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The Canadian 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.

According 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.

According 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.”

Girn is 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.

Respectfully Submitted,

Nicholas Provenzo
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

I recommend you send your own communication as well. The ambassador’s contact info is as follows:

The 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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