The widening attack on free speech

Last month I wrote about free speech. Reaction to that column and a growing concern among fellow writers, brought other related things to my attention.
One writer, who has a book selling well in various countries, has a contingency plan to flee from her home country because she fears persecution based on her religious convictions. As a Roman Catholic with conservative views, she has felt rumblings and may find it necessary to relocate in a country that champions freedom of religion and free speech. Indeed a number of Americans have suggested she move there before those freedoms erode further where she lives.
The writer in question does not live in Cuba, China, or the Middle East. She lives in Toronto. You might immediately argue that persecution based on religious, political, or moral communications cannot happen in Canada. You have every right to argue that based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says in part:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press.
Yet Canadian Human Rights Commissions (HRCs), federal and provincial, regularly hear complaints based on the issues supposedly protected by those freedoms. Historically, the charges related to moral or religious views concerning homosexuality. For example, in 1999, the Ontario HRC ordered Toronto printer Scott Brockie to pay a gay activist group $5,000 for refusing to print their letterhead. They found him guilty for holding to moral and religious convictions. He slandered no one. Essentially, he said, "I can’t do this job for you because of my moral and personal convictions."
More recently the attacks seem to have grown against people who dare to proclaim their convictions based on historical religious values. Catholic Insight magazine is currently the subject of a complaint to the Canadian HRC for material on its website. True, it deals again with the same issue, but the Catholic group now finds it defending itself for believing what Catholics have proclaimed for centuries.  
In 2002, the Saskatchewan HRC ordered the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and Hugh Owens to each pay $1,500 to three complainants because of the publication of an advertisement that quoted Bible verses on homosexuality. Apparently the Saskatchewan HRC feels it has a licence to attack The Holy Bible. Fortunately, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal later overturned that ruling, but not before it had cost those charged a lot of money.
The Charter also says:  
3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
Yet political parties also need to watch what they believe. Complainants have filed three charges with the Canadian HRC against the Christian Heritage Party and its leader, Ron Gray. Here we see a government agency trying to muzzle a political party.
I previously wrote about the complaints against Maclean’s magazine author Mark Steyn, and former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant. In these cases, elements of a religious group have decided to throttle voices they don’t agree with. You do not need legal grounds to lay a charge with a HRC. You just need to feel aggrieved. 
Unfortunately, the federal and provincial HRCs appear to believe in censorship as a means to stop moral, religious, and political discussion. However, hope looms on the horizon. Next week I’ll suggest what you can do to protect your religious and political rights.

Ray Wiseman