Monday, 7 March 2022

Ideacide: Left_Wing Censorship in Canada


Below is the text of an editorial I published in The Hamilton Spectator, February 12, 2022, p. 17 “Ideacide: Left-wing Censorship a Danger “, February 12, p. A17. The link below is still operative as of today, March 7, 2022.

Ideacide: the Dangers of Left-wing Censorship in Canada

For the second time, Henry Giroux (Nov. 11, 2021; February 7, 2022) has argued in The Spectator that US Republican attempts to ban from schools books that refer to slavery or racism constitute  an extremely dangerous trend.  I agree with him: I am very worried that the US will soon become a fascist state.  

Sadly, however, although Republicans are the chief threat to freedom of thought and speech in the US, there is also another trend coming from the cultural left, in both the US and Canada.  It is ideacide, attempts to censor ideas put forward by people on the political right, or even people defending traditional liberal ideas.

Tomas Hudlicky, a distinguished professor of chemistry at Brock University, has been bullied and shunned for opposing equity efforts based on group membership, rather than equality of individual opportunity.  He has been vilified as an “old white male.”  In fact, he was a refugee from Communist persecution in (then) Czechoslovakia.

In 2019, a Coptic Christian immigrant from Egypt was expelled from the University of Manitoba medical school because of his pro-life and anti gun-control views. In August 2021 a judge ruled that the university had violated his Charter rights to freedom of expression.  I disagree very strongly with this student’s views, but it’s a dangerous precedent to expel someone from a public university for holding views that many Canadians share.

In May 2021, Professor Rima Azar of Mount Allison University was suspended and banned from campus for blog posts that questioned the existence of systemic racism in Canada and called the Black Lives Matter movement  “radical.” She said that she had immigrated to Canada because it protected freedom of expression.

In September 2020, Ottawa University suspended Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, a (white) francophone adjunct professor of linguistics. She had used the full “N-word” when explaining how minority groups sometimes “re-appropriate” slurs for their own ends, for example in the Netflix movie May Rainey’s Black Bottom. There was absolutely no racist intent in her stating the full word. Yet although she was later reinstated, she experience harassment and threats of violence on social media.

This last case made headlines in Quebec, resulting in a government commission to examine academic freedom and responsibilities.  Some of the witnesses were anglophone professors from Ontario, testifying anonymously because they were afraid of repercussions from their universities if they testified openly.

In January, the Waterloo school board shut down teacher Carolyn Burjoski because she was concerned that books for children about gender transition  made it seem too easy and “cool’ to transition. Many people, not only Burjoski, are concerned about the serious medical effects of gender transitioning. Yet she was told that her comments violated the Ontario human rights code.  They did not. The human rights code prohibits discriminatory acts, but does not prohibit any speech. 

None of the views expressed by the individuals I’ve mentioned is outside the range of permissible expression in Canada.  Equality of opportunity for individuals is still Canadian and Ontario law, despite exceptions for special programs for under-represented groups.  Not every use of the “N-word” is racist.  Canadians are not forbidden to question whether systemic racism exists.  Nor are they forbidden to oppose abortion or gun-control  laws.  Instead of permitting these individuals to express their views, their cowardly university and school board administrators capitulated to popular opinion advocating censorship.

Ideacide is a gift from the cultural left to the much more powerful political right.  Censorship and condemnation of anyone who proposes ideas that vary from the cultural left’s approved views make it much easier for the political right in turn to censor material that is important for scholars, students, and the public to discuss. This hasn’t happened in Canada yet, but we should certainly worry that it might. 

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann lives in Hamilton. From 2003 to 2016, she held the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights at Wilfrid Laurier University.



No comments:

Post a Comment