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Canada's Woke Supreme Court says some free speech is no longer important compared to protecting identity groups from being offended.


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Those who dare to transgress society's new speech codes and offend protected members of identity group should have no access to lawsuits when people defame them, the supreme court said in its recent ruling. Your right to protection ends when you dare to question or criticize transgenderism. At that point people can call you any names they want and do their best to cancel you with truths or falsehood and they should be immune from lawsuits.

 

The right to accuse someone of promoting hatred against a vulnerable minority group deserves protection from defamation lawsuits, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 on Friday.

Borrowing a term from First Amendment cases in the United States – “counterspeech” – the court stressed the value of expression that seeks to defend these groups from criticism.

The vulnerable minority in question was transgender people, whom the court described as “uniquely disadvantaged.”

The case featured, on one side, an elected school trustee, who had said in a social media post that British Columbia’s education policy would result in the teaching of the “biologically absurd theory” that gender is not determined at birth, and that heterosexual marriage is not the norm. On the other side, a gay union leader had labelled the trustee hateful and a homophobe, and accused him of creating an unsafe environment for transgender youth.

In short, objectionable speech (in the eyes of some) was up against cancel culture (in the eyes of others).

The lawsuit was brought in 2018 by the trustee, Barry Neufeld, of Chilliwack, B.C., against Glen Hansman, who at the time was president of the BC Teachers’ Federation. The question for the court was whether the suit should be allowed to proceed, or whether Mr. Hansman was protected from such legal action on free-speech grounds.

It is the type of question that has bedevilled courts since Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec passed laws over the past decade aimed at protecting free speech by blocking defamation suits intended to intimidate and silence critics. The laws are modelled on state laws in the United States, which take aim at lawsuits by powerful companies designed to muzzle their opponents.

Mr. Hansman sought to use the B.C. law (known as an anti-SLAPP law, for strategic lawsuit against public participation) to have Mr. Neufeld’s defamation suit thrown out before it could be heard.

Justice Alan Ross of the B.C. Supreme Court granted Mr. Hansman’s request in 2019, saying the need to protect public debate outweighed any harm to Mr. Neufeld’s reputation, which he had not proven anyway. Mr. Neufeld was re-elected trustee after Mr. Hansman made his comments. (He has since lost a subsequent bid for re-election.)

The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the ruling 3-0 in 2021 and said people like Mr. Neufeld would face a “chilling” effect on their own speech if they could not sue others who had potentially defamed them.

The Supreme Court majority said Justice Ross got virtually everything right, and the appeal court got nearly everything wrong. For one thing, it said, anti-SLAPP laws and the case law on free speech in Canada deal with chilling effects on those being sued for defamation, not those bringing the suits.

But the court’s most important point was that not all speech is equal, or equally deserving of protection. Speech defending equal rights and “diversity in the forms of self-fulfilment and human flourishing” is closer to the “core values” of free expression than speech undermining them, the court said.

“Mr. Hansman’s expression is counterspeech motivated by a desire to promote tolerance and respect for a marginalized group in society. His expression is deserving of significant protection,” Justice Andromache Karakatsanis wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Richard Wagner, Justice Malcolm Rowe, Justice Sheilah Martin, Justice Mahmud Jamal and Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin.

The court did not view Mr. Neufeld’s comments as hateful but said Mr. Hansman’s response was fair comment – a valid defence to an accusation of defamation.

In dissent, Justice Suzanne Côté cited the late U.S. Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis, who said in 1927 that the answer to objectionable speech is “more speech, not enforced silence.”

Her point, though she did not use the term “cancel culture,” was that some counterspeech seeks to cancel, or silence, others.

“Counter‑speech aimed at completely removing the initial expression from the public sphere appears to be inconsistent with the search for truth,” Justice Côté wrote.

Paul Jaffe, a lawyer for Mr. Neufeld, said in an interview that the ruling turned anti-SLAPP law upside-down by siding with a powerful teachers’ union against an individual trustee who attempted to speak for the public that voted for him.

“I think it’s a terrible, terrible sign that freedom of speech is under attack by a judiciary that’s becoming politically and ideologically driven,” Mr. Jaffe said.

Access to the courts is the real issue, he said.

“The competing views on the underlying debate ought not to be a factor.”

Justin Safayeni, a lawyer for an intervenor group, the Centre for Free Expression, said it is in keeping with the purpose of anti-SLAPP laws to consider the defence of vulnerable or marginalized groups in deciding whether to dismiss a lawsuit. He said his comments reflect his own views.

Robyn Trask, a lawyer representing the BC Teachers’ Federation, said the ruling is important because it is the first from the Supreme Court to describe discrimination against transgender and non-binary people.

“I think this is a really important precedent for anyone who wants to speak out in defence of vulnerable communities and marginalized groups,” she added.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-supreme-court-of-canada-ruling-protects-counterspeech-from-defamation/#comments

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We should have carte blanche free speech.  Declaring speech “hate speech” basically means that speech that some people don’t like can be declared hateful and therefore subject to censorship.  Bill Maher who is half Jewish made an important remark a few weeks ago when he said that even Holocaust deniers should have the right to say what they want.  Of course the denial is a denial of facts, but if people can’t express ideas in an open debate subject to the power of argument, evidence, etc., then we lose our democracy.  Musk recently said that the two biggest threats to democracy today are losing free speech and losing meritocracy.  When you think about it, merit and free speech go hand in hand, because when people are forced to accept certain perspectives by decree of government or the organization and cannot question them, there’s no way of testing and debating the value of such perspectives.

Canada’s justice system now appears heavily compromised by certain political prescriptions. Government-funded media helps sustain this situation. Canada appears to have fallen to the radical left.  Just try to speak out publicly in Canada against these perspectives and expect cancellation.

Edited by Zeitgeist
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The only thing more dangerous than people speaking out against something is people being forced to silence and stewing about what they were going to speak out against.

You cannot legislate this away by taking people's freedoms. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

This will fester and either explode or lead to discrimination that's worse but more subtle. 

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7 minutes ago, CdnFox said:

The only thing more dangerous than people speaking out against something is people being forced to silence and stewing about what they were going to speak out against.

You cannot legislate this away by taking people's freedoms. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

This will fester and either explode or lead to discrimination that's worse but more subtle. 

It's odd that those who would shut down speech don't get that.  The only way to defeat speech you don't agree with is to argue against it, ridicule it, show it up for what it is.

The last thing I would ever want to do is cancel someone who has views I disagree with.  It sends the message that they might be right.  It says I don't have enough confidence in my postion to argue for it.

Edited by bcsapper
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3 minutes ago, bcsapper said:

It's odd that those who would shut down speech don't get that.  The only way to defeat speech you don't agree with is to argue against it, ridicule it, show it up for what it is.

The last thing I would ever want to do is cancel someone who has views I disagree with.  It sends the message that they might be right.  It says I don't have enough confidence in my postion to argue for it.

nothing cleanses like sunlight.

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3 minutes ago, Michael Hardner said:

It's odd to me that people who want to REMOVE and cancel a symbol of inclusion invoke being silenced.

Yeah.  People should be allowed to say whatever they want.

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1 hour ago, Zeitgeist said:

We should have carte blanche free speech.

I don’t think you read the ruling…

The court threw out the case of Neufeld suing Hansman for something Hansman said.  

So, if you’re a free speech absolutist, as you claim to be, you should like this ruling. 

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Quote

Canada's Woke Supreme Court says some free speech is no longer important compared to protecting identity groups from being offended.


This is an odd headline considering that the ruling upholds the “woke” people’s speech and threw out the case against them  by the person who felt offended.  
 

It’s like the OP didn’t read their own article, or the ruling.   The OP seems to say, “I want free speech, but I also want the person using the offending speech to be sued if they’re woke”. 
(In fairness I couldn’t read the article due to paywall)

 

Quote

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has sided with a lower B.C. court in dismissing a defamation suit brought in 2018 by a then Chilliwack school board trustee against a former teachers' union leader, who described comments made by the trustee as bigoted, transphobic and hateful.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/supreme-court-of-canada-barry-neufeld-glen-hansman-defemation-suit-decision-1.6849071

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2 hours ago, Michael Hardner said:

It's odd to me that people who want to REMOVE and cancel a symbol of inclusion invoke being silenced.

So, some of us will have an open season on accusing others of all the nasty things, while for the rest it's the law? The left will inevitably get carried away into wanting to regulate every word and step in the society. For its own good of course, how else. They just happen to know better what you need.

Shouldn't this thing be called "free some speech", "free good speech", "free proper speech", "free allowed speech" and such though, if only to avoid any confusion with the real thing?

Edited by myata
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Funny how some people's view of 'free speech' is solely their belief they have the right to be offensive.

3 hours ago, I am Groot said:

The right to accuse someone of promoting hatred against a vulnerable minority group deserves protection from defamation lawsuits, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 on Friday.

Read the ruling. You can make all the hate speech you want, the Court's not going to defend you from consequences.

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5 minutes ago, OftenWrong said:

Now the thing is simply gaining momentum. 

The final destination will be a the list of officially approved topics on which one can accuse anybody of any horrible sin without any responsibility for their words. Would be interesting to watch, why not though, they can and will make it happen as it looks.

Edited by myata
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Can recall here infamous Chinese revolution times "struggle sessions" where rightful mob would throw all kind of insults on the approved topics at the "accused"  without any fear of responsibility and moreover being emboldened by each other. Without any violence, at first. Nothing sounds familiar? No bells?

Why is this persistent connection by the way? Interesting.

But here's the real problem: a pretend, painted democracy, with no checks or limits, without any real independent elements, will come to its real essence: power not limited by anything. Sooner or later, but guaranteed. No mindless ride forever.

Edited by myata
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21 minutes ago, myata said:

The final destination will be a the list of officially approved topics on which one can accuse anybody of any horrible sin without any responsibility for their words. Would be interesting to watch, why not though, they can and will make it happen as it looks.

Yes exactly, but only the state-sanctioned talking points which these esteemed forum members have learned to crow each morning, when Trudeau bends over to shine his sunny ways.

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32 minutes ago, myata said:

The final destination will be a the list of officially approved topics on which one can accuse anybody of any horrible sin without any responsibility for their words. Would be interesting to watch, why not though, they can and will make it happen as it looks.

The court dismissed a defamation suit.  Why isn’t this a victory for free speech?

?

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3 minutes ago, TreeBeard said:

The court dismissed a defamation suit.  Why isn’t this a victory for free speech?

?

Let's see... defamed for voicing their opinion on a matter. Cancel culture is free speech stood on it's head, which has you folks all confused. 

Doesn't take much, as you're all dying to find a spare government teat to suck upon, for your comfort and safety.

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42 minutes ago, OftenWrong said:

Let's see... defamed for voicing their opinion on a matter. Cancel culture is free speech stood on it's head, which has you folks all confused. 

Doesn't take much, as you're all dying to find a spare government teat to suck upon, for your comfort and safety.

I thought you were for “free speech”, which would mean less defamation suits in front of the courts and more people who are free to speak their mind without being brought to trial for what they say.  
 

Isn’t that what you want?

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2 hours ago, TreeBeard said:


This is an odd headline considering that the ruling upholds the “woke” people’s speech and threw out the case against them  by the person who felt offended.  
 

It’s like the OP didn’t read their own article, or the ruling.   The OP seems to say, “I want free speech, but I also want the person using the offending speech to be sued if they’re woke”. 
(In fairness I couldn’t read the article due to paywall)

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/supreme-court-of-canada-barry-neufeld-glen-hansman-defemation-suit-decision-1.6849071

No, you misunderstand it.  I can see why you made that mistake tho.

Defamation has always been unlawful and actionable for everyone. That really isn't considered to be free speech.

The complaintant exercised his legitimate free speech. The accused defamed him and made accusations, which is in essence punishing his use of free speech and unlawfully harming him. It's not free speech in and of itself.

The judge has ruled that because the accused was of a minority that it was OK for the accused to make accusations and defame the person unlawfully because such groups must be protected.

So - person a from protected group says something - person b is not allowed to defame or slander them

Person b from a non protected group says something - person a is ALLOWED to defame or slander  them.

Person a can exercise their free speech without worring about defamation

Person b must be subject to defamation if he does.

Do you see the free speech issue now?

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31 minutes ago, TreeBeard said:

So, this ruling is a step in the right direction?  

A ruling that creates prejudice and imbalance is never a step in the right direction.

There are limits to free speech - defamation or slander is probably a reasonable one. You can't just say anything you like without any evidence about any person in order to try to cancel them,  But it should be applied to everyone equally or its just discrimination no different than racism.

IF however they decide it is ok - then it must be ok for everyone.  For the same reason. Then at least a person who defames someone else knows they may face that in return.

Why does this even need to be explained to you?  what kind of person are you that this isn't pretty obvious?

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4 minutes ago, CdnFox said:

Defamation has always been unlawful and actionable for everyone. That really isn't considered to be free speech.

The complaintant exercised his legitimate free speech. The accused defamed him and made accusations, which is in essence punishing his use of free speech and unlawfully harming him. It's not free speech in and of itself.

Yeah exactly. Things descend from having intelligent debate on difficult issues, into slinging mere ad-hominems.

But I guess you know all about that,

little fella

;)

 

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11 minutes ago, CdnFox said:

Do you see the free speech issue now?

I'm all for free speech, and this is not a free speech issue. This was a contentious issue, both sides had their say, and nobody got sued. The SCC ruled that Neufeld suffered limited harm, was allowed to 'continue expressing his views, and even won re-election over the course of the lawsuit'. In my opinion the lawsuit was frivolous to begin with.  TreeBeard (and the SCC) got it right.

Edited by suds
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