The American Political Science Association meets this week in Boston, and one of the questions they will consider will be whether they should meet as planned next year in Toronto. After the prosecution of Mark Steyn before a provincial Human Rights Commission this year and the demand of another commission to a Christian publication to cease criticism of gays and lesbians, APSA wonders whether debate on Islam, homosexuality, or other topics could result in prosecution. A nascent boycott movement has sprung into existence, and APSA leadership has decided to consult legal experts on potential liability:
As the American Political Science Association prepares to meet in Boston this week, a small network of scholars — including a pair of high-profile social conservatives — is circulating a petition asking the association to think carefully about its plans to meet in Toronto next year.
At issue are Canada’s federal and provincial human-rights commissions, which have recently been accused of trampling on free speech. In a decision last May, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission ordered a right-wing Christian organization to “cease publishing in newspapers, by e-mail, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.” And Maclean’s, the Canadian newsweekly, was brought before a British Columbia tribunal in June for publishing an allegedly anti-Muslim article; the tribunal has not yet issued a ruling.
The political-science petition, whose initial signers include Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Harvey C. Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard University, warns that scholars visiting Toronto might face legal jeopardy if they made controversial statements. Scholars should be able to speak about “public policy concerning homosexuality or the character of and proper response to terrorist elements acting in the name of Islam, without fear of legal repercussions of any kind,” the petition reads.
At the moment, APSA has not decided to make any changes to its plans. They want to study the question of liability first before making any decisions. Even the petition doesn’t yet demand a boycott, but expresses concern about the potential for malicious prosecution for those who freely debate issues surrounding terrorism, war, and social policy.
This careful approach may make sense in a legal sense, but APSA has a greater scope than interpretations of law. APSA stands for free political debate, unfettered by government censorship and dire financial consequences. Unfortunately at the moment, Canada doesn’t protect those values, preferring a government-mandated speech code imposed by threat of force or financial ruin. The case against Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, and MacLean’s showed this; even though they were eventually exonerated (with a remarkable dollop of ungraciousness by the Commission), it cost the defendants a fortune to clear themselves of a ridiculous charge.
Until Canada disbands its commissions that impose political correctness on citizens and visitors, APSA should find another venue for its mission. Perhaps this will in some small way shame Canada into listening to its better instincts and stop government censorship of political discourse. (via King Banaian)