Paul Jacob

Canada does not have our First Amendment. It does not have as strong a protection for free speech as we do here in the U. S. of A.

I can say this even as America’s free speech rights have been eroded by McCain-Feingold and other meddling regulations. We’re in bad shape, but Canada’s worse.

So what does that mean, practically?

Canadians are less free to call people they do not like nasty names. That would be a “hate crime,” and that’s against the law.

Now, this is not exactly new. Americans have known about “hate speech” laws for some time. We’ve had our own battles about them. Some people believe that saying nasty things about other people is always wrong. And always worth suppressing.

This is an extreme minority position, though. Even hate-speech law advocates believe in speaking maliciously about people who engage in hate speech. What seems to be the case in all this hate speech regulation is that we are not allowed to hurl horrid phrases at certain people in certain groups.

In America, we’re a little more used to the idea of defending speech we don’t approve of than are Canadians. So Canadians have the hate speech code intact, and Americans have only “flirted” with such codes.

Now, as a matter of what I endorse and condemn, and what my family prohibits, and what my friends excoriate, I am pretty firm. I really do hate hateful speech. But my private condemnations — and my neighbors’ — provide no ground for having our government suppress everything we condemn.

Besides, as an American, the right to say nasty things about people seems part of the whole point of being free. And if that sounds weird, just read the jottings of our Founding Fathers . . . about each other. Mainly about their enemies, but about each other, too. The Federalist/anti-Federalist fight, as it grew into the Federalist/Republican Party debates, often got quite vicious. Very American, very un-Canadian. Downright hateful.

Like our Founding Fathers, I prefer to choose my targets very carefully. Maybe that’s why about the only time I say derogatory things about anyone is when that person is abridging a freedom.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.