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Interview with John Carpay — President, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/04

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: As a formal topic in postsecondary institutions in Canada, there have been issues around prevention of free speech in arguably the most important area in Canada, i.e., the academic system. What seems like the set of motivators behind these obstructions?

John Carpay: There is a growing cultural trend, especially among millennials, that assumes people have a right to be free from hurt feelings, discomfort and offence. In doing so, the fundamental right to free expression, as well as academic freedom in the scholarly context, is necessarily compromised. Some words and ideas will be offensive to someone, thus the two cannot co-exist. Either we have a right to free speech, or a right to be free from offense, but we cannot enjoy both.

Jacobsen: For those younger and in the international community, what should they bear in mind as to the importance of the ability to speak one’s mind in a public, and especially an academic, forum?

Carpay: History often favour the activists and agitators. The great social movements that have resulted in things we consider normal today, like the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, gay rights, etc. would not have been possible without free expression. Each of these movements, at their time and place, were deeply offensive to the majority. These ideas violated the “Safe Space” policies of their time. But that didn’t make them wrong. Calls for censorship are made by people who see their own beliefs and opinions as infallible. But truth can withstand vigorous challenges and criticisms without crumbling.

Jacobsen: Cultures adhere to multiple, mutually contingent principles and values. Some conflict more than others. In Canada, what principles and values, in the culture at large, seem to conflict with freedom of speech the most? How does the law or attempts at instantiations in law restrict — or potentially limit — freedom of speech?

Carpay: Political correctness is growing in Canada, and threatens our fundamental right to freedom of expression. In some provinces, human rights legislation conflicts with the Charter right to free expression, as in the recent case of BC school trustee facing a Human Rights complaint for speaking out against the province’s curriculum guidelines on transgenderism.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, John.


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