In Canada, the right to have free speech is one that many other countries are not fortunate enough to have. But perhaps Canadians are taking the concept of free speech for granted. Lately, many instances have occurred of where we say we believe in free speech but then turn around and condemn the people practicing it. The recent events of Hockey Night in Canada host Don Cherry’s firing and feminist writer Meghan Murphy’s ordeal come to mind.
When it comes to free speech, we cannot pick and choose by what we may be offended by. Free speech includes opinions that people have in their own lives. Meghan Murphy, a Canadian freelance writer who shares opinions regarding the rights of transgender women was set to speak on the stage of the Toronto Library to some of her close followers. This presentation caused much uproar among the general public who do not agree with her opinions. The people who didn’t agree with her protested outside the library, backing Meghan into a corner and threatening her safety; many of these people were not even going into the event to listen to her presentation.
Though many disagree with her opinions and the point she is trying to make, society has to defend her right to say it without intimidation or threats. The protesters made many people feel unsafe and unable to voice their own opinion. At the end of the event, many people who were inside were escorted out the backdoor in order to remain safe as reported by Kamil Karamali, a reporter for Global News. The protesting of Murphy’s speech accomplished nothing other than making participants and Murphy herself feel unsafe for trying to share or learn more about a certain topic. Disagreeing with a topic or issue does not give anyone the right to say those topics can’t be spoken about.
Murphy was also a victim of what many are calling Cancel culture. Canceling someone is when a person doesn’t agree with many things that are said or done and then that person is sent online hate messages or completely ignored. Former President, Barack Obama, commented on cancel culture saying, “That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.” The point being that yelling or telling that someone can’t speak their thoughts leads to further polarization.
Another victim of cancel culture is Kate Hopkins, a far-right activist. Hopkins was forced to sell her home due to her being threatened for her activity on behalf of Republican views; others simply ‘canceled’ her. How is this public debate? Katie and her family are currently going through a hard time, having to sell her house and previously having to pay ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees’ according to business insider. Though Hopkins has made her controversial views public with much backlash, the hate she receives is worse than her original points of view. Free speech is something that Hopkins often exercises, and ‘cancelling’ her for that shows a lack of understanding that everyone has the right to free speech. And, everyone is free to disagree with her.
There are some exceptions to the free speech rule. According to The Parliament of Canada’s research publication on hate speech and the freedom of expression, these limitations are lying in court under an oath, counseling suicide, and child pornography. In Canada, people have the right to their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions as protected by section 2B of the Charter of Rights. Free speech in Canada falls under the law of freedom of expression which also includes the freedom of religion and the press.
The differences between hate speech and free speech need to be defined and understood by every person, no matter if they are an activist such as Murphy or a protester towards people like her. Hate speech is something that is abusive or threatening; ironically, the protesters against Murphy were threatening. Hate speech includes derogatory terms against minorities. Freedom of speech is the idea that anybody can share their opinion or thoughts on anything if it is not promoting violence. When the two of these are used against each other it causes confusion and creates a world that is hyper-sensitive.
Freedom of speech is granted to every person living in our country and when we start to pick and choose who can say what we have failed as a democracy. ‘Cherry-Picking’ what doesn’t us does not constitute free speech. Doing so only leads to more polarization. When we block and ‘cancel’ people for words they have said we are ruining the freedoms that we have been granted and are lucky to have.