By Emma Teitel - Friday, February 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Have you heard? Free speech is a thing of the past. And religious liberty is dying fast.
It began last week when Arun Smith, a seventh-year human rights student at Carleton University in Ottawa, tore down a “free speech wall” on campus because it featured socially conservative comments. The action inspired three National Post columns and an Ezra Levant exclusive lamenting the end of freedom of expression as we know it.
Elsewhere, on the religious liberty front, the Canadian Council of Law Deans wrote a letter of protest to Canada’s Federation of Law Societies about Trinity Western University. The Christian liberal arts school in British Columbia wants to open a law school that would require students to sign a Community Covenant Agreement that pledges “Healthy Sexuality.” The agreement has nothing to do with gonorrhea or how to avoid it: what’s to be avoided is love and sex between people of the same gender (which is, I guess, by Trinity Western’s standards, worse than gonorrhea). “Sexual intimacy,” says the covenant, “is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.” In other words, gays need not apply.
In a bizarre twist, one of Trinity Western’s champions is the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, whose double-speak on this issue would confound George Orwell himself. From the Vancouver Sun:
“Despite TWU’s ban on homosexual relationships and sex outside marriage, Lyster [British Columbia Civil Liberties Association president Lindsay Lyster] also defended the evangelical school’s approach to academic freedom — saying secular universities often impose restrictions on free thought, including in regards to religious perspectives.”
Lyster’s concern, I suspect, is the same kind shared by Rex Murphy and Ezra Levant when they lament the end of free speech at Carleton University. There’s no denying most secular liberal arts schools are left-leaning, but do they really “impose restrictions on free thought and religious perspectives” draconian enough to match the injustice of Trinity Western’s ban on homosexuality?
Secular schools are by and large socially liberal, yes, but the mere presence of seventh-year human rights students and atheist professors in blue jeans does not equal discriminatory policy against socially conservative, religious students. Nor does the overwhelming presence of socially liberal thought prohibit social conservatism. Telling gays they are going to hell probably won’t make you valedictorian, but there is no rule against doing so. Arun Smith ripped down the “free speech wall” because written on it, among other things, was “Traditional marriage is awesome,” and “Abortion is murder.” He was wrong to do so. But the fact remains: he was punished. The students who wrote the conservative comments were not. As for the free speech wall? There is a new one in its place.
Freedom of expression: 1.
Arun Smith: 0.
Free speech dead? Apparently not.
Socially conservative students may find that in a modern university classroom, they’re uncomfortable stating their views on the civil rights of gays and lesbians (possibly that they shouldn’t have any), but that doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to. However, your right to speak freely doesn’t negate someone else’s right to tell you to stop talking. And asking that you do so because your argument has no place in an institution of higher learning, or in a court of law (my right to marry my girlfriend is no longer a valid debate topic, nor is it any of your business) is not a letter of expulsion.
Echoing the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Barbara Kay writes in the National Post that secular law schools are breeding grounds of their own a-religious philosophies; prone to different but equal prejudice. Here she is below:
“So although white Christian students of European descent don’t actually have to sign a Covenant attesting to their original sin of white or male privilege when they sign up for law school, they may as well have had to, considering what they will be taught once they’re in, and the way they’ll be treated if they dissent from the critical race theory or feminist line. Unlike gays, who have their pick of law schools that cater to minority sensibilities, those who reject the Marxist-based faith governing most law schools in the West are forced to submit to their tenets.”
Let’s assume for a moment Kay is correct: Canadian law school is a three-year pinko party to which all would-be gay law students aspire. And one at which all socially conservative law students feel out of place.
That she can even allude to the isolation of socially conservative students on secular campuses proves my point precisely. They are allowed on secular campuses. They don’t have to sign a covenant. They may not Take Back the Night, or Occupy Bay Street, but nobody’s stopping them from going to school. More on point, their rights to rant and lobby against my rights does not bar them from enrolling in a secular institution. But my right to be myself would bar me from enrolling in theirs.
So let’s be clear. We are not dealing with equal prejudices. One is far more insidious. Secular law schools, no matter how annoyingly liberal, do not have the power to expel socially conservative, religious students simply because they are socially conservative and religious. Trinity Western University’s law school, on the other hand, would have the power to expel gays because they are gay.
Social conservatives of this ilk are not defenders of liberty. They are its thieves.
By Ken MacQueen, Aaron Wherry, and Patricia Treble - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Will and Kate fight back, Bill Clinton reveals the secret to his presidency and Putin ’fesses up
Sarah calls in her chits
Practise your music scales and maybe one day you too can play the White House. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton ﬂew to Vancouver to help out Sarah McLachlan, who assembled a stellar crew for her Voices in the Park concert to raise funds for her music school for at-risk youth. Among those performing at her behest on a perfect September Saturday were Jann Arden, Bryan Adams and Stevie Nicks. Clinton, who left his sax at home, delivered a short, sweet message about the importance of music in fostering creativity and brain development. “It is very unlikely I would have ever become president had I not been in school music from the time I was 9 until the time I was 17,” he told the audience of 11,000. McLachlan, he added, has helped his various causes for 20 years “She did it when I was up. She did it when I was down. Politics—it’s a contact sport, in case you hadn’t noticed.” He was honoured to return the favour.
Keep calm and carry on
Talk about awkward timing: Prince William and his wife, Kate, were visiting a mosque in the predominantly Muslim nation of Malaysia when topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge hit newsstands. The blurry shots show the pair poolside at the Provençal retreat of the Queen’s nephew, Viscount Linley. While Kate maintained her smiling public facade, her husband, who is fiercely protective of his wife, took on a “look of absolute thunder,” according to the BBC royal reporter. Royal lawyers launched an all-out attack to stop the photos from spreading further—publications in Italy and Ireland reprinted the snaps before a court-ordered ban. The couple, on a royal tour of the Paciﬁc, pressed on, taking the stiff-upper-lip advice of an aide to “stay calm and carry on.”
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
News broke yesterday about a Nigerian refugee claimant named Francis Ojo Ogunrinde, who happens to be gay. Or so he claims.
Last summer a senior Canadian immigration officer rejected the 40-year-old Nigerian’s refugee application, acknowledging that even though conditions for LGBT people are not “favourable” in Nigeria (where being gay is illegal and in 12 states punishable by death) she simply wasn’t “convinced” he was a homosexual. It turns out Ogunrinde’s letters from and photos of his alleged boyfriend weren’t steamy or provocative enough to activate the immigration officer’s gaydar. And being from Nigeria and all, he probably didn’t know a single lyric from Rent. Case closed.
Or maybe not.
Last month, a federal judge named James Russell ordered that the officer reopen the case and give Ogunrinde’s allegedly dubious sexuality closer consideration. According to Postmedia News, the judge ruled that the officer “erred by failing to consider the ‘complete picture before her,’ and ordered that Ogunrinde’s claim get a second look in a case that raises questions about the extent to which immigration officers should be probing the bedroom activities of claimants.” Makes sense to me.
If only he had stopped there.
“At the same time,” Russell wrote, “the acts and behaviours which establish a claimant’s homosexuality are inherently private.” “When evaluating claims based on sexual orientation, officers must be mindful of the inherent difficulties in proving that a claimant has engaged in any particular sexual activities.”
The problem here isn’t a lack of mindfulness in proving someone’s sexuality: it’s in the belief that a person’s sexuality is something you need to prove in the first place. Yes, of course gay people have gay sex, but having gay sex—or any sex at all—is not a prerequisite to gayness (unless of course Judge Russell doesn’t believe in gay virgins, or virgins of any kind). And it isn’t necessarily proof either.
What is? Two words: “I’m gay.”
Not “I’m gay and last night I watched Glee and sodomized somebody. Here’s a photograph.” Just “I’m gay.”
Straight people do not, and should not, have to prove they are straight. Neither should homosexuals.
But what if saying “I’m gay” isn’t good enough? What if our borders are suddenly flooded with self-proclaimed homosexual refugees from homophobic countries? Well then hopefully like Ogunrinde, those claimants will have photographs of and letters from their respective same sex partners or testimonies of friends and gay organizations confirming their sexuality. That, you’d think, would be enough.
Unfortunately–at least in Ogunrinde’s case–it wasn’t. Why? Because a sizable portion of our society still believes that a person’s sexuality can be “established” (to use Judge Russell’s words) not by his identity or his relationships, but by the “particular sexual activities” in which he engages.
In the end, I’m not suggesting our immigration officers blindly approve refugee applications, and throw all investigation to the wind. But it would be nice if their reservations about letting people cross our borders were just as strong when it came to peering into their bedrooms.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
Forget Ottawa when it comes to political turpitude. The action is in two provincial capitals, one east, one west, where two very different villains are stirring up trouble. Both are suspected of harbouring, or at least enabling, backward beliefs. The eastern villain is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who raised the ire of the ever-uppity gay community when he announced that he’s once again going to skip the annual Gay Pride Parade in favour of a weekend at his family cottage. The western bad guy (girl) is Danielle Smith, the leader of Alberta’s Wildrose party (now the official Opposition to the 41-year-old PC majority), who during the recent election campaign refused to chastise a party member and former pastor for his interpretation of the gay afterlife. (Hint: it involves a lake of fire and a lot of pain.) For these sins, Ford is branded a bigot, and Smith a willing defender of them.
However, they aren’t under attack because they’ve expressed an interest in revoking gay rights—but because they’ve expressed nothing at all; it appears that indifference is the new intolerance in Canada. Ford won’t attend Pride and Smith won’t apologize for her colleague’s remarks. Neither has really done anything yet. And consequently both, it seems, are equally benign—albeit distasteful to some.
There is, though, a critical distinction between the two. Take Ford first; the gift that keeps on giving. He has snubbed his city’s gay community, flipped off a Toronto mom who chided him for talking on his cellphone while driving, and all but abandoned his public weight-loss challenge with a very public display of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He is a man his people love to hate—so much so that they seem to get more pleasure deriding him than displeasure from his failed policies. Which makes all the outrage (or “barely contained glee” as National Post columnist Chris Selley called it) about his Pride snub, more than a little bit phony. (Like Whitney Houston’s obituary, the newspapers probably wrote their “Ford is wrong to skip the Pride parade” editorials months in advance.)
Nobody actually wants Ford to realize the error of his ways and attend the parade, because that’s not what villains do. It would be like the Penguin organizing a green initiative in Gotham City, or Cruella De Vil posing nude for PETA. There is no fun in a gay-friendly, health-conscious Ford. But there’s lots of fun in Ford as he is: the buffoon we love to hate, with very little power to introduce retrograde social policy when it comes to gay rights. He’s the perfect foil: cardboard bluster, no real danger.
Not so Danielle Smith. In her own subtle way, she’s substantially scarier than her eastern counterpart. A lot of people, even those who aren’t keen on the Wildrose party, regard her as a breath of fresh air, commending her “refreshing” refusal to give the knee-jerk politically correct response when the “lake of fire” comments came to light. But how refreshing would her restraint seem if the comments in question had been about Jews or Muslims? (Groups that are just as susceptible to the wrath of Christian hell as homosexuals.) There’s a kind of false relativism here that informs Smith’s Wild West morality in general—which could very well be why she wasn’t (as the majority of pollsters and pundits had us believe she would be) a shoo-in for premier after all. As for the fact that she’s come out publicly in favour of gay rights, and has recently been seen donning traditional garb at a Sikh temple, better an allegedly closeted homophobe like Rob Ford than a refreshing social progressive who would escort homophobes out of the closet.
For the moment, with the PC victory in Alberta, the halls of power have dodged the doublespeak (think conscience rights) of the Wildrose Party. But those who would be scandalized by Rob Ford in Toronto would do well to remember how good they have it when it comes to demagogues. All villains are not equal. Lake Muskoka (or wherever Ford does his cottage bellyflopping) is not a lake of fire. Both politicians are indifferent, but one is more dangerous. The reality for Ford and Smith—and any other Canadian politician who favours avoidance in the face of an ethical conundrum—is a highly unpleasant one. There is simply too much room for thought in silence and restraint, too much time and space for constituents to assume the very worst of you. Canadian leaders can no longer afford to take moral passes, because in a tolerant age, saying nothing may be the very worst thing you can say.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 2 Comments
Our semi-regular roundup of findings from the world of academia
British Columbia: Researchers have determined that it’s harder for gay couples and single parents to get an apartment in Vancouver. Gay couples are 25 per cent more likely to be rejected by landlords than heterosexual couples, while single moms and dads are 15 per cent more likely to be rejected than married couples with children, according to a study by University of British Columbia sociologist Nathanael Lauster.
Alberta: University of Alberta researchers have found evidence that “brain wiring”—the development of paths in the brain caused by learning—continues well into young adulthood. New social experiences and post-secondary education were cited for continued brain development after the bursts of childhood and adolescence.
Ontario: It’s true: in spring, a young man’s (and woman’s) fancy turns to thoughts of love. A Queen’s University study has found teenagers are more likely than adults to conceive during the month of March. Citing spring break as the likely reason, co-author Mary Anne Jamieson suggests schools conduct sexual health blitzes before letting students loose for holiday frivolity.
By Charlie Gillis, Chris Sorensen and Nicholas Köhler - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Kim Campbell schools the U.S. right, Naomi Campbell’s ‘Frost-Nixon moment,’ and Nabokov was right
A breath of fresh Canadian air
The usual right vs. left political jabber of American talk TV was punctuated this week by a few clear-eyed statements courtesy of Canada’s first female prime minister. On Real Time With Bill Maher, former Progressive Conservative leader Kim Campbell called Republican Jack Kingston‘s views on global warming “absolute rubbish,” pointing out to the Georgia congressman that scientists didn’t set out looking for a non-existent problem just to torture right-leaning politicians. When the conversation shifted toward the evolution vs. creation debate, Campbell asked if Kingston was concerned about the alarming rise of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in hospitals. He squirmed. “That’s evolution,” she said to applause. Does 132 days as PM preclude Campbell from a future in politics?
In addition to writing great novels, Vladimir Nabokov was a self-taught expert on the evolutionary biology of butterflies—though, like any amateur, the Lolita author faced skepticism from the scientific establishment. Now one of his most audacious theories has been proven right. A paper published by the Royal Society has endorsed Nabokov’s hypothesis that butterflies are not indigenous to North America, but rather arrived in a series of “waves” from Asia. The new research was made possible by gene-sequencing technology Nabokov never had. Said Naomi Pierce, a Harvard expert who co-authored the study: “It’s really quite a marvel.”
Single White Premier seeks less idiotic press
With three female premiers and a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, Australian voters seem fairly accustomed to the idea of women in politics. The media? Not so much. The country’s biggest national newspaper, the Australian, ran a front-page story about Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings‘s first day in office that zeroed in on her comments (in response to a reporter’s question) about the challenges of snaring a husband when you’re a busy politician. The headline read: “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr. Right.” Critics shook their heads. “Why on Earth was this suddenly relevant the day Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier?” asked one Sydney Morning Herald columnist, noting Giddings was previously an unmarried treasurer and an unmarried attorney general. “It was not as if she had landed from Mars.”