Some people believe that freedom of speech should be a fundamental human right. The ability to freely and openly express oneself, without fear of persecution based on opinions, is invaluable for any healthy society.
However, what happens when freedom of speech is being abused, to cause fear and suffering? Do we stand by the idea that anyone should be free to openly express themselves? Or do we rally behind laws that police hate speech? Would policing free speech end hate speech? Would limiting free speech protect more people than it harms? Or would we be suppressing a fundamental human right?
Freedom of speech has become a heated topic in Canada. Though our legal charter upholds the freedoms of expression and belief, we simultaneously and almost paradoxically have laws that criminalize hate speech. This has led to controversy over the limits of free speech in Canada, especially within its colleges and universities. Students and professors alike have debated over whether critical thinking skills can truly be developed without exposure to controversial ideas, and how much protection young thinkers really need. Some argue that hate speech is akin to verbal assault, bullying that must prevented for the safety of others, while others believe that policing free speech will do more harm than good.
In this podcast, I’ll be exploring the debate over free speech. We’ll be learning about the legal differences between free speech and hate speech, how effective criminalizing hate speech truly is, the ups and downs of limitless free speech, and answer why some of Canada’s citizens rally against its government’s attempts to curb hate speech.
Annotated List of Episode-Related Readings
Levy, Sheldon. "Why I defended freedom of speech on campus". The Toronto Star, 26 Jan. 2018. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/01/26/why-i-defended-freedom-of-speech-on-campus.html. Accessed 4 Feb. 2018.
Levy's opinion piece explaining his defense of free speech back when he served as Ryerson University's president is an insightful read. He speaks about his personal experience with permitting polarizing figures to speak on campus, the controversy and unfair labeling beget by such decisions, the value of free speech being used in an intellectual environment, and the ineffectiveness of suppressing problematic ideologies by preventing people from talking about them. The argument over the values of protecting free speech is a relevant and important topic, especially in regards to Canadian academia. As I'm interested in potentially doing a podcast about the debate over free speech in Canada, this opinion piece gives valuable insight from the perspective of someone with lengthy and personal experience.