My name is Kyle Clarke and last Thursday I had the opportunity to bring the issue of freedom of speech to our candidates in this upcoming federal election (at the Trinity United Church candidates forum). I feel the need to give a proper response, as the question caused more controversy than it ever should have in my opinion.
Freedom of speech is under attack in Canada. It has impacted Canadians of all political stripes, backgrounds and beliefs. Whether you are a Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green or PPC supporter this should matter to you. Between censorship from big tech giants from America and China, government policies such as Article 13 in the House of Commons, and the rise of Antifa, our freedoms are being eroded away and if we do not recognize the problems we are in danger of losing them.
Jordan Peterson, a prominent and controversial figure, came into public discourse in his opposition to Bill C-16. For someone who had been involved with the NDP party in his youth, I find it troubling to see it was the NDP party who made calls to have him silenced after the Conservatives invited him to speak in the House of Commons. The NDP is a political party and has no business telling us who can or cannot speak.
Lindsay Shepherd was a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University. She showed clips of the above-mentioned Jordan Peterson from an Ontario public access show to her class. After a complaint from a fellow class member, she was brought to a meeting with her supervisor, the head of her academic program and acting manager from the university’s diversity and was grilled for nearly an hour. Lindsay Shepherd was ostracized for her university for exposing her class to a diversity of thought and brought before a panel who said what she did was akin to showing Nazi footage. If it can happen to Lindsay it can happen to any university student.
In May of 2019, Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Cooper quoted from the manifesto of the man accused of the mass killings in Christchurch. He quoted from the manifesto to demonstrate that the killer did not hold conservative values and the narrative presented on the matter was indeed false. The committee members voted to remove specific parts of his remarks from the official record. While Michael Cooper was grilled by the media for speaking the truth, not one member of the Conservative party spoke up for him.
This year as the SNC Lavalin scandal erupted, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott spoke out and were subsequently removed from cabinet and removed from the Liberal Party. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear that if you do not tow the party line, you are out.
Those are just a handful of examples of Canadians of all stripes, whether they be liberal, conservative or even unaffiliated in politics to begin with. In addition we are being silenced in the online space by the big tech giants of the world. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are monolithic companies with more wealth and power than entire nations. All of these companies have made it clear that if you do not conform to their Silicon Valley values, you will be shadow-banned, demonetized, or outright banned. In addition there are Chinese tech firms who partially or completely own Canadian and American companies and they impose their brand of authoritarianism.
Lastly, I want to touch on Antifa. I find it wholly irresponsible that four of our candidates, one of whom is a sitting Member of Parliament, do not know what Antifa is. To educate any potential readers, Antifa is short for Anti-Fascist. On the surface they appear to be a grassroots movement in rebellion to the rise of populism in the west, claiming to be fighting fascism. In reality, Antifa are the very brownshirt thugs they claim to be fighting. They show up on the streets and violently assault anyone they disagree with. Having a large presence in Europe as well as America, Antifa is indeed in Canada. On multiple occasions they have shown up to shut down speaking events. One, this raises the price of security, and two they, try to intimidate.
On September 29, Dave Rubin travelled to Hamilton to have a live show with PPC leader Maxime Bernier. Antifa showed up in protest claiming that Dave Rubin and Mr. Bernier were Nazis. They were seen yelling in the face of an elderly couple as they were attempting to cross the street to attend the event. The video has since gone viral and 81-year-old Dorothy Marston has since been nicknamed, Canada’s Grandma. She has been brave enough to stand up for our freedom to speak, and will not back down.
All of these events were on my mind when I asked the question. Because if we aren’t allowed to speak, or have a difference of opinion, we can’t have a free democracy here in Canada. I think the candidates who were ignorant of these issues, and more importantly ignorant of Antifa are wholly irresponsible. Most of all I’m more appalled that my question was singled out for being disrespectful. In the wake of calls of censorship both from corporate enterprises, my own government officials as well as foreign entities how am I not supposed to be concerned for one of our most basic fundamental rights?
I asked a reasonable question. To be talked down to by a Member of Parliament for being concerned over our rights is unbecoming of an elected representative. I’m by no means offended, but I will not keep quiet about it.