How Cowardice Kills Free Speech

August 27, 2019 Updated: August 27, 2019

“Free speech is the mother of all freedoms,” said retired Canadian professor Salim Mansur. If so, Canadians have deep reason to be concerned.

Fair comment is being unfairly censored in the face of activist pressure. The recent removal of billboards that said “Say NO to Mass Immigration,” regardless of if one agrees with the message or not, is only one of some disturbing examples from recent years. Do Canadians care?

Canada’s most recent kerfuffle concerns third-party advertisements in favour of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). True North Strong and Free Advertising Corp erected billboards in five cities that had the “mass immigration” message and also featured PPC leader Maxime Bernier. Patterson Advertising Corporation provided the billboard space, but flip-flopped on the issue in less than a day.

“We take a neutral position on ads that comply with the ASC code as we believe Canadians do not want us to be the judge or arbiter of what the public can or cannot see,” the company said in a statement on Aug. 25.

However, its principled conviction melted in mere hours. “It was never my or Pattison Outdoor’s intention to offend, alienate or in any way insult the public by allowing this ad to be run,” said president Randy Otto. So, even though there was nothing wrong with the ad, they would review their policies, and take the ad down.

Is this an isolated incident? No.

In December 2017, CBC announced it would show “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” The BBC documentary talked to Canadian parents, doctors, and politicians to answer the question. Among them was Dr. Kenneth Zucker, an eminent expert on childhood gender dysphoria. After 30 years of practice, he lost his job because of his stance that “affirmation therapy” was not preferable, and that it was better where possible to help children be comfortable in their own skin. The episode affirmed that parents should be able to choose this approach (or the trendy “affirmative” approach), and the government should not deny them.

Activists tried to stop the documentary before it aired in the U.K. but failed. However, their efforts succeeded in Canada, and the CBC yanked its planned showing of the film the very day it was to air. York University PhD neuroscientist Debra Soh said in an op-ed for CBC the decision “should leave everyone unsettled” since “ideology is taking precedence over science.”

The CBC wrote the Canadian Press to say, “”We think that there are other docs that better offer insight into the realities of the transgender community and we look forward to airing those in the future.” Unfortunately, the public broadcaster never aired another documentary on the subject except “Child Drag Kids” earlier this summer.

Then there’s abortion. Had pro-abortion groups prevailed, Canadians would never have been able to pay their own money to watch the American blockbuster film “Unplanned.” Activists threatened to boycott any theatre chain that screened the movie about former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson. She worked at a Texas clinic that provided 22,000 abortions during her time there. Then her active participation in an abortion procedure shocked her conscience and led to her departure.

This year, Johnson told Canadians in Ottawa at the March for Life, “You gotta stop being so dang polite. Life is on the line. Children are being killed, dismembered in their mothers’ wombs. There is nothing polite about abortion, and it is time for us to stop cowering to the liberal media, to your liberal parliament. Enough is enough.”

Ten thousand Canadians responded by signing onto to a nine-month boycott of Cineplex to match the gestation period of a baby. Caught in an activist war, Cineplex compromised. In Canada, a nation of 37 million people, just 56 theatres showed the film. Then, despite packed theatres, its one-week run ended.

Yet, the intimidation game continued. At least two independent theatre owners received death threats. A third theatre owner was “harassed to the extreme.” But of these, only one pulled the film as a result.

Their courage and example should give Canadians at least a little hope. Advertising companies and media organizations may give way to fear, greed, or political correctness. Yet, at least a few remain who won’t back down even at the price of their lives and livelihoods.

As Canada’s freedoms face a precipitous fall, some yet remain who will stand on guard.

Lee Harding is a freelance writer and People’s Party candidate in Cypress Hills-Grasslands (Saskatchewan).

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.