Government vs. Free Speech
[October 03, 2002]
By Nicholas Provenzo
There are two principles that taken together are the
cornerstone of freedom. One is that an individual has a right to his life.
The other is that an individual has the right to speak uncoerced. Today,
the 2nd right is under threat in Canada.
to Ray Girn, President of the University of Toronto Objectivist Club,
pamphlets sent to his club by the Ayn Rand Institute for an upcoming talk
on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis have been seized by Canadian customs on
the grounds that the pamphlets “have been detained for a determination of
tariff classification as they may constitute obscenity or hate
propaganda.” The pamphlets are a compellation of the Institute’s essays on
the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and include some of the most cogent
analysis available on the topic.
to Mr. Girn:
“It is virtually impossible that we will be able to get
[our pamphlets] in time. Should we not receive our material, this is an
egregious example of censorship, and it should not be tolerated passively.
Even if we do receive it ultimately, the damage will be done in that we
will not be able to hand it out to hundreds of people who would have been
enlightened by its content. The pamphlet's content makes important
arguments, arguments required to defend the state of Israel and
ultimately, the Western world itself. If this is "hate speech", then we
might as well surrender ourselves to the terrorists immediately.”
right. We must not surrender. Accordingly, I have sent the following
letter to Michael Kergin, Canada’s ambassador to the US.
Dear Ambassador Kergin:
It has been recently brought to my attention that the
Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency has detained pamphlets sent from the
US-based Ayn Rand Institute to the University of Toronto Objectivist Club
for its upcoming talk on Israeli-Palestinian crisis. This was done on the
grounds that the pamphlets “may constitute obscenity or hate propaganda.”
The purpose of the University of Toronto Objectivist Club’s
event was to facilitate a rational debate over the causes of the
Israeli-Palestinian crisis and its larger impact on the West. The club
was relying on the Ayn Rand Institute’s analyses for its event. By seizing
the Institute’s materials at the border, the Canadian government is now
preventing that discussion.
This seizure is shocking and outrageous. It completely
negates the long held principle that an individual has a right to speak
freely without fear of threats or government coercion. In an act more in
step with a dictatorship than an enlightened nation, the Canadian
government has taken upon itself to serve as the arbiter of what ideas its
citizens may or may not communicate. If the terrorists seek to kill us,
the Canadian government’s seizure of pamphlets intended for a university
discussion seeks to prevent us from talking about it. I consider both acts
to be just as threatening.
The relationship between the United States and Canada is
perhaps one of the most successful and important in the history of our two
respective countries. Yet when I hear of incidents like the one faced by
the University of Toronto Objectivist Club, it makes me question just how
strong that friendship is. When the citizens of one side are barred from
freely communicating with the citizens of the other, how can it be said
that there is peace between them?
Please investigate this matter promptly and take any steps
necessary to insure that all the materials in question are immediately
released. I also call on your government to promptly re-evaluate any law
that restricts an individual's right to communicate freely.
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
recommend you send your own communication as well. The ambassador’s
contact info is as follows:
Honorable Michael F. Kergin
Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America
The Embassy of Canada
501 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001-2114
Tel: (202) 682-1740 Fax: (202) 682-7619
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