Online Exclusive: Letter: The limits of free speech

Editor, the Gauntlet,

As a Canadian, I am thankful for the rights and freedoms enshrined in our constitution, including freedom of speech. Many countries, governments and private or semi-public institutions engage in tactics aimed at curtailing the rights and freedoms of others. Along with those rights come responsibilities and limits that come out of consideration of the rights and safety of other individuals, or the collective good.

As an example, if a professor of the University of Calgary comes out and suggests (a generous term) on national television that another person should be killed, that raises the question of whether such an expression, while otherwise a right under freedom of expression, crosses the line into offences such as hate crimes or something leading up to planning/promoting the killing of another human being.

While a higher-education institution should invite and support forward thinking, whether or not controversial, such an institution would also be viewed and build its reputation based on how it chooses to support (by its action or inaction) potential or obvious criminal behaviour or extreme poor judgement.

Under such a scenario, would the U of C support its faculty in putting forward any suggestion that the life of another person ought to be taken? If so, whose life? Is that sort of suggestion really forward thinking? Is it what future leaders in Canada should be taught?

Whether the U of C realizes it or not, I would hazard to guess that the nation heard, knows the U of C name and is still listening. Silence would likely be seen as full support.


Gurd Sanghera

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