Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Education, Not Legislation

Jasper townsite from Whistler's Mountain.

Sometimes you've got to step away and take an overview of the situation.

We’ve got some great laws here. In fact, in the years after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was proclaimed back in the 1980s, politicians made some spectacular hay with its provisions.
At least one Alberta MLA suggested that some groups (specifically gay people) had “too many rights.”
The saddest part was the applause she drew.
The way I see it, we’re on the right track if we’re upsetting conservatives.
That aside, among the freedoms guaranteed in the charter is that of speech.
Section 2.b sets it out as

“…freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;”

However, we also have this in the above-linked Charter:
“1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” (Bolding mine.)
Now that sounds pretty good. Most folk could do with being on a bit of a leash. After all, we’ve got to get along.
What it really means is anyone who puts up enough of a fuss can get a fundamental right kicked to the curb if doing so is alleged to be for the common good.
I can even be okay with that to a degree.
But here’s the galling part.
We have Hate Crime legislation here, and I have concluded this not a good thing.
I don’t approve of spreading hate. I would rather such awfulness didn’t exist, but it does. Making it a Criminal Code offence is not the way to rid ourselves of it.
I sure don’t want it encouraged, but making it a crime forces it underground, or makes the perpetrators of the crime lie about why it was committed.
Telling the truth gets things out in the open. More importantly,
letting people spew their hatred in public gets the real cause of the hate out in the open.
I believe the root cause of hate is fear.
Hiding feeds it.
Bring it out to the light and let it starve in the face of reason, truth, compassion, and reality.
When we’re afraid to speak out about our prejudices we whisper about them instead. Rumors go around those who perpetuate these myths are never confronted. They’re not taken to task. They are not given the chance to grow and change.
On occasion a hate-monger goes to trial and gets to be a martyr for his or her despicable belief structure. This feeds the whisper campaign even more.
Education, not a criminal record, is the best way to tackle the problem. We can’t force people to change their prejudices. We can only show them why they are wrong.
Among the problems we have is we’ve taken “equal” and equated it with “the same.”
This is wrong and stupid.
No one is the same as anyone else.
Hell, yes.
The same?
Hell, no.
Hatred stems from fearing our differences. Forcing hate down to a whisper stifles discussion and understanding in favor of rumors, half-truths, and blatant lies.
How are you ever going to know you’re wrong if you can’t make your mistakes in public without fear of going to jail for something you believe?

The above is a touchy subject.
The effects of spreading lies and hate, commonly violent acts, is already a crime.
But what do you think about spreading the lies and hate?
Should that be a crime, too?
I think it should be eradicated with education, not legislation. Laws do not change minds. If they did, then we would have long since eliminated drinking and driving, murder, and just about everything else.
What do you think?


MizFit said...

I struggle with this...I fear I tend more toward legislation at times...protection for those why may not be able to defend themselves but was raised by an AMAZING WOMAN who walked the free speech walk and, while pres of the ACLU, was in favor of the KKK marching because it was their right (and we're Jewish).

I think back to my college days and all the education that didnt 'take' as evidenced by my classmates.

Miz. who apologizes for getting off track.

Leah J. Utas said...

You were right on track, MizFit. Thanks for the view. It is a tough call. Taking away one right of one group is often only a start. More get taken away for all manner of "good" reasons and soon we're left with empty words where freedom used to roam.

the Bag Lady said...

This is such a complicated subject. We deserve to be able to speak our minds, but in the current climate of Political Correctness, several Canadian politicians lately have been crucified by the media for speaking without thinking (something the Bag Lady excels at!).
So does the 'right' to freedom of expression not extend to everyone?

Great post, dfLeah!

Lethological Gourmet said...

You're right, this is a touchy subject. I think that society, rather than legislation, should regulate what people say (for instance, reacting badly if someone says something racist), because there is freedom of speech.

On the other hand, if someone commits a crime (like, for instance, assaulting someone just because they're gay), then I don't have a problem with it being prosecuted as a hate crime. Spewing obnoxious intolerance is one thing, but actually acting on it is something entirely different. So yes to hate crime legislation against acts, no to hate crime legislation against words.

Leah J. Utas said...

df Bag lady, political correctness does more harm than good. I'm all for thinking before speaking (and may actualy try it sometime!) but we shouldn't have to curtail our opinions because of enforced sensitivities. I say bring it all out in the open and get rid of it once and for all.

You make a good point, LG. Legislation against assault et al already exists. Understanding the motivation for it is important to rooting it out once and for all. But I wonder, should assault carrying more weight in the justice system if it's motivated by hate? It brings up the sticky subject of some lives being worth more than others.

Lethological Gourmet said...

That's a good point, the law should treat everyone equally, so a random person on the street who's assaulted isn't any less important than a victim of a hate crime. On the other hand, premeditated and targeted assaults/murders usually have stiffer sentences associated with them, and hate crimes seem like they'd fit more into that category and a random assault (though I have no idea what the difference in sentencing between a hate crime and a non-hate crime assault is, so I'm just talking off the cuff here).

Leah J. Utas said...

Good points, LG, but it all comes done to the simple question: Should we have the right, in a free and democratic society, to express our beliefs without fear?

Reb said...

Love that photo Leah!

The Charter was poorly thought out and passed into law without someone that had common sense checking it first.

I am all for free speech. You are right, hiding it and making it into whispers is only going to feed their particular fire. Inciting riots and other types of violence though needs to be punished. It is a very fine line to walk however, which I suppose is why the Charter is so badly written.

Lethological Gourmet said...

I think we should have the right to express our opinions without fear of criminal liability, though I would agree with Reb that if the speech causes riots (which in turns causes looting, injury and potentially death) then there might be a justification to temporarily curb that inflammatory speech if it looks like it's going to get out of control. But that's a fine line too, because some people might try to curb speech they didn't like just by calling it inflammatory. I think that free speech is definitely all-important, as long as it doesn't cause injury to others.

Leah J. Utas said...

Reb and LG, may I suggest the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do as ye will?"

Thanks about the pic, Reb.

Dawn said...

Love the photo - and then powerful words to follow.

I expect no less from you, Leah. You're a woman who speaks her mind and I like that.

Leah J. Utas said...

Dawn, thank you so much.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

We are writers. Freedom of speech (in all its forms) is sacred. And I don't get to decided who takes advantage of the sacred freedom.


Leah J. Utas said...

Hear! Hear! Df Terrie.

Lethological Gourmet said...

Exactly! If it harm none, do what ye will. Perfect sum up of what I was trying to say :) Freedom of speech is sacred, as long as it doesn't harm anyone.