Here's what offends this writer
Why should free-born Canadians require the permission of the state to read my columns?
Mark Steyn | Jan 3, 2008 | 16:36:38
Do you remember a cover story Maclean's ran on Oct. 23, 2006?
No? Me neither, and I wrote it. Such is life in the weekly mag biz. But it was an excerpt on various geopolitical and demographic trends from my then brand new tome, America Alone: The End of the World as we Know It. I don't know whether my bestselling book is still available in Canadian bookstores, but it's coming soon to a Canadian "courtroom" near you! The Canadian Islamic Congress and a handful of Osgoode Hall law students have complained about the article in Maclean's to (at last count) three of Canada's many "human rights" commissions, two of which have agreed to hear the "case." It would be nice to report that the third sent the plaintiffs away with a flea in their ears saying that in a free society it's no business of the state to regulate the content of privately owned magazines. Alas, I gather it's only bureaucratic torpor that has temporarily delayed the province of Ontario's enthusiastic leap upon the bandwagon. These students are not cited in the offending article. Canadian Muslims are not the subject of the piece. Indeed, Canada is not mentioned at all, except en passant. Yet Canada's "human rights" commissions have accepted the premise of the Canadian Islamic Congress--that the article potentially breaches these students' "human rights."
Since the CIC launched its complaint, I've been asked by various correspondents what my defence is. My defence is I shouldn't have to have a defence. The "plaintiffs" are not complaining that the article is false, or libellous, or seditious, for all of which there would be appropriate legal remedy. Their complaint is essentially emotional: it "offended" them. And as offensiveness is in the eye of the offended, there's not a lot I can do about that.
But, given that the most fundamental "human right" in modern Canada is apparently the right not to be offended, perhaps I could be permitted to say what offends me. I'm offended by the federal and British Columbia human rights commissions' presumption that the editing decisions of Maclean's fall within their jurisdiction. Or to put it another way, I don't accept that free-born Canadian citizens require the permission of the Canadian state to read my columns. The eminent Q.C. who heads the Canadian Human Rights Commission may well be a shrewd and insightful person but I don't believe her view of Maclean's cover stories should carry any more weight than that of Mrs. Mabel Scroggins of 47 Strathcona Gardens. And it is slightly unnerving to me that large numbers of Canadians apparently think there's nothing wrong in subjecting the contents of political magazines to "judicial review."
Let's take it as read that I am, as claimed, "offensive." That's the point. It's offensive speech that requires legal protection. As a general rule, Barney the Dinosaur singing "Sharing is Caring" can rub along just fine. Take, for example, two prominent figures from Scandinavia. Extremely prominent, as it happens. In his Christmas address to the Swedish people, King Carl Gustaf hailed the dawn of "one new Sweden. Young people with roots in other cultures put Sweden on the map in musical styles, in the field of sports, with business ideas that were not there when I was younger...To welcome changes and to let the mix of cultures and experiences enrich our lives and our society is the only road ahead." Blah blah blah. Usual multiculti bromides. Could have been our own Queen's Christmas message or her vicereine on Canada Day. Stick it in the Globe and Mail and no one would bat an eyelid.
By contrast, here's another Scandinavian head of state. Two years ago, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, musing on Islamic radicalism in her own country, said that people need occasionally to "show their opposition to Islam... It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and very lazy. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction."