Saturday, August 18, 2012

George Jonas Is Very Confused

National Post columnist George Jonas is very confused.

He thinks free speech is "absolute", but then goes on to recite a list of familiar ways in which it can be and is restricted: defamation, fraud, etc.

The US, for example, doesn't have federal laws against "hate speech", but Canada does. So are we to conclude free speech in Canada is magically absolute, even though you can get away with saying something in the US that you could get convicted for in Canada?

He states, "I’ve always had an issue with expropriating public spaces for private or sectarian purposes" - yet all he needs to do is visit his local library, where private groups use public space all the time. Does he really want to end the local knitting club from using the library meeting room?

Jonas apparently seems not to understand that if the government grants permits to speak (say, at Queen's Park), then it can't restrict those permits on the basis of the kind of speech that will occur. Doing so is evidently a restriction on that "absolute" freedom of speech Jonas seems to cherish.

I sentence Jonas to reading Free Speech in an Open Society by Rodney Smolla.


Anonymous said...

Devil's advocate here: I would assume when he talks about "private" vs. "public" he means "corporate" vs. "non-corporate". As such, the sewing club is definitely not "private". I would 100% agree with the proposition that (say) Goldman-Sachs shouldn't be allowed to use the city library's meeting rooms, at least not for free.

John said...

Anonymous -
If that'a the case, Jonas should have clarified that point in his article. Jeff's "confused" still stands.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Anonymous: read the article by Jonas and you will see that your interpretation is wrong.

Paul M said...

Knitting groups are not sectarian. Unless 'knit 1, purl 2' and 'knit 2, purl 1' are sects.

Paul M said...

Opps - "private or sectarian". Pehpas what he means by "private" is people making money off public space.

cf the "enclosure" laws in 18th/19th century england.