Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech in Canada debate held by CIJA last night, pitting Richard Warman against Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. I intended to live-blog the event with my new, incredibly sexxxy Acer Iconia, but the place didn't have wifi, so these remarks are just off the cuff.
And I won't say much about the debate itself, because frankly I'd heard most of it before. RW was thorough and logical in his responses, and most of his jokes worked. Des Rosiers was passionate, but I found her vague in places. Her objection to S13 being that someone's right to free speech somewhere might get chilled somewhat some day...though she couldn't point to concrete instances of this actually having happened. My impression is that the majority of the room was in Warman's corner.
I chatted briefly with Meir Weinstein, who is a civil enough fellow in person. If I were to summarize his current views, it is that the white supremacist movement has been entirely supplanted by radical Islamists as a threat to the Canadian Jewish community (mostly by being a threat to Israel), and that really the latter group are the only ones worth pursuing these days. I think he's dead wrong, or at least that it isn't an either/or (but not both!) proposition. And I don't see why he would want to see S13 discarded as one of the tools in the tool-kit for fighting hate, whatever the source of that hate.
As a side note, Meir and the gang (including possibly a small contingent from the Canadian Hindu Advocacy) will be driving up to Quebec later this month (the 26th, I think) to protest Huntingdon Mayor Stephane Gendron's recent remarks on the Israel/Palestine conflict. These are the latest in a series of inflammatory statements by the fellow, and a few have clearly strayed over the line into Anti-Semitism. More power to Meir and Co., then, but be careful--don't get yourselves lynched out there in the back-country!
Gary Harding, the only Canadian to be convicted of hate-mongering under the criminal code, was also in attendance. And, minus the beard, he looks astoundingly like Dr. Dawg. And that's not a joke or an attempt to insult the Dawg; Harding even had the same style of hat. I almost went up and said hello, but noticed a mad gleam in his eye (Dawg also has a gleam in his eye from years of NDP indoctrination, but its a slightly different gleam. That's how I could tell the difference). I didn't catch much of what Harding said to the people around him; however, a couple of them looked as though they wanted to change seats but were too polite.
It doesn't seem like anyone from Free Dominion showed up, through apparently several of them watched via webcast. That's a pity, because there was a FreeD guy sitting next to me at the Lemire hearing whose name, and a DNA sample, I wanted to collect this time out for inclusion on my personal enemies list.
Went out for drinks later with Bernie Farber and other notables from the old CJC. Almost all of our discussion was ruled officially "off the record", and will remain so, because I don't want to get sued nine ways from sideways. However, the general sense seemed to be that this was all window dressing and, no matter where CIJA eventually comes down on the issue of section 13 (they're currently fence-sitting), its gone which--given how hard it is to get the police to act on a hate speech complaint via the criminal code--means Canada will have no viable legal means of combating hate speech. There have been hints dropped that, as a replacement, the Tories will move to make the criminal code provisions easier to use, but nothing concrete so far. In any case, we shall see. There will be a fight in the HOC over Storseth's bill to repeal the measure; so far nobody from the NDP or Liberals has come out in support. And surprises can happen, even in a majority parliament.
Finally, Ron Bannerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy was apparently in attendance, but I did not meet him. Which is also a pity: one of my readers recently commented that the guy was an honest to goodness porn star, which remark I deleted as possibly defamatory. Maybe Ron could clear this up, though. If its true, my hat is off.