Thursday, February 12, 2009


Shhh! You can’t say that. This is Canada. You might offend someone! God forbid if he should have his beliefs questioned. In a democracy of all places. We once were a nation of two solitudes, English and French. Now it seems to be the ambition of government, in all its guises and agencies, to create a Canada of 33 million solitudes, each defended from incoming ideas that might disturb his comfort zone. A Canada where no one can talk to anyone, a democracy that cannot have a real national conversation about anything of fundamental importance. Like the role religion should play in our lives. Our right to make our own choices. Or our right to determine what our population level should be.

Case in point. The Halifax Transit Authority recently refused to place an ad from “Humanist Canada” that did not even question the existence of God, but only the need for God. It simply wanted to tell the people of Halifax that “You can be good without God”. To the bus company, that message is too incendiary. After all, too many of the 75% of Canadians who believe in God and His importance might experience a sudden outbreak of goodness from 8 million non-believers and have their whole belief system rocked. At the very least, they might become upset. Oh dear me, imagine becoming upset. That clearly violates our Constitution under the Section reading, “As a Canadian you are guaranteed the absolute right never to be upset by contrarian opinions.” That is reflective of our more famous assertion that our country is devoted to “Peace, order and good government”. A dream never realized in any of those categories. But still a dream worth pursuing obviously. Not like the American commitment to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Who needs liberty? It only upsets the peace.

One appreciates the fact, of course, that Canada is not the only beneficiary of this British attitude. After all, last year the town council of Peterborough, England, saw fit to spend the taxpayers’ money on prosecuting and fining a man who dared to wear a T-shirt adorned with a slogan they thought inappropriate for the tender eyes of his fellow citizens. But hey, we invented Official Multiculturalism for Darwin’s sake, and enshrined the concept that citizens have the right never to be offended.

The fallacy is, though, that citizens of any kind are offended. Rather, they choose to take offence, and are encouraged and programmed to look for opportunities to be offended by, that is, to take offence at. After all, if one can offended enough times, it earns persecution points in the quest to have your chosen identity category be certified as a legitimate and officially designated “victim” group. Once you earn that status, you are guaranteed state immunity from criticism. Thereafter, any legitimate criticism of your group can only be tolerated if it comes from within your group. That is quite a recipe for a healthy democracy, isn’t it?

On the contrary, a healthy democracy is not a Diversity Hyper-Sensitivity session. Its mission is to encourage a diversity of opinions, thoughts and ideas. Not to smother expression of differences in the name of harmony, for harmony does not follow from censorship but from the full ventilation of differences. Don’t believe me? Ask the people in the former Yugoslavian Republic of Serene Tolerance. Only by having those differences defined by public debate can they be resolved. But tell those in government that, or the agencies of government, like the Halifax Metro Transit Authority. They insisted that they will not advertise a message that is “controversial or upsetting”, leading the President of Humanist Canada, Pat O’Brien, to ask:

“It would be interesting to see what vegans think about the KFC ads---I mean, at what point do you stop offending people?”

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