The Economist: Justin Trudeau’s crackdown on peaceful protests could make things worse
The Economist: 'A vocal minority are fed up with burdensome pandemic restrictions. Many of the young, who have suffered job losses because of lockdowns designed to protect their elders, are especially grumpy...'
'...A wise government would listen to them and respond politely, taking their complaints seriously and patiently explaining why covid restrictions, though onerous, are necessary for the time being.
'Justin Trudeau has done the opposite. First, he refused to meet them. Then, seizing on the fact that a few of the protesters appear to be bigots, he attempted to put all of them outside the boundaries of reasonable debate by condemning “the anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia that we’ve seen on display in Ottawa over the past number of days”. The police already have ample powers to quell disorder. Yet on February 14th Mr Trudeau invoked emergency powers under a 34-year-old law that had never been used before. It would allow the government to declare protests illegal and freeze the bank accounts of protesters without a court order.
'Meanwhile, his Liberal government is mulling two worrying changes to Canada’s already illiberal hate-speech laws. One would allow Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal to impose large fines on those it deems to have used hateful language. The commission has in the past taken an expansive view of what counts as hateful, and defendants would enjoy fewer safeguards than they do under criminal law. The other proposed change would let individuals file legal complaints against people pre-emptively, if they fear that they may be about to say something hateful.
'These are both terrible ideas. The Economist has long argued that free speech should be restricted only under exceptional circumstances, such as when the speaker intends to incite physical violence. Canada’s laws are already more restrictive than this, and the country’s illiberal left would like them to be still more so. Academics have been suspended or disciplined for writing that Canada is “not a racist nation” or for holding gender-critical views. The proposed amendments would give illiberal activists legal tools to harass conservative religious folk, traditional feminists and many more besides, simply for holding views that the left finds offensive. Worse, it would allow some to be gagged before they speak.'