Listen up, Canada: You can’t advocate free speech and criminalize dissent at the same time

Canadian Conservatives are now conflating BDS campaign with hate speech. What the country really needs is to recognize the dangers of stifling speech.


While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to be auditioning for a lead role in a political bromance with Benjamin Netanyahu in some epic right-wing production, he may well have overplayed his part with his latest move.

As the Canadian Senate debates Bill C-51, the Conservative government’s “anti-terror” bill that would give Canada’s spy agency sweeping new powers and has alarmed civil libertarians, environmentalists, First Nations activists and Muslim Canadians, another frightening aspect of the Harper government’s agenda has been revealed.

Following the lead of Israel, where a law criminalizing participation or encouragement of BDS was recently upheld by the High Court of Justice, in a majority ruling equating boycotts with “political terror,” the Canadian Conservatives are now conflating the advocacy of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign with hate speech.

The Canadian government changed the definition of hate speech in the criminal code last year, adding the criterion of “national origin” to race and religion, and the country’s foreign affairs minister at the time, John Baird, signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Israel in January of this year vowing to fight BDS.

But it was Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney who made the link explicit. In a speech at the United Nations a few days after the memorandum was signed, Canada’s CBC News reported, Blaney linked BDS with anti-Semitic hate speech and even the attack on Charlie Hebdo – which the Conservatives claimed was an attack against free speech. The Canadian government, added Blaney, now has “zero tolerance” for BDS.

But Canadian leaders may well have been tripped up by their own rhetoric – you can’t advocate free speech and criminalize dissent at the same time.

Ironically, it was a report by the beleaguered CBC – the national broadcaster whose budget has been rather savagely slashed since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 and that has often been accused of toeing the Harper/Netanyahu line – that triggered an outpouring of national outrage from a wide range of Canadian society.

Veteran CBC reporter and former Middle East correspondent Neil Macdonald revealed in a report earlier this month that after asking for clarification from the government on the definition of “zero tolerance,” he learned that “the Harper government is signaling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel,” and that “such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions.”

Micheal Vonn, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, told the CBC that the expanded definition of hate crime is clearly “a tool to go after critics of Israel.”

The Canadian Quakers, the United Church of Canada and Independent Jewish Voices, all of which support the BDS movement, have expressed concern about the new Conservative tactic. And Amnesty International wrote in a statement of concern that provisions in the MOU between Canada and Israel “may lead to infringements of the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights treaties binding on Canada.”

But even some who are not advocates of BDS, like Canadian political commentator Marni Soupcoff, have also been critical of the Conservative policy. As Soupcoff recently wrote in the right-wing Canadian newspaper the National Post, where she is deputy comment editor: “One man’s hate crime is another man’s conscientious expression of dissent. Letting a government that has already chosen sides sort out which is which is a dangerous idea.”

If this latest Conservative affront to democracy has upset activists and libertarians, it certainly didn’t bother the fans who feted Harper at the King David Award Gala last week, an event organized by the Jewish Community Council of Montreal to honor “a true, devoted and sincere friend of Israel.” With a fall election looming, and the traditionally Liberal district of Mont-Royal up for grabs as human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler retires, Harper did not mince words, saying the struggle against ISIS is reminiscent of the dangers faced by Israel, which he said has a “right to defend itself against the violent jihadists who have threatened her for every single day of her 67-year-existence.”

Like Netanyahu, he knows how to play to his base, and manages to stay in power despite widespread dislike.

Whether his latest move has gone too far for Canadian voters remains to be seen, although he’s not alone in this; even the rival Liberals and NDP have officially expressed opposition to BDS.

While a Conservative predecessor of Harper’s, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, once threatened South Africa with sanctions in an apartheid-era speech to the United Nations, Canada was one of the Commonwealth’s softer opponents of the South African regime. (At the time, Harper was a leading member of the Reform Party, which included white supremacist groups and had several prominent pro-apartheid members.) But even then, there was never such an overt criminalization of boycott advocacy.

In the United States, where hate speech is often considered one form of free speech, it was Americans advocating against sanctions who were prosecuted for bringing medical supplies to beleaguered Baghdad during the 12-year embargo.

One would hope that Canada, simultaneously the birthplace of the Israeli Apartheid Week movement and Israel’s greatest friend, according to Harper, will not ultimately see a law implemented that criminalizes elderly Quakers for bearing BDS placards at peaceful rallies. The best possible outcome of Harper’s latest maneuver would be a heightened national dialogue about the Middle East and a heightened awareness of the dangers of criminalizing dissent.

  1. #1 by lolathecur on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    Reblogged this on Lolathecur's Blog.

  2. #2 by ariadnatheo on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    “You can’t advocate free speech and criminalize dissent at the same time.”
    Oy, Goyim have such linear minds. They even call the Israeli Jews aggressors instead of eternal victims.

  3. #3 by Watchman_on_the_Wall on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    The noose is tightening around the necks of anyone who dares to question, challenge or criticize the rogue terrorist and welfare state for fax Israel or the Khazar impostors posing as Jews (the “jews”).

    When mankind tolerates lies and defamation / slander and the endless silencing of the objective truth from these pathological liars and demon-possessed psychopaths, pure evil reigns supreme and unimpeded. These sick bastards are clearly the Antichrist of these final days of the end times and yet, almost no one can see it. The Bible explains why. Those who cannot see it have been sent strong delusion by God so that they will believe a lie, and so be damned (to hell) for delighting in unrighteousness and rejecting the truth, in perfect fulfillment of the end times prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

    All politicians are liars and con artists who suck on the teat of money and the “jews” control all of it. Don’t be confused by the right v. left Hegelian dialectic. The root of what is going on here is the ages old struggle between good and evil, truth and lies, Jesus and the devil. We all know how the story ends: YHWH (God) destroys the wicked with out any real contest. That’s what being almighty and all-powerful means.

    Now we all are being tested by God. Few will pass the test. The test boils down to this: Who do you really serve: truth, or lies? God or the devil?

    YHWH (properly pronounced Yahuwah, the true Hebrew name of God of the Bible, often mispronounced Yahweh by the ignorant) IS NOT the God of the “jew!!!” The true god of the Khazar impostors posing as Jews (the “jews”) is precisely the OPPOSITE of this:

    “We Jews do not like to admit it, but our God is Lucifer… We are his chosen people…” — Harold Rosenthal from “The Hidden Tyranny” (1976)

    Yahushua (Jesus) had some choice words for these demon-possessed scumbags 2,000 years ago:

    “…those who claim to be Jews, and are not, are the synagogue of Satan (a.k.a. the Antichrist).” Revelation 2:9 & 3:9

    It doesn’t get any more obvious than this folks! But with strong delusion and endless mind-control programming dumbing down the American population, almost no one can see the obvious any longer. These are all signs that we are at the end of God’s prophetic Biblical timeline. Christ returns in late 2016 to gather the elect and then begin slaying the wicked. I reveal all the evidence for this startling conclusion in my book, “Making Sense Out of a World Gone Mad: A Roadmap for God’s Elect Living in the Final Days of the End Times.” It’s not for those playing fast and loose with the truth. Only for those of the truth: God’s true elect. We are very few in number; we are but a remnant; just as the Bible predicts. Imagine that.

  4. #4 by on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    Calling the text of the Kol Nidre a correct, valid text is like saying that logic is not valid in regard to all texts, and all oaths (referred to in the text of the Kol Nidre)….

    What do you replace logic with in all those cases in which it applies?

    In the cases at hand the Canadian government wants to replace logic with ‘legal violence’ – – not logic applies but legal strictures only…..(this is also Regression into barbarism… it’s suggesting deadly fight to solve issues that can be settled by logics, by reasoning etc. )

    Best regards


  5. #5 by Dante Ardenz on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    “To find out who rules you,find out who you cannot criticize”.Voltaire

  6. #6 by Al on 05/28/2015 - 9:34

    This is what happens when some of those so-called democratic countries flaunt about their democracy and at the same time have to support some fascist countries like Israel…

  7. #7 by nooralhaqiqa on 05/29/2015 - 9:34


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