Canada proposing to use hate crime laws against Israel boycotters

May 14, 2015 • 8:45 am

I think today is going to be “Free Speech Day” on this site, as readers have sent me a number of articles about people—mostly liberals and Leftists—favoring the suppression of free speech. Here’s one from Canada, which is rapidly becoming the PC capital of North America.

As most readers know, I’m not a fan of the BDS (“Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions“) movement against Israel. It unfairly targets one country against another with at least as many failings, penalizes academic discourse (which is almost sacred to me), and its ultimate aim, as expressed by its founder, is not to promote a two-state solution, which I favor, but to eliminate the state of Israel completely.

Regardless, though, I think its proponents should have every right to make their case, and without censorship. Sadly, the Canadian government is threatening to use its “hate crime” laws to go after BDS. As the CBC News reports;

The Harper government is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.

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.

If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While the federal government certainly has the authority to assign priorities, such as pursuing certain types of hate speech, to the RCMP, any resulting prosecution would require an assent from a provincial attorney general.

Canada has, in recent years, been notably more pro-Israel than other Western countries, which is fine with me, but to suppress criticism of Israel, or urge financial action to damage it, is out of line.


The BDS tactic has been far more successful for the Palestinians than armed struggle. And it has caught on internationally, angering Israel, which reckons boycotts could cost its economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just last month, 16 European foreign ministers denounced the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that any imported goods originating in the settlements be distinctly labeled.But Canada, a country where the federal Liberal and NDP leaders also oppose BDS, appears to have lined up more strongly behind Israel than any other nation.

In January, Canada’s then foreign affairs minister, John Baird, signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, pledging to combat BDS.

It described the movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.”

A few days later, at the UN, Canadian Public Security Minister Steven Blaney went much further.

He conflated boycotts of Israel with anti-Semitic hate speech and violence, including the deadly attacks that had just taken place in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket. [JAC: That’s a completely bogus comparison.]

Blaney then said the government is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to BDS.

Trying to suppress such movements is no different from a government trying to suppress the movement, in which I participated, to boycott South Africa to end apartheid. (That’s the one time in my life I was arrested—for trespassing on South African Embassy grounds to pin a note to its door.)

In my view, the the anti-apartheid boycott was far wiser than the current BDS movement, but the principle of allowing them to proceed is the same. If it’s “hate speech” to suppress one, it’s “hate speech” to suppress the other. Who decides what criticism is “hatred” and what is not? If Canada is suppressing the BDS movement because it’s seen “hate speech” against Israel, or even Jews, one could also argue that Israel is promulgating “hate speech” against Palestine. It’s a sticky wicket, and I hesitate to put my trust in the government of Canada to decide who should be censored, much as I like our friends to the North.

I asked reader Diana MacPherson what she thought about all this, and I reproduce her answer below with permission (indented):

Hmmmm, where do I begin? I guess first of all Hate Crime is somewhat nebulous in Canada as outlined quite nicely by this Canadian Department of Justice document. Interestingly, this document also addresses the UK’s and US’s interpretations of “Hate Crime”.  You can see that the definitions vary from province to province and city to city. Looking for a federal definition, the closest I can find is the RCMP definition (since they are the federal police) and you can see it isn’t very satisfactory – from the same document:

“The RCMP does not use the category ‘hate crime’ in any formal way. However, some hate crimes are clearly addressed by the National Security Investigation Sections of the RCMP. Criminal, political or religious extremism, for example, can take a form that most people would recognize as a hate crime. Most of the hate crimes described in this report fall within the ambit of the provincial or municipal police services, rather than within the jurisdiction of the RCMP in its federal role. Although the RCMP does gather information relating to ideologically-motivated serious crime, statistics are not routinely compiled on criminal incidents that were motivated by hatred.”

As for the Israel part, this government has been a staunch supporter of Israel. For the most part, I’ve been okay with that except there are times when I think some of that support is blind support. You will not hear PM Harper criticize Israel ever (a bit about that in this bigger piece about Canadian foreign policy & US relations). Harper went to Israel last year and addressed the Knesset and he was praised, applauded and awarded by the Israeli’s. From a Globe & Mail article:

“In Israel, the Prime Minister came for a celebration after eight years of staunch support. And he got one. Israelis, along with some of the 200 invitees he brought with him, cheered him as he spoke to the Knesset and visited the Western Wall. At a celebratory ceremony at Tel Aviv University where he received an honorary doctorate, speaker after speaker heaped praise on Mr. Harper.

At the centre of the celebration, though, was Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pitched a tent outside his office for a welcome ceremony, and dined elbow-to-elbow with Mr. Harper three nights in a row.

Their comments bounced off each other’s comfortably.

There were, in Mr. Harper’s agenda, few places for dissenting voices.”

So, while I tend to agree with a lot of Harper’s support of Israel, he’s almost sycophantic, and that makes me uncomfortable.
As for this latest hate crime talk, I don’t know what to make of Harper’s motivations in saying such a stupid thing. . . it would never hold up under constitutional scrutiny (as the article points out) and I’m sure most Canadians, even if they support Israel like I do, find trying to charge someone with a hate crime for expressing their opinion like these groups do, to be odious and frankly dangerous (the state seems rather tyrannical at this point).

Thanks to Diana for her informed opinion, and I’m glad to see we’re in agreement. There should be NO laws against “hate speech” except in two circumstances: when that speech urges imminent violence against a nearby target, or when it is directed against a particular individual, class of individual, ethnicity, or gender in the workplace in such a way as to create a climate of hostility. This is more or less the position of the U.S. government, which in many ways is far more permissive than U.S. universities.

151 thoughts on “Canada proposing to use hate crime laws against Israel boycotters

  1. This is flipping insane.

    If, in a free democracy, you can’t advocate for people to not interact with an organization which you don’t like (or advocate against institutions, persons, parties, etc. that you don’t like), then freedom of speech, freedom of action are dead.

    This would HAVE to be found unconstitutional and/or unenforceable.

  2. I agree with my fellow Canuck Diana’s analysis, and with Jerry’s views about hate speech, free speech and the BDS movement. I would add that this is very far from being any sort of legislation, more like an idea(a bad idea, and squirm-inducing for supporters of Israel) floated by a cabinet minister. I should also note that the author of this ‘report,’ veteran CBC reporter Neil Macdonald, is reliably no friend of Israel, and certainly not of its current dysfunctional government.

    1. I’ve started to refer to Harper as Canada’s Putin with half the charm. He hates Putin because he is so much like him (but without the charm) and if it weren’t for our constitution, I really do believe he would slowly take away what freedoms we have.

        1. Oh he’s known for it – even Hillary Clinton mentions it and remember W. said he “looked into his eyes and saw his soul” or some such. I suspect he has a natural ability (if you’ve ever seen narcissists at work this way, you’ll know what I mean) that was honed by the KGB. I actually envy it and wish I too could be so charming but I guess I’ll stick with my smart ass remarks instead.

  3. One other thing: In a free society, you are allowed to hate people.

    And everyone else is allowed to expose this and make fun of it and criticize it.

    And no one should be able to censor your “hate speech”. You may be silenced by you lack of comfort based on society’s dislike of your position (and others’ criticism of it); but no one can tell you you can’t say those things.*

    Your hate for another is only legally germane if you then hurt them, in which case it counts as motive for a crime.

    (* Short of direct incitement.)

  4. The BDS movement is not something I personally endorse, but this trend of labeling anything potentially controversial or incendiary is far more troubling than misinformed speeches and memes about the Israel/Palestine conflict. The number of people who apparently believe free speech stops the moment anyone becomes offended is way too high.

        1. “For a group ostensibly trying to influence Hebrew-speaking Israelis, why invest so much to produce, at considerable expense, an English translation of all 237 pages of this report? ”

          I understand that the author of the article would prefer the report to not reach the global community…

          Meanwhile, the fact remains that many of the victims of the Israeli army during the 51-day conflict in Gaza were civilians — according to the UN, as many as 7 in 10.

          1. Even here some skepticism is in order. UN based their numbers on tha data given them by Gaza Ministry of Health, which means Hamas. A very thorough analysis – with name, age, picture etc. – of victims shows that about 5 civilians per 10 is closer to the truth. And a comparison to the proportions of combatants to civilians in other urban conflicts shows that this is a very low percentage. Sorry, the war is cruel and Hamas didn’t have to start it. Very many victims, reported to UN as civilians were active fighters, there are their pictures in combat gear, proudly displayed by families on social media, there are funerals with military honors by Hamas and eulogising of a “martyr who sacrificed his whole life for jihad”, who still are listed as civilians by the UN.

            1. 5 in 10 is still 50/50. In other words, the Israeli soldiers had an equal chance of killing actual militants and civilians.

              According to the UNICEF, Israeli army killed nearly 500 children during the conflict.


              I know.. it’s all propaganda, from the U.N., UNICEF and Breaking the Silence…

              1. A comparison is always needed: Iraq war: 77% victims in the first phase of the war were civilians; U.S. drones in Pakistan: 10 dead civilians to every dead combatant; NATO in Balkan War: 4 civilians to every combatant.
                I have seen some pictures of those 16 and 17 year old Palestinian boys, listed by UNICEF as children killed by Israel (and counted among those 500) in Hamas’s uniforms with rifles, grenades etc. They are not difficult to find if you do not believe unshakably that Israelis are childkilling monsters.

              2. You are right that a comparison is always needed — during the conflict in question only 1 Israeli child was killed.

              3. Oh, I see. You are not talking about how a war is conducted against an aggressor who is shooting from behind the backs of his own children; you are not interested in what international law says regarding such wars. You just regret that Israel defended its children so well that only one child was killed.
                Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh share your regret, nevertheless these leaders of Hamas regard this war as won by Hamas. They do not despair over the death of their own citizens – every victim is another argument against Israel which wins them sympathy and help of people like you.

              4. Malgorzata, is it conceivable that you would ever admit that Israel might be wrong about anything?

              5. Yes, without any problem. However I do not see any reason to support lies and total misunderstanding of the war between terrorists hellbent on destruction of Israel, and Israeli army trying to spare the lives of civilians as much as possible (read statements of people who really know what they are talking about: Colonel Kemp and General Dempsey or the analysis of two experts in international law and warfare: Michael N. Schmitt and John J. Merriam –

              6. Scientifik, I have heard this comparison before, as though the side with the greater casualties deserves all the sympathy and support and the other side is ipso facto Bad. That seems to be exactly the “logic” Hamas counts on outsiders applying to the fighting and the reason they use their civilians as human shields. Outsiders predictably fall for it. Israel goes to barely believable lengths to avoid civilian casualties and actually has the best record of any army in the world in this respect.

              7. “You just regret that Israel defended its children so well that only one child was killed.”

                Rationalizing and dismissing the death of hundreds of children is one thing, that in my view comes too easily to you, but accusing me of wishing more death and suffering on defenseless children is just insane.

              8. I do not think it is insane. By denying Israel the right to defend itself against rockets, mortars, and heavily armed soldiers coming through tunnels which originate in Gaza’s mosques, schools, civilian homes, you accept that Israeli civilians (children included) would be killed. I surely do not think that you wish for more death, but if Israel did as you and many other demand, i.e. stopped defend itself from thugs who are using human shields, that would be the outcome. Maybe, you just didn’t think through the consequences.

      1. We certainly cannot allow for a situation in which legitimate criticisms of the Israeli actions (see the latest Breaking The Silence report), are dismissed as “hate speech”

        I completely agree, but we also have to acknowledge the opposing and, IMO, far more prevalent trope that Israelis are no more than blood-thirsty monsters and Palestinians their hapless, innocent victims.
        I’ve been called a liar and an islamophobe on at least 20 different occasions for ppointing out the fact that rockets are fired by Palestinians at civilian targets in Israel.
        Israelis and Palestinians are opposing sides in a tragic and all too brutal conflict for which they both bear some responsibility. Unfortunately, this conflict is almost never reported this way.

  5. Haven’t some BDS protesters given Nazi salutes somewhere at one point?

    Sure BDS is an anti-Israel organization that disguises itself as a peace organization, but these hate crime laws are ridiculous.

  6. I am generally proud to be Canadian but for the most part I strongly disagree with Harper and his policies. His unconditional support of Israel is one of those policies. However this idea just floors me in it’s stupidity, even for Harper.

  7. “when it is directed against a particular individual, class of individual, ethnicity, or gender in the workplace in such a way as to create a climate of hostility”

    This is a very fuzzy area; but every company I’ve worked for has had a strong policy on this. I don’t think there’s law on this (not sure though) except for the employer, who is required to maintain a non-hostile work place, hence the company policies.

    Obviously it’s the right thing to do. There are many restrictions on free speech in the workplace. For instance, active political campaigning is usually not allowed. Pretty much anything that might be considered to impair the work environment will be prohibited.

    1. This is relevant. We already have EEO laws against the conduct Jerry is saying should be illegal. Though I don’t read his original post as being ignorant of this, I read his post as being supportive of the laws already on the books.

      Technically, the law doesn’t criminalize such conduct at work (so it’s not “illegal” in the sense that the police are going to come and get you, at least not in most cases). What it does is make the employer liable for damages if a victim of hostility sues.

  8. I’d offer one alternate thought: I don’t think Harper is promoting this out of any sense of political correctness, rather his defence of Israel can be tied directly to his Evangelical beliefs about Israel’s role in world events and prophecy.

    When I was in the church, there was a maxim “God blesses those who bless Israel” and I think that sums up Harper’s motivation in a nutshell.

    Beyond that, Diana MacPherson has done a great job explaining things.

    1. And we always think of Canada as being full of such reasonable people. But how is it that Harper is in office when Rick Santorum can’t even win a Republican primary?

      1. Canada has a multi-party first-past-the-post electoral system where currently the left leaning parties are splitting the vote in many areas which gives the united right a majority government. The same thing happened in the 90s when the right leaning parties were splitting the conservative votes.

        btw, the links in Diana’s section are directing to uchicago’s mail system.

    2. And votes. The hardcore Canadian Zionists will vote for the Conservative Party on that one issue, which is why Harper supports Israel at every opportunity.

      1. Really? Votes? If I got the right numbers the population of Canada according to the latest census (2001) was around 30 million. Of that 210,000 were Jews. It means they constitute 0.7% of the population.

        1. Yes, but they are a key voting bloc in some important urban swing ridings, and can make the difference in who wins those ridings, and whether the Conservatives are perceived as a national party with support everywhere, or the beneficiaries of a regional rump vote.

          1. According to Wikipedia just in the Greater Toronto live 425,000 Muslims, almost double to all the Jews in the whole Canada. I didn’t look for further numbers but I think this is enough. It is doubtful that their votes can be won by support for Israel. Do you also think that Mr. Harper cannot count?

            1. There are roughly 25 Federal ridings in Toronto, and typically Jewish and Muslim families have chosen different neighbourhoods in which to settle down, meaning the don’t typically oppose each other as voting blocs.

              Add to that the fact that none of the other 3 national parties in Canada support social policies that would harmonize well with common Muslim sensibilities, leaving the Conservatives as a default option, and it seems a reasonable if cynical political strategy for a party with those beliefs and policies.

            2. Yes usually these groups favour the Liberal party because the Conservatives are not friendly to multiculturalism as much as Liberals are. I don’t think this would sway their vote.

              1. Typically I would agree with regard to multiculturalism, but my experience here has been that muslim academics have been Liberals (possibly NDP, but I’ve never met one here on the East Coast) but the muslim business owners and professionals have all been solidly Conservative, because of their perception of it being the best party for family and economy.

                Is that different from what you’ve encountered, Diana?

              2. I’ve found that people who are Conservative voters like those values irrespective of religion. I may have a liberal bias as the Muslims I know, like the Jews I know, tend to be liberal (otherwise they’d never tolerate an atheist like me).

        2. Also don’t forget that most Evangelical Christians are also pro-Israel. And it is no secret that Harper is very aligned with them.

          1. According to the same census from 2001 12% of Canadians are Evangelical Christians. If you add Jews it is a whooping 12.7%. Take also into account that very many Jews are very critical of Israel and that Jews traditionally always voted for the Left. So he can’t even be sure of those 210,000 Jews.

            1. Not sure where you’re getting these numbers. Canada’s population is about 34 million, and there are some 380,000 Jews. Greater Toronto alone has 200,000. Harper squashes his evangelical leanings in public because he knows it won’t play. I very much dislike his government’s authoritarian leanings, its lack of belief/interest in science, or evidence, it’s tough on crime posturing, but he’s not wrong about EVERYTHING. For instance, he’s been very strong and forthright in opposing Putin’s adventurism.

              1. As I wrote, those were the numbers from census 2001. There were obviously changes during the years from 2001 until now. But even with those changes the number of Jews is minuscule, at the most just over 1%. The accusation that Mr. Harper’s attitude toward Israel is a “vote-fishing” (even taking into account all those Evangelical Christians) seemed to me quite ridiculous, especially that there are more people in Canada busy with delegimitization and demonization of Israel than with the defence of Israel. I know next to nothing about Canada’s politics and I know equally little about Mr. Harper. But to present “Zionists” as a force strong enough to make a Canadian politician to show friendship towards a country which he wouldn’t feel if not for those pesky Zionist votes seemed rather ugly to me.

              2. Its not “ugly”

                Harper is a very very cynical politician. Personally, I think that he is a sociopath.

              3. I used the adjective “ugly” not in connection with Mr. Harper. Ascribing a tiny minority of Jewish population in Canada powers to manipulate politicians of this country to behave as those “Zionists” wish, was unpleasantly similar to a longstanding very ugly tradition.

              4. Except nobody even came close to saying that *pesky Zionists* were evilly manipulating Canadian politics.

                Harper is a sociopath and he does all of the manipulating. I really don’t think that he has any principles. He is like Dick Cheney, only not as likeable!!

                Canadian Jews are generally liberal in their social policies – but they are especially ardent Zionists. Almost three quarters of Toronto and Montreal Jews have visited Israel. Less than half that percentage of U.S. Jews have done the same. A 2006 analysis found that 42 per cent of Canadian Jews identify themselves as Zionists, compared with 25 per cent of their U.S. counterparts.

                That. Plus the evangelicals (I linked to another article on this thread).

                And yes, last election, people were interviewed in the street, and a few of them said that they were voting for Harper for one reason only – his pro Israel stance.

                Harper is cynical enough to take advantage of that.

              6. Counting most generously Jews + Evangelical Christians constitute 15% of Canada’s population. What with the remaining 85? If they are for Israel’s right to exist without being attacked with rockets and terror and for their right to defend themselves, then a good politician in a democracy should represent this view. But if they are against it – what cynical and cunnig politician would court those paltry 15% against the wishes of 85%?

              7. Harper.

                He tried for years to get an NSA style spybill passed, and he came out with some bullshit about how anyone who opposes the bill is a supporter of pedophiles. As far as I am concerned, the conservative party of Canada is deeply corrupt. The Liberals are not very far behind.

              8. Well, as I said, your opinion that Mr. Harper has a friendly attitude toward Israel because he wants the votes of Zionists was a statement about the power of Jewish minority in Canada. And the Jews in Canada are a tiny minority, with the amount of votes too small to change the results of an election. This was the point of showing how many Jews (and Evangelical Christians) are in Canada. Mr. Harper must have other reasons to support Israel, not Jewish votes. Other opinions you have about Mr. Harper have no relevance to the problem of why he supports Israel.

              9. Harper will get votes where he can get them. It is decidedly more complex, as has been explained to you, than just a brief look at the numbers.

                And please read the entire Globe and Mail article.

              10. Sorry to post again, but I saw this

                . Mr. Harper must have other reasons to support Israel, not Jewish votes.

                Please stop strawmannning my position. You appear to be seeing a vicious attack on Jewish Canadians and Israel where none exists.

                And again, you keep focusing on Jewish voters, and ignoring the Evangelicals, which I and another mentioned.

                Harpers base = Evangelical voters and business owners.

                Harper will cynically get votes where he can, and work to appease his base. I spent a few months on a particularly despicable Conservative forum (FreeDominion, Canada’s FreeRepublic) and they were all 1) evangelical 2) supported Harper 3) hated Muslims 4) were waiting for the rapture and the second coming of Christ (thus, rabidly pro-Israel).

                And for the record, though I don’t necessarily agree with many of Israel’s policies in regards to Palestine, I am still more pro-Israel than anything else. I am also more Pro-Israel for Canada than I would ever dream to be pro-Islam.

                I am just pointing out how I see Harper and his cynical manipulations. I really don’t believe that he holds anything dear, and that power is his ultimate goal. Power at any cost.

                I am truly sorry that you are so offended by my post, I am just going by what I have seen, living up here in Canada, and studying Harper’s base, for so many years.

              11. I think many Canadians are friendly towards Israel and the only exception are those confused and wanting to support a group they see as oppressed. Canadians are very left leaning and Harper saying this isolates him. So does is customary sign off of “God bless Canada” as even the religious see this as peculiar since the religion of a PM is a private thing that should have no bearing on government. Yet, he continues to say this. I don’t think this is politically motivated and is more closely an ideological motivation as the Harper government is so enamoured with ideology that they actively silence anyone who contradicts it (banning the long form census, decimation get environmental depts and silencing scientists from speaking to the press about their findings).

              12. Yeah but he opposed Putin because we have a large Ukrainian population and he wants their vote. When didn’t need to mouth off like he did with nothing to back it up as that is just going to make more trouble with the North.

              13. Diana, you’re right for the most part about Harper playing to the Ukrainian population. While I do believe that the ultimate aim of BDS is to eliminate Israel, I had a hard time understanding Harper’s far more fervent than required (or politically useful) support for israel. In fact, sometimes, it’s embarrassing (and just noticed, to my horror, that I put a mistaken apostrophe in an earlier possessive use of “its”: profound apologies for that).

              14. Yeah I find his Israel thing weird too and I’m only speculating when I think it is ideological. Maybe he just really likes Israel, who knows.

              15. I think one point to clear up is that when we are speaking of Harper’s interest in Zionist votes, it’s one of many voting blocs he is interested in. As Diana has mentioned, the Ukrainian vote is another. While note large percentages overall, the blocs can swing key ridings.

                There are a number of groups in Canada where research has determined that there is a particular issue that will motivate a significant portion of that group to vote Conservative. A non-ethnic example is farmers.

                The issue of relaxed regulation on long guns is one that has moved farm votes to the Conservatives in spite of economic policies that favour large companies instead of individual farmers and reduce subsidies and research support that traditionally helped agriculture.

                Those votes have been key for the few Conservative seats won here on the East Coast and the new regulations that remove even more gun restrictions are seen as playing specifically to that group.

                So it’s from the context of Harper’s Evangelical faith and the benefits of swing votes in certain ridings that I’d argue form the basis for his support.

              16. Thank you for explaining so succintly what I was struggling with. +1

                Here is another example, of what Harper will do for those votes.


                Asbestos mining. Selling asbestos to foreigners, who will be harmed by it. All for the votes from a tiny town of 7,000 people? But, the key here, is that 7,000 people could mean one single seat in parliament which,as you explained, is very important, in aggregate.

              17. Looking at Wikipedia, outside Israel only the US and Canada have a Jewish population that exceeds 1% (opps and Gibraltar). It also distinguishes “core” Jews (380,000) and the enlarged Jewish population (500,000). I must admit that looking down the list I was surprised how low the numbers were.

                As pointed out small numbers in marginal electorates can be influential in FFP elections and the Jewish group may well be more likely than the general population to vote if an issue riles or appeals. By way of illustration the conservative minority government in the UK became a safe majority with (if I recall correctly)only an extra 1.8% of the votes cast.

          2. Yes.

            Canada has its own evangelical movement that wants to see Israel destroyed once Jesus returns. In fact, they are a huge part of his base.

          3. I think people are missing the point here. This has little to do with trying to get votes in the upcoming election. (A total non-issue here.) This is about aligning himself with certain Americans. Hmmm, I wonder who it is? Maybe Republicans? Doesn’t his support of Israel look pretty close to their support for Israel? Who invited Israel’s PM to the US Congress?

            I can see nothing coming from this.

            I dislike Harper (and Baird as well) for his stupid posturing on the world stage. He’s just making a fool of himself and us. How long do you think Putin laughed when Harper tried to show him up? Putin is really scared of Canada.

            1. Haha. My dad was joking with some Russian friends about how scared they must be of Harper. It’s so embarrassing. I grew up under Pierre Trudeau and when he told people off at least you paid attention.

        3. So?

          Harper is an opportunist. He will take any vote he can get. Canadian Zionists were even interviewed on TV, saying that they vote for Harper based on this issue alone, and no other.

              Rather than “Jewish votes” Harper’s “Israel no matter what” policy has more to do with mobilizing his rightwing, evangelical base on an issue (unlike abortion) that the government believes has limited electoral downside. While a cross section of Protestants has long supported Zionism, backing is particularly strong among evangelicals who believe Jews need to “return” to the Middle East to hasten the second coming of Jesus and the Apocalypse.

              A year ago B’nai Brith’s Jewish Tribune reported on a Conservative MP’s speech to a major Christian Zionist event in Toronto. “Jeff Watson, Conservative MP for Essex, delivered greetings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The creation of the state of Israel fulfills God’s promise in Deuteronomy to gather the Jewish people from all corners of the world, he said.”


              Any Jewish votes that he gets are just a bonus.

          1. I think that sometimes it’s not realized how significant a small group of voters can be in an FPP voting system, especially when there are multiple parties able to attract significant vote numbers. It’s a deeply flawed system if you care about proportional representation, and easily manipulated, including by gerrymandering of electoral boundaries.

  9. There is a national election in October and Harper’s Conservatives are very unlikely to win. It will be a tremendous relief to about 70% of the country.


      1. Harper is Canada’s George W. Bush and Canada is more educated and far less tolerant (overall) of the kind of fascism he represents. I’m confident someone else will be governing in the fall.

        1. Fascism? That’s a tad extreme. I think the Conservative Party of Canada has policies that are regressive, anti-science and pro-religious but that is as far as I would go in my critique.

          Someone in an earlier thread said that Harper was a sociopath. It seems to me that some people see the devil in someone that doesn’t see things as they do. It’s not a very helpful mindset IMO.

          1. I said that Harper is a sociopath. And you are wrong. I actually like GW Bush and I think that he got a bad rap. I am conservative on some issues, liberal on others. I can pick and choose which policies I like from each party.

            And I can still think that Harper is, personally, a sociopath.

            1. Well, given the topic du jour, you are certainly entitled to that belief. I, personally, do not think it is well evidenced.

              I’d be happy to be shown wrong.

          2. I don’t think Harper is insane.

            I do defend the assertion that he is fascistic in his worldview and in his government’s behaviour. He is pro-money and pro-religion. His government has conscientiously worked to undermine democracy in many ways. This is the operational definition of fascism.

            He doesn’t spew ‘god’ talk around but he’s just as much an evangelical as anyone south of the border and his policies reflect that.

            Fascism, be it remembered was the ‘third way’ (liberal & conservative being the other two) when it first appeared in Italy. A strong government with strong ‘morals’ was their motto. The state as representative of god with a populace existing to serve its interests.

            Many of his actions have seriously frightened me.


            1. I hope I’m not coming across as a Harper apologist here, but I just don’t see it this way. Harper’s brand of conservatism is not my cup of tea (esp. the anti-science policies and attitude) but they are far from being fascist / authoritarian IMO.

              If there are particular policies that you have in mind that are leading you to believe that then please educate me.

              1. I consider the spybill, and now this recent anti-terrorism bill, to be fascistic.

                And also, the various voter suppression tactics. Robocalls anyone?

              2. His ongoing fight with the supreme court, including his attempt to stack the deck in his favour with an illegal appointment. Numerous omnibus bills, including the most recent budget bill, in which are hidden dozens of motions that cannot be debated in the house, proroguing parliament twice to to forestall non-confidence motions when the conservatives had only a minority. There are others.

              3. I forgot…

                muzzling scientists

                Yes, Canadian scientists are not permitted to speak to the press without government approval

              4. I agree that all of these policies are not good, my point is that your characterization of Harper being a sociopath and his government being fascist is sounding a lot like the tea party calling Obama a Nazi, king, or tyrant.

                In my mind your arguments are easily dismissible because I’ve made this connection between the use of this type of rhetoric with crazy people complaining about things that they don’t understand.

                I guess my bias is showing here which is entirely my problem to deal with.

              5. I use ‘sociopath’ in the highly functioning business leader sense. Think CEO of Goldman Sachs or something.

                Harper is owned by the business lobby, just as Obama is. Look at Obama, supporting the TPP and arctic drilling. Harper is up to the same shit, muzzling Canadian scientists in support of industry.

                Obama, at least, is slick and personable. Harper is about as loveable as a snake.

      2. Sentiments isn’t the problem. Yesterday we had a clear statement from Cameron, now Prime Minister with 37% of the vote but an overall majority, that “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone…. The new legislation is expected to include:

        *Banning Orders for extremist organisations, which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places;

        *new Extremism Disruption Orders to restrict people who seek to radicalise young people;

        *powers to close premises where extremists seek to influence others”

        1. It’s likely to cause more trouble than it stops. He doesn’t seem to have thought this through.

          Cameron seems to have a talent for going into certain situations with a machete where a scalpel is needed. This policy is going to be disastrous and I predict riots.

    1. On the contrary, I think he’s got a very good chance of forming another majority government. Barring some type of non-compete agreement (which is highly unlikely) the NDP and Liberal parties will split the anti-Harper vote and the Conservatives will stroll up the middle.

      Which means, unfortunately, we’ll be stuck with Harper for a while yet.

        1. With our first past the post system, Ontario and Quebec will decide the next government and Quebec isn’t going to vote Conservative.

          1. True. But Quebec is somewhat disaffected with the NDP, if they abandon the party, they’ll go Liberal. The Libs also look to make gains in Atlantic Canada. Ontario is a toss-up.

            1. Canada’s is a purely parliamentary system, similar to the UK’s, isn’t it?

              So it’s more like a popular vote for the party control and the PM.

              Unlike the US, where the congress and President are elected completely separately and the President (for the most part) collects winner-take-all blocks of electors, state by state. (Which system gives hugely unequal excess of power to, for instance: Wyoming, Rhode Island, Delaware, Alaska, etc.)

              1. I’m curious to know how the Electoral College system gives power to Wyoming and Alaska.

              2. In reply to Sarah:

                Each state gets one electoral college vote for their congressperson and the senators.

                Congressional seats are based on population (your state’s percentage of the total population); but no state has fewer than 1.

                That means Wyoming gets 3 electoral college votes, which is hugely out of proportion to their population. So, one person, one vote doesn’t quite work out that way.

                But Wyoming’s population is only ~564,000 persons. California has 37 million persons.

                This means that for each Electoral College vote for Wyoming, there are far fewer citizens voting for it.

                For instance:
                Wyoming: 187,875 persons per EC vote
                South Dakota: 271,393 persons per EC vote
                North Dakota: 224,197 persons per EC vote
                Alaska: 236,744 persons per EC vote

                As compared to:

                California: 677,345 persons per EC vote
                New York: 668,210 persons per EC vote

                A Californian’s vote for the President is, in effect, worth only 28% of what a Wyoming voter’s vote is worth in the Electoral College.

                (Average for the entire US is 486,000 persons per EC vote (total population)/(count of EC votes).)

                At every census, the congressional seats are reapportioned, based on population. (Each state always retains the 2 Senate seats.)

                This system came out of the long and hard negotiations to write the US Constitution back in 1787 in Philadelphia. Along with retaining slavery in the southern US States. And, originally, only white men who owned property (land) could vote. Luckily, many things have changed since then.

              3. But the problem is with the Congressional districts, not the Electoral College.

              4. I should have said one EC vote for each Congressperson.

                So: Wyoming has 1 Congressperson (the minimum count per state) and two Senators: 3 EC votes.

                California has 53 Congresspersons (as apportioned by population) and 2 Senators: 55 EC votes.

                I also should have noted that the “small states” (at the time: Delaware and Rhode Island, mainly) felt they would be swamped in power (tyranny of the majority) and not have their voices heard, so to speak, in Congress, hence the Senate and fixed 2 Senators per state.

                And the Senate has some powers that the House of Representatives does not have, for instance approval on Federal appointments (to a certain level) and on Supreme Court Justices.

    2. Cheers me up immensely (as a short term visitor next year) if you are right. However still have to go to the UK and the last time I was there for an extended period it was for the end game of the miners’ strike.

  10. I too support Israel in general but they do have some things to answer for, like most countries, including my own.
    I don’t know much about the BDS thing but it seems to be yet another version of the free speech we should have.

    It stands to reason that Palestinians can have a voice opposed to Israel without being anti-Semitic. They most certainly be allowed to speak.

  11. The category of hate crimes is disturbing. When we start trying to penalize people for their intentions rather than their acts, we dive into murky waters. It’s perfectly acceptable to hate someone. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell other people that you hate someone. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I wouldn’t buy an orange from that person.” It crosses the line when you mutter under your breath, “I’d like someone to kill that SOB.”

    But it makes little sense to say that it’s worse if your daughter were killed because she was Jewish than if she was killed because she was in the wrong part of town at the wrong time. Trying to parse the mind of the person committing a crime is hard, if not impossible, to do.

    As a rule, though, I do think the world could use more Canada, even given the imperfections.

    1. We (in the US) do in fact say its worse depending on why someone is murdered. If its for some planned motive, you face a stiffer sentence than if you flew off the handle.
      US hate crime laws work in a similar way: hating isn’t a crime, but once you commit a ‘regular’ crime as defined by our other laws and are found guilty, the jury can take motive and planning into account when assessing penalties.

  12. New York state seems to have a law that prevents corporations from boycotting on the basis of national origin. It was reacently invoked by a food co-op which refused to boycott Israeli products.

    It seems more sensible to me to regulate actions rather than words.

    1. On the other hand the US boycotted Cuba for decades, for no apparent reason other than revenge. (One point massively in Obama’s favour, is the thaw with Cuba).

      1. My opinion is that the boycott of Cuba was good for the USA. Trading with a regime such as Cuba’s creates a special-interest group of traders in the partner country (in this case, the USA) which acts as a lobby for the odious regime. Saudi Arabia is an example what happens when you don’t boycott an odious regime. This country jails human rights activists for decades, regards women as subhuman, exports terror etc., yet Western politicians don’t say a word about this because they don’t want to jeopardize the contracts. I’ve read very hostile comments by Canadians about Raif Badawi and Ensaf Haidar – that he mustn’t be supported and she mustn’t have been given asylum because her campaign harms Canada’s economic interests.

        1. Excuse me. Just what sort of utter BS is this? Trying by some sleight of hand to tar Cuba with Saudi Arabia’s evils?

          This is just bizarre. It would be hard to imagine two countries more unlike than Cuba and Saudi Arabia. They share nothing in common.

      2. I’m with you. The Cuba boycott is just stupid and needs to be ended completely.

        Look at our relations with Vietnam and China now. Cuba-US relations could look more like that.

        Besides, from a selfish point of view, I’d love to vacation there!

        1. It’s my understanding that US-China economic concerns play a large part in US refusal to deal forcefully with human rights issues in China.

          Interesting POV, mayamarkov.

  13. Canada: the nice, older couple living in the apartment upstairs from the rowdiest frat house on campus. (It’s a lovely, commodious apartment, with splendid views of the surrounding parks, though strictly cold water and the central heating is spotty). Now, the grandkids are visiting and giving them lip, so Canada wants to shush them.

    1. Cold water? Naw, and where I live in Canada the heating is better than probably 50% of your country. Just ask Jerry about the never arriving spring in Chicago.

      1. Vancouver-ish, I’m guessing?

        We’re holding a 51st-state option open, if B.C. would like to join the union.

        1. I don’t think America could stand how left wing and atheist BC is. It’s actually where I should live. 🙂

            1. My wife and I retired to BC 15 years ago – I wish I had moved here when I emigrated from England 58 years ago – it is truly “d*g’s country” with 4 distinct seasons,temperate as hell. We live in a small isolated village in The West Kootenays and right now I think I would like to live forever! I’m 87 and hope to celebrate my 105th birthday or die trying.

              1. I live in a small isolated village of the West Kootenays myself.

                Talk about an early spring! Never had an April this warm.

  14. I got that it was Leda and (or with) the Swan but it took longer to learn that the artist was Coreggio. Google images didn’t show this image on searching leda and swan painting, for some reason.

  15. Sounds like PM Harper’s brain is Israeli-occupied territory.

    (h/t Pat Buchanan, whose politics are anathema to me, and even more so his lapses into implicit anti-Semitism. But the guy can occasionally turn a funny phrase, and when he does, I’ll lift it — especially when it’s delivered in English, rather than his native German as was his Kulturkampf speech at the ’92 GOP convention.)

  16. It seems that the matter is even worse – it is a threat to use the (dubious IMO) hate speech laws to potentially prosecute those who would merely *advocate* BDS, not merely those trying to do it.

  17. I agree with Diana’s analysis. I do find it odd that the current government would ever be foolish enough to promote such a thing though.

    Regardless of what one thinks of Harper, there is little denying that he is an excellent politician, and that has a lot to do with him keeping his less popular stances on social issues to himself (and making sure that members of his party do the same). This latest talk about hate crimes flies in the face of that tactic.

    I find it even odder given that we will very soon be entering an election. It seems like this type of move serves to hurt the Conservatives at the polls far more than it could help them. Didn’t they pay attention to what just happened in Alberta? Very odd move to me.

  18. Jerry, Im curious since free speech comes up so much in your writings, what are the most important theoretical, or philosophical pieces on how free speech works, and how it is beneficial? Is there any scientific works showing the effects of free speech, or how it works or anything to that degree? Basically im looking for the key recommended works, I know Mill’s work is foundational.

      1. Right Diane, I fully agree, however I am wondering if there has been any scientific study of this. And also what the strongest philosophical or theoretical papers on free speech have to say about it, and how it works. I know it just seems obvious, if ideas can’t be voiced then they can’t be spread, but does free speech tend to promote good speech, is the direction usually towards truth, and good things? I suspect it is, but can imagine scenarios when it is not.

        1. Have you read Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature? It doesn’t directly deal with a thesis about why free speech seems to be good but there is a lot in there that talks about how we (at least in the West) have become more peaceful and I’m sure there are good references in the book you can look into.

        2. Right Diane, I fully agree, however I am wondering if there has been any scientific study of this. And also what the strongest philosophical or theoretical papers on free speech have to say about it, and how it works. I know it just seems obvious, if ideas can’t be voiced then they can’t be spread, but does free speech tend to promote good speech, is the direction usually towards truth, and good things? I suspect it is, but can imagine scenarios when it is not.

          Well, my point was that I think you’re looking on the wrong side of it. Think of free speech being as natural and important as free air or being free from superstition. None of those conditions need to justify themselves. It’s what happens when some things aren’t free that tells the story.

          So the natural experiments to look at are societies where speech is controlled. Think of the murdered atheist bloggers. Of the countries in which apostasy is a death sentence. Of the Orwellian situation in Communist China after the revolution when children were taught to spy on their parents and countless citizens sent to prison camps for not hewing to the party line.

          Free speech has no mandate to “promote good speech,” or move “towards truth and good things.” It is not about “spreading ideas.” If that’s your conception of it, I think you need to do a bit more homework. Free speech is important because of the palpable dangers of controlled speech.

          You should not only be able to “imagine scenarios” in which free speech doesn’t result in any defensible good, you should be able to rattle them off the tip of your tongue. Westboro Baptist Church. Ann Coulter. Holocaust denial. The KKK.

          But letting those idiots spout their hatred is inordinately less dangerous than living in North Korea.

          1. I agree and I have an example that some people might be more familiar with.

            Think about a tyrannical work place. I’ve been in a few so I’m sure others have as well. In those workplaces, no one speaks their mind in fear of retribution. So, bad decisions are not excised and they sit there and fester. The team is unhealthy and either breaks a part of fails in some other way.

            Think about a workplace that encourages conflict and openness – you’ll find the opposite occurs and the people who work there are more happy and productive.

            1. Right that is true, but we certainly don’t want racist and sexist language at the workplace, so there must be some controls. In this instance free speech seems better because people continue to make bad choices, but if people were expressing racist opinions, that may be detrimental. Also thanks for the reminder of The better angels of our nature I read that a few years back and should check the references for stuff on free speech.

              1. There is a difference between being open and engaging in conflict and being disrespectful. I can disagree and argue while still respecting the person.

              2. Indeed, but other people think that things like insulting someones ideas are beliefs are disrespectful, and then think it is not ok to talk about those things, like when religion is criticized. It seems like what would be best is if humans could be less prone to offense, then more progress would be made.

          2. Thanks for the response Diane. I think we are both in total agreement that there should be if not absolute free speech a high degree of it. I think those historical examples definitely indicate that very bad things can happen when free speech is controlled, and historical comparisons are probably a good first approximation to see the effects of free speech. I don’t think that free speech is something we ought to consider as something that occurs naturally and is just a given though. I think if we are advocating free speech it has to be justified in other terms ultimately, so for instance free speech is probably good because it promotes greater societal well-being, and this seems like the type of argument you are making, and I agree with. But, just to push a little bit, I can imagine situations in which controlled speech is better, Ann Coulter for instance is bad for society, but even worse was the spread of communism. If communism had been banned as a type of speech it is possible that the 100 million or so that died under communist regimes would not have. So sometimes it may be beneficial to control free speech (i am not advocating this, this is just a hypothetical). And we do control speech, harassment isn’t allowed or libel supposedly. It may actually be the case that society would be better off if ideas proven to be harmful, like islam were not allowed. I would never ever advocate this, but I can imagine it being true, and so I think that free speech is something that should be argued for, and the reason that it is beneficial is mainly because it sways opinions in the correct directions. But free speech among an ignorant populace may lead to worse results especially in a democratic society that takes those ideas and uses them.

            1. You seem to be confusing freedom of expression with freedom of action, Jason. The examples you suggest are not due to over-reach of speech, they are due to over-reach of action… executing people for blasphemy, for instance. Freedom of speech results in arguments about the existence of deities. Freedom of action results in dead people. I know which option I prefer.

              Ignorant populations are ignorant precisely because information is controlled by limiting speech.

              1. Yes and no one gets to hear each other agree that this whole execution thing is a bad idea. It isolates your population so new ideas can’t come to the surface and mess up the fun the ruling establishment is enjoying. Soviet Russia is a good example – if you were innovative, you could end up in Siberia. Best to shut up and do things the stupid way the authorities want it done, which of course led to starvation and corruption.

              2. That is a good point about the distinction between free speech and free action.But just to push a bit more, beliefs are usually functional or desirable because they are actionable, so the discussion of a good idea that was not actionable say, taxing churches in the US currently will not necessarily be beneficial. (this may not be the best example, as in america we have peaceful means to eventually if not currently implement policy, but I can imagine other situations). Also some types of speech say racism or sexism at the work place are harmful simply in the speech act themself, and I think most people would agree that we should not have those things happening, at least in those contexts.
                Would you agree that it is possible theoretically that limiting free speech could be beneficial? If for instance discussion of god was not allowed in the political domain at all ever? I think there are cases where limitations could be beneficial, i am not advocating them because I think it may be too dangerous, but It seems like its possible.
                I don’t think I necessarily agree about ignorant populations being ignorant because of limits on speech. Most fundamentalists in the US have access to the internet, books and educational resources. They are ignorant either through social ostracisation or via some sort of choice or preference. I think it is probably the case that humans are prone to making the wrong choices, and coming to wrong conclusions, for an enormous amount of things, and will tend to continue to do this in the face of insurmountable evidence.

              3. Speech within fundamentalist communities is extremely constrained, at least in terms of religion-related matters.

                Regarding your question about theoetical possibilities, I don’t think that line of reasoning goes very far. It is theoretically possible that Kim Jong Un is will announce the transormation tomorrow of North Korea to a liberal democracy modeled on Denmark.

                Limiting freedom of expression as you suggest is a bad thing to do. Who gets to decide which speech gets restricted for the greater good? I don’t want it to be you.

  19. I’m opposed to the BDS movement, but I think making their activities illegal is counter-productive. It plays into the mindset of those who are anti-Israel and especially the anti-Semites.

    I see it as similar to banning Holocaust denial – it just makes conspiracy theorists think there is something to hide and again, bolsters anti-Semitic a-holes.

    One of the good things about freedom of speech, is that you’re constantly giving fools enough rope to hang themselves. It is by exposing ideas to the cold light of day that the bad ones are best destroyed. Why do you think religion is so keen on blasphemy laws?

    1. Completely agree. How many times do we have to say that the best antidote to bad speech is better speech? My only worry: does a fool ever understand that he’s a fool? Of course, blasphemy laws have now spread well beyond religion (ugh!), occupying many university campuses.

    2. I lean to the other side on the BDS thing. I see it as a counter to Israel’s incessant demand for unquestioning support from the world’s biggest superpower (which it usually gets). (This may not be an entirely accurate view).

      But I applaud posts like Jerry’s, not because he’s ‘on BDS’s side’ because he obviously isn’t, but because he’s standing for their right to free speech.

      It would be equally wrong for the government to ban anti-Hamas agitation.

      Holocaust denial, by the way, seems as far-fetched as ‘moon hoax’ theories, ‘911 conspiracy’, chemtrails and Velikovsky, and so trying to ban any of those things is, IMO, quite unnecessary and illogical.

      1. WE know that Holocaust-denial is right up there with the flat earth theory and 9/11 conspiracies, but it is widely believed in the Middle East, and Abbas of the PA supposedly wrote a Russian PhD thesis “proving” that the Holocaust never happened. It’s all part of the strategy to chip away at Israel as a legitimate state. Absurdity is no hindrance to belief, after all.

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