Canadian Free Speech Warriors: Rights 101, Get Your Terms Right


To start some movement, whether of a religious or secular, political or social, nature, there should be a clarification of terms and appropriate utilization of the terminology.

If we look into the general work of the free speech advocates who label others with the epithet social justice warriors, the appropriate terminology for them, thus, becomes free speech warriors.

For the free speech warriors, in Canadian society, there seems to be a consistent confusion of terminology and rights. There is a discussion around the right to free speech in Canadian environments, as if this is the proper terminology, right, and replicates or maps identically onto the Canadian landscape.

With even a single Google search or a trip to the local library, the most base research can represent the incorrect stipulations amongst the free speech warriors.

As the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada states, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

This doesn’t require research. It simply needs reading. That’s it. This appears to not have been done, at all, amongst an entire modern ideological movement.

When we look further into the Charter, we can see the respect for the rights and freedoms in Canadian society for the acknowledgment, respect, and maintenance of the free and democratic society of modern Canada.

This leads to some further analysis, though. If the phrase is “free speech” or “freedom of speech” amongst the free speech warriors, the, obvious, contextualization is where does this terminology come from, as noted the terms come from the United States of America and then get exported to the cold place in the North.

Reading the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution, it, in full, states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The abridgement of “freedom of speech” is prohibited here. In other words, the right is not to freedom of expression but, in actual fact, the freedom of speech or “free speech.” Thus, the only true free speech warriors are from America in this interpretation.

But also, we can read further in the Canadian Charter. It, clearly, states in Article 2:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c)freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

Here we come to the crux and comparison of the issue, it is not complicated, easily read, and simply overlooked. David Millard Haskell gets the terminology correct. That’s praiseworthy.

However, others simply fail to notice this. The free speech warriors miss the stipulation — because they didn’t read the Charter and may have simply wanted to be a part of an ideological movement — about freedom of expression.

This is unassailable in the terminology. In America, the right is specific to freedom of speech. In Canada, the right is to freedom of expression. The question to the free speech warriors is if they want to have a coherent movement and activism in order to protect the correct rights within the appropriate bounded geography within which the rights and responsibilities are bound as well.

If not, it will continue, as it has for years, to remain incoherent, overgeneralization, and wrongly using rights in different contexts in which they do not apply.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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