SAFS strongly opposes Human Rights Commissions’ attempts to obstruct public debate on controversial issues. As Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, wrote in March, 2006, in the Calgary Herald: “During the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech …. A free culture cannot protect people against material that hurts." We agree.
We deplore the tactics of the Canadian Islamic Congress and others to exploit the human rights complaint process to bully Maclean’s magazine, and, in effect, the rest of us as well. The Human Rights Commission should confer no legitimacy on their attempt to censor and chill debate. We call for the speedy dismissal of the complaints.
Free speech is essential to our democracy—and to universities, which are the particular concern of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. Without unfettered debate no one will be able discover the truth about controversial ideas, scientific claims, and effective public policy. Preventing debate is the best way to achieve ignorance and force unsavory and wrong ideas underground, and thus deprive others of the opportunity to discredit them.
To advance the cause of reasoned debate, we have posted on our website, www.safs.ca, the human rights complaints launched by Mr. Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, the 70 page document written by K. Awan, M. Skeikh, N. Mithoowani, A. Ahmed, and D. Simard to support claims of alleged unfairness in Maclean’s portrayal of Muslims, and other material explaining the grievance. We have also posted Maclean’s explanation of its position, and columns and editorials of others who, like us, oppose the CIC’s attack on free speech. There is much at stake, and we trust our readers to make up their own minds. Free people do not rely on bullies to tell them what ideas they can read or hear and what to think.