Op-Ed: Canadian Professor Takes A Stand Against Orwellian Speech Laws
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A professor at the University of Toronto is waging war on an Orwellian bill being pushed through Canada’s legislature.
Bill C-16 would add ‘gender identity’ to Canada’s legal code, and make it a punishable offense to ‘misgender’ someone. Put differently, some politicians in Canada are trying to weaponize speech. They want to make it a human rights violation to refer to someone by the ‘wrong’ gender pronoun.
Professor Jordan Peterson has pushed back against the proposed legislation in a series of videos on his YouTube channel.
Peterson’s opposition has been reported on by The College Fix, and he recently laid out his case during an interview on the Joe Rogan experience.
During his interview with Rogan, Peterson said he had been threatened professionally for opposing the legislation on grounds that he created a climate of ‘fear’ and ‘danger’ on campus.
He also did an interview with C2C Journal where he shed light on his fight against ‘compelled speech.’
“This is very compelled speech. The Supreme Court in the United States has held that compelled speech is unacceptable for two reasons. One is to protect the rights of the speaker, the other is to protect the rights of the listener. The listener has the right to be informed and instructed without being unduly influenced by hidden sources. If your speech is compelled, it isn’t YOU who is talking, it’s some other entity that’s compelling your speech. So I actually think that Bill C-16 is unconstitutional. I’m using American case law, but the principles apply. It just hasn’t been pushed to our Supreme Court yet.”
That term ‘compelled speech’ is incredibly salient to this entire debate.
A fellow Marine who I have a great deal of respect for is in the process of transitioning from male to female. As such, the Marine that I knew for years as ‘he’ now asks to be referred to as ‘she’ and that’s exactly how I refer to her. I don’t do it because of government compulsion, I do it because I believe it is the right thing to do. If she and I were catching up over beers in a bar and someone referred to her as ‘he,’ I’d most likely correct them, but I certainly wouldn’t seek criminal charges because of a faux pas nor would I support my friend in filing a lawsuit against the offending party.
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, outside of libel, slander, and legitimate threats to physical safety there is no reason to criminalize or otherwise prohibit or punish any element of speech, thought, or expression. This is especially true in a liberal western society.
For argument’s sake let’s say this bill passes into law in Canada. It would then give anyone who wanted it, license to pursue legal action against another person for holding an opinion that is unpopular in certain social circles. That’s not how a free society is supposed to work. We should not be relying on the law to enforce politeness in a free society. In fact, here in the U.S. one of the cornerstones of our freedom is the fact that we are granted the unalienable right to offend.
Simply put: punishing people for expressing an unpopular opinion should not be considered a hate crime and it is antithetical to a free society.
But beyond that it’s a surefire way to breed resentment between two sides of a culture war who already disagree on almost everything. A better way to convince people to use the ‘appropriate’ gender pronoun would be a public information campaign that targets people’s sense of compassion and empathy.
But as Peterson points out:
“The thing is if you replace compassion with resentment, then you understand the authoritarian left. They don’t have compassion, there is no compassion there. There’s no compassion at all. There is resentment, fundamentally.”
In Canada, the left has been treating Human Rights Tribunals as a way to punish comedians, academics, and anyone else who fails to conform and get in step with their publicly accepted world view.
The successful passage of this legislation would strike another blow for a political movement that wants to criminalize certain forms of speech. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility for the Canadian government to make it completely illegal to say anything that offends at all, and if that happens then the right to free speech will cease to exist.
And before you dismiss this as a ‘Canadian issue’ that has no impact on the United States, understand this: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is incredibly popular among American liberals, and if passed and accepted up there this type of legislation could absolutely rear its ugly head in America. In some ways a light form of it already has. In New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (who has exhibited some seriously Trudeau-like tendencies) has enacted legislation that would fine businesses for misgendering people. If this trend continues, then one of our most important rights – the right to speak our minds – could very well be in peril.
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.