Free to speak

By 
  • February 13, 2009
{mosimage}It strikes us as very Orwellian, the scenes found on many of the university campuses across Canada these days.

These supposed bastions of free speech look more and more like they come right off of the pages of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Remember how in Orwell’s classic novel, which reflects on the ills of the Soviet era of Joseph Stalin, that all animals on the farm were to be equal, none above the other. Yet as time goes on, we find while all animals are equal, some really are more equal than others.

Let’s move from 1945, when Animal Farm was published, to 2009 and onto Canadian campuses. Change a few words and we have, “We are all free to speak, but some are more free to speak than others.”

The latest example comes from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. A Feb. 5 talk on campus by the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform’s Jose Ruba, sponsored by the Saint Mary’s pro-life student group and Campaign Life Nova Scotia, was loudly disrupted by pro-abortion protesters, to the point that organizers were forced to shut the talk down. It was subsequently moved to a neighbouring church to be completed (see our coverage on page 8).

Of course, this comes on the heals of the battles other pro-life groups have had across Canada. Unlike other campus groups, pro-lifers have struggled for the right to recognition on campuses such as Carleton University , Capilano University , Lakehead and  other institutes of higher learning over the past few years. Support for these bans comes right from the top of the student political hierarchy, the Canadian Federation of Students , which is openly pro-choice.

This was topped off in Calgary where trespassing charges were recently laid against members of Campus Pro-life for a controversial display it set up on the university’s grounds in November.

Say what you may about the CCBI and Campus Pro-life and their controversial methods — CCBI has even drawn the ire of such noteworthy Catholics as Calgary Bishop Fred Henry — the issue here is free speech. If it is good for one group, it is good for another. It reminds one of Voltaire’s idiom, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Let’s face it, all the divergent views out there surrounding abortion or any other topic are here to stay. People will agree to disagree on just about anything and everything. That is life as it always has been and always will be.

Free speech is one of our society’s greatest freedoms. Back in the days of the Cold War between the Soviet bloc and the so-called “free world,” it was the right to free thought that was among the most clear distinctions between the competing societies.

So if we are going to believe in freedom of expression, let’s not make it selective. Pro-life supporters’ right to express their opinions, and have them heard, is as valuable as another group’s. Even on campus.

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