“The great Alan Borovoy, who was the head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for more than forty years, calls freedom of speech a “strategic freedom”. “Because it is the freedom upon which all of our other freedoms are built. “For example, how could we exercise our democratic right to hold elections, without free speech? “How could we have a fair trial, without free speech? “And what would be the point of freedom of assembly, if we couldn’t talk freely at a public meeting? “It is the most important freedom. Indeed, if you had all of your other rights taken away, you could still win them back with freedom of speech.
“Benjamin Franklin once said that “Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech” “Freedom of speech is embedded in Parliament’s DNA. The word Parliament itself comes from the French word, parler – to speak.
“And as Parliamentarians, we guard our freedom jealously. No Member of Parliament or the Senate may be sued for anything he says in here. Our freedom of speech is absolute. “And yet just last week, only a few miles from here, censorship reared its ugly head....
“I rise to join my colleague, Senator Finley, in support of an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech in Canada. “I share Senator Finley’s love of freedom and his concern about the growing phenomena of censorship. “I approach the subject from the perspective of someone who, as a journalist for more than forty years, has used freedom of speech every day of my life, and has seen its essential role in keeping our democracy healthy. “And that’s my first observation: freedom of speech is much bigger than just politics.
“It’s about our right as free men and women to express ourselves in any way we choose – not just politically, but socially, musically, artistically and through every other human endeavour.
“Our freedom of expression is inextricably linked to our right to think for ourselves, to choose our place in the world, to talk back to the world, and even to fight against the world. “If you doubt that, ask any high school rock band why they do what they do! “So while it’s often political speech that grabs the news headlines – we should never forget that millions of Canadians put freedom of speech into action every day, from film-makers to authors, to stand-up comedians, to advertising agencies to PTA meetings and Rotary Clubs. “Free speech is a thread of personal liberty that is woven into every part of Canadian society...
Hopefully this is just the beginning.