeds, he truly will be a hero for everyone who loves freedom -- freedom of speech and religion, freedom to dissent from conventional wisdom, freedom to be yourself, no matter what political correctness demands. Freedom to breathe!"

As an academic journal editor and professor who believes that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are cornerstones to a democratic society, I am encouraged by this new MLA's courage to speak publicly and openly about the need to reform the "kangaroo courts" that Alberta Human Rights and Culture Commissions have become.

In a recent CJLT editorial, I wrote "unless free speech and freedom of expression are better protected in the online and print media world, then whose voices will be heard, whose will be silenced, and who will decide?"

Further, "... Canadians must continue to enjoy open and unfettered access to both the popular and politically correct opinions, and those that some might find unsettling or even contemptible. If parts of the knowledge base are suppressed or silenced, if only politically correct opinions, perspectives and ideas are sanctioned, then our ability as researchers, teachers and as citizens to hear the voices we might never hear (Siemens, 2002), to identify inaccuracies, to expose faulty arguments and to challenge unsupported claims is compromised. I am an educator who believes that free speech and freedom of expression are too important for Canadians to give up just because preserving these rights for all citizens might make some of us uncomfortable, or expose us to views we would rather not hear. I am genuinely concerned that the rights to free speech and freedom of expression in Canada are under attack, and that current and future rights will erode unless researchers, journal editors and scholars from across disciplines advocate for the preservation of free speech and freedom of expression across all delivery media."

Rick Bell's column highlighting Blackett's views is a win for advocates of AHRCommission reform and those who regard freedom of speech to be a Canadian right and responsibility.

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