Protect freedom of speech using Canada's founding principles: historian
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Photo Caption: Historian, columnist and documentary-maker John Robson spoke about freedom of speech in Ottawa Jan. 14. (Deborah Gyapong / CCN)
Freedom of speech is under attack in Canada, but it can be defended by returning to Canada’s founding principles, says historian John Robson.
“This is a nation proudly founded on liberty,” Robson told a gathering of POGG Canada Jan. 14.
Canada was constitutionally founded in 1867 “by people who were enormously proud to be the freest people on earth,” he told the discussion group, an acronym for Peace, Order and Good Government.
Canada’s founders “deliberately set out to preserve in the British North America Act the constitutional order coming out of the Magna Carta,” said Robson, a columnist and documentary maker who teaches American history at the University of Ottawa.
Those attempting to defend freedom of speech in Canada have a number of advantages because “freedom of speech in principle is a good thing; freedom of speech like all those other liberties that were given in 1867, is the basis upon which Canada became the great nation that it is; and Canada is prosperous, open, tolerant and dynamic” and has been a bulwark against tyranny in the world in the last century.
Robson said “evidence-based decision making” proves that “liberty has worked.”
Unfortunately people who defend freedom of speech often do so apologetically, as if to suggest “this isn’t how we do things in Canada” but maybe we should.
Canada’s elites are attempting to bring in “ever more burdensome government regulations and laws, and evermore limitations on our traditional freedoms,” which is inconsistent with the reality of Canada’s past, he said.
Instead of trying to persuade people that Canada used to be a free country, and that “it didn’t go very well ... so now we’re going to change things,” they put up an “ersatz history,” a “fake version,” he said.
This alternative history asserts that “we’ve always believed in big government; we’ve always relied on the state; and we were never like those awful Americans with their devotion to freedom,” he said.
Robson pointed out that both Canada and America can trace their founding principles back to the Magna Carta, an 800-year tradition recognizing ancient British liberties that has produced the best government system in the world.
The Canadian story is one that includes “successful resistance to the usurpation of freedom,” he said.