Friday, February 15

Canada's finest hour

Free Mark Steyn! and Steyn Online are making a heroic effort to act as a relay station for the flood of news and opinion related to Section 13 but events are outpacing the capacity of the media to keep up.

On Feb 13 Syed Soharwardy announced that he was withdrawing his Section 13 complaint against Ezra Levant. Soharwardy's words present an unequivocal defense of free speech made all the more stirring by his previous stand and continued opposition to Levant's decision to publish the Danish cartoons of Mohammed:
I believe the decision he took was irresponsible and was intended to stir up strife, but I now appreciate that it may not fall outside the limits of freedom of expression. ... I have come to the view that the filing I made is outside of what I now believe a human rights commission's mandate should be. I now am of the view that this matter should have been handled in the "court of public opinion."
So from the viewpoint of history it makes no matter whether the announcement was merely a strategy, as Levant believes, or meant in all sincerity. On that day, at that hour, Syed Soharwardy struck a blow for freedom that will gather force and resound in the darkest quarters of oppression.

Then, on Feb 14, Deborah Gyapong's stunning news underscored John Batchelor's dictum that in war the first three reports are wrong. Gyapong reported that with few words the Hon. Keith Martin, a Liberal Member of Parliament, dispelled earlier news reports suggesting that his motion to delete Section 13(1) from the Human Rights Act was dead in the water:

"There is enormous support within caucus and across party lines."

On that day, at that hour, Keith Martin revealed the soul of Canada: a great nation dedicated to the principles of democratic freedom.

There is no question that the political struggle to remove Section 13 will be hard. The most determined opposition is extremely powerful because it arises from psychological trauma, not from any political or ethical philosophy.

Some who have suffered trauma after being subjected to dehumanizing acts view Section 13 as the Maginot Line against persecution -- persecution launched for no reason other than a person's membership in a particular group. When one considers that the Maginot Line was useless against Hitler's blitzkrieg the counterargument is painfully clear. Trauma is a weak defense of freedom and a useless bulwark against oppression.

Yet one cannot argue with trauma, for it resides in a fortress of sorrow impervious to the arrows of reason. The best the larger society can do is gather the traumatized in the arms of compassion and understanding and carry them to the shore of greater safety.

For the rest of Canadians, serious debate centers on reconciling the need to protect a nation's most vulnerable groups with the unyielding laws that protect democracy.

Just a few weeks before the Section 13 issue entered public debate a Canadian woman asserted:
Multiculturalism is Canada's gift to the world.
I hope that today the woman would agree that Canada's debate about freedom of speech is the nation's greatest gift to the world.

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