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Canadian Supreme Court upholds part of Saskatchewan Anti-Hate Speech laws

February 28, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada

Even while we’re not conducting Socials at the moment, I want to use some of my prep time while you are studying Short Stories and sentence structure to share some of the goings on in our nation’s capital with the hope that it will give us a running start when we return to Canadian history and politics after spring break.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision may spark some ethical TALONS debates. From CBC:

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld key provisions against hate speech in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, but struck down some of the code’s wording in a case prompted by flyers handed out by a religious anti-gay activist, Bill Whatcott.

The court found that most of the pertinent section of the code is constitutional. Although the legislation infringes the rights to free expression and free religion, the court is allowing most of it as reasonable limits.

The article goes on to pull quotes from either side of the case, with Bill Whatcott saying that the decision marks, “A day for Canada,” and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commissioner translating the unanimous court decision to “basically [say that] under no circumstances should hate speech be tolerated.”

To help you find some of your own middle ground between these two extremes, I’ve rounded up some of the editorializing on the case and decision. See if you can identify the values and logical premises that lead to either interpretation below.

The right to free speech is something that citizens in every western democracy cherish (or are taught to cherish) about their history and governments. But deciding as a society where to draw lines (around hate speech, around political rhetoric, and the nature of truth in such speech) is a difficult and ongoing conversation that the Supreme Court continued yesterday.

As many of these upcoming Current Events related posts will conclude, I want to pose the main democratic question to you: what do you think? Did the court go to far in outlawing certain forms of political or religious speech? Or is it the role of government to limit such expressions to protect individuals who may suffer from them?

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