Free Speech Ends at the Northern Border

But you already knew that if you’ve followed the travails of Ezra Levant, and Mark Steyn, who fought Canada’s “hate speech” laws with some degree of success — but not complete success, it seems:

A business professor at a college in Canada has lost his job after posting a vehemently antigay message on Facebook.

Rick Coupland, a professor at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont., last week shared a report from a Florida TV station about the raising of LGBT flags in St. Petersburg for Pride Month. He added this comment: “It’s the queers they should be hanging, not the flag.”

After college administrators received complaints, they began investigating the matter, and today on the school’s Facebook page, they announced, “Mr. Coupland is no longer an employee at St. Lawrence College.” An earlier post had noted that his comment was “not a reflection of our college values.”

St. Lawrence College is funded by the Province of Ontario, and therefore a government institution. In the United States, St. Lawrence College would be bound by the First Amendment, and Coupland’s remarks would be protected speech.

When I learned of the politically correct lynching of Coupland at a blog that I follow, I posted this comment:

I thought that only a humor-challenged leftist would consider a remark like Coupland’s as an actual death wish, which — even if it were — wouldn’t constitute an actual threat. I take Coupland’s remark as nothing more than a commentary about the extent to which “celebration” of gayness has gone over the top. If he actually hates gays, they’re free to return the favor on Facebook or any other forum of their choosing.

This led to the following exchanges between a reader of the French-Canadian persuasion (hereinafter “Pepsi“) and me (hereinafter “Moi’):

Pepsi — He is very clearly advocating genocide, and as such it is a crime under section 318 of the Criminal Code of Canada. I wouldn’t even try spinning such a perfectly clear statement into something innocuous. He was duly fired.

Moi — As I said, humor-challenged.

Pepsi — Don’t be ridiculous. What he said was crystal-clear and requires no exegesis…. The professor most clearly did not have the right to say this under Canadian law. He will be lucky to escape without a criminal complaint. He has lost his job, so I assume most will consider the matter closed.

Moi — Luckily, I don’t live in Canada.

Pepsi — Or practically anywhere else in the Western world. But you could enjoy the freedom to hate anyone you want in private. As one of my ex-FB friends from the USA said when discussing a similar issue, “I love my hate.” Too bad for those who would hope for the freedom to live without being publicly targeted by hatred; it just does not count for freedom on your side of the border.[*]

Moi — Ah, the reflexive application of the “h” word to those who disagree with you. I don’t hate homosexuals or anyone else, unless they’re actively trying to deprive me of life, liberty, or property. You’re jumping to another unwarranted conclusion, just as you were when you assume — I repeat, assume — that Coupland was actually advocating genocide. Unless you have information about Coupland that I lack, I venture to say that you don’t know whether he was advocating genocide, expressing his disdain for homosexuals, or expressing his weariness with the subject of homosexuality. On the evidence of your comments, I gather that you would take “va te faire foutre”[**] literally, though no one who says it means it literally.

End of discussion.

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* This incomprehensible statement leads me to believe that “Pepsi” is either mentally retarded or has a poor command of English — though both could be true.

** The French version of a rather rude expression that is often used by speakers of American English. You can quickly find its meaning by using your favorite internet search engine.

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Related reading [added 07/24/15]: Mark Steyn, “Is the Alberta ‘Law’ Society Even Crazier than the Crazy ‘Human Rights’ Commission?,” SteynOnline, July 24, 2015

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Related posts:

The Gaystapo at Work
The Gaystapo and Islam
The Beginning of the End of Liberty in America

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6 thoughts on “Free Speech Ends at the Northern Border

  1. I just recently learned that various professional comedians (e.g., Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld reported being warned off by fellow comedians) are steering clear of touring near college campuses due to the hyper-sensitive PC climate. When I told various members of my generation about this, they were shocked by how much change appears to have happened under our noses. This news appeared as recently as this June. I imagine that, before long, only the babies-in-a-blender jokes will be safe… since this should still appeal to the pro-choice folks, right? 😛

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  2. I’m all for joking, and I was a student of his for two years, so I can comment on this in an educated fashion. I am all for free speech, so while I may not agree with what you say, I believe it’s your right to say it. The biggest problem here isn’t that the government machine steamrolled him. You see, St. Lawrence College is a teacher Unioned school. He was fully aware and informed that his contract included a social media clause that required him to follow the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms even in his personal life, which prohibits discrimination of many different people. He signed it, he agreed to abide by it, he knew the consequences of violating it.

    He’s a computer business teacher. He should have been smart enough not to write any of that down where people could take offence to it. He brought this on himself in every way, so don’t blame the Canadian free speech laws.

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  3. @ Devlin:

    Thank you for the background information. If it’s correct, I surmise the following: Knowing the consequences of actual discrimination, Coupland clearly was making a joke. What he didn’t reckon with was the absolute humorlessness of the modern-day Mrs. Grundys who seem to be in charge of things in Canada (and increasingly in the U.S., unfortunately). Inasmuch as the contract clause “required him to follow the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms even in his personal life” (what a repressive idea), it seems to me that Canada’s (non) free-speech laws — and the oppressive atmosphere surrounding them — are fully to blame. Canada has long had a reputation for politeness, but it was inculcated politeness, not government-enforced silence for fear of giving offense. I repeat, I’m lucky not to live in Canada. I hope I don’t live long enough to say that I’m unlucky to live in the U.S.

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  4. Unfortunately, knowing Mr. Coupland, I don’t believe it was a joke. However, in the same vein as you, I do believe some people have become much too sensitive especially on social media.

    I would, however, counter that while I accept he should have every right to say, “I hate gays”, I don’t believe he should have no consequences for saying “hang all gays”. Regardless of collective agreements of whatever Union he may or may not be a part of, there is a line there that shouldn’t be crossed. I have been made aware of other situations with teacher unions in Ontario that have basically done the equivalent of finger wagging at someone who has posted their dislike of gay families in general. So really, those times, their free speech has been upheld. I believe in his instance, the advocation of violence, whether intended or not, was what did him in. Given the usual explosive nature of social media, (there will always be someone horribly offended) he really should have thought it thru a bit more.

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  5. True, given the circumstances in which Coupland wrote the offending post, he should have thought it through some more if he wanted to be sure of keeping his job. My focus, however, is on the conditions that allowed and encouraged the persecution of someone for saying something that’s clearly an expression of opinion (if not a joke), and not an incitement to action. What happened to Coupland is different in degree but not in kind from what happened to many Germans and Russians who dared to say anything critical of Hitler or Stalin, even if they meant it jokingly. The jackbooted thugs who broke down doors in the middle of the night have simply been replaced by officious bureaucrats who issue pink slips and fines.

    As I’ve suggested in other comments, the suppression of speech isn’t restricted to Canada, but is also widespread in the U.S. — though not yet official policy of the central government. The most recent example involves a State university: http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/23442/

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