Een columnist in een Canadese krant beklaagt zich over de intolerantie die Canadezen tegenwoordig laten zien. De journalist, een niet-roker, ergert zich mateloos aan de hetze tegen rokers en dreigt een nieuwe organisatie op te gaan zetten, de Union of Pro-Smoking Non-Smokers.
Het wordt tijd dat we in Nederland ook eens zoiets gaan krijgen want ook hier kennen we massa’s niet-rokende sympathisanten die de onderdrukking zat zijn en inzien dat, als deze hetze slaagt, zij ook de kans lopen in een volgende hetze te belanden: de anti-dikke-mensen hetze, de anti-alcohol hetze, de anti-auto hetze of misschien zelfs de anti-sex hetze.
Stop deze hetze nu voordat het de gewoonste zaak van de wereld wordt om mensen om hun levensstijl te onderdrukken…
PARIS — The Gauloises frankly taste horrible, and my faltering inhalations of their wretched fumes are destroying the flavour of a perfect tarte au citron. The fact that I haven’t smoked tobacco since I was a hairy post-adolescent is ruining my efforts to look like a seasoned boulevardier, what with periodic coughing fits and spatters of wine on the front of my shirt from failed attempts to juggle booze and smokes at once.
But I am determined to regain my command of this elegant vice, so that my return to Canada can have its desired effect. I intend to become the founding director of the Union of Pro-Smoking Non-Smokers, so that I can defiantly light up a weed at eating and drinking establishments that have dumbly acquiesced in the banning of an entire people.
Toronto this week became the latest city to force-sanitize its people, in a total butt ban that has managed to erase two years of pot cafés and gay weddings and restore its reputation as the City of Grey Displeasure.
Why have so many Canadians, who are not at all anti-pleasure zealots, allowed this petty tyranny to take place? Well, because most Canadians, like me, don’t smoke. But why, then, didn’t a whole lot of us pink-lunged abstainers stand up for the rights of our nicotine-besotted friends and relatives — not to endorse their habit, but to suggest that perhaps they shouldn’t be forbidden from being indoors with us?
Because that’s not the Canadian way. We consider ourselves a tolerant people, above all else, but at the end of the day, our tolerance extends only to people who are just like us. Canadians, over and over, fail to raise a finger for people who may not share their views and customs. To most of the world, this would be called intolerance.
The failure of non-smokers to speak up for smokers fits into a long and depressing trend. Smoking is a small and petty example. But in recent years, Canadians have been subjected to an alarming sequence of laws that place menacing limits on expression, political behaviour and the rights of ideological and religious minorities. Why was this so easy? Because we did the dividing in advance, so the conquering could be so much easier.
The latest example was Bill C-250, which expanded Canada’s hate-speech law to prohibit the publication or utterance of expressions that could demean or threaten homosexuals. This bill was championed by Svend Robinson, the recently disgraced NDP member of Parliament.
I doubt it had support from most gays, who do not want to see the most significant and successful liberation struggle of our age adding its weight to the same act of legislation that was invoked to successfully prevent Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses from being sold in Canada. Moments after they were freed from unconstitutional limits on their marriage rights, I doubt that most gays would want to have their name used to limit the speech rights of others.
Who spoke up against this ill-conceived bill? “There were half a dozen groups along with us,” says Brian Rushfeldt of the Canada Family Action Coalition, the conservative Christian group in Alberta that led the unsuccessful fight against C-250. Did those groups include any of the liberal freedom-of-expression organizations that are often quoted in this newspaper? “No,” he says. “We could only get other Christian and conservative groups interested in it.”
The precise opposite occurred two year ago, when the Canadian government passed its Anti-Terrorism Act with alarming speed. It received outspoken condemnation from PEN Canada, the country’s most prominent freedom-of-expression organization, which warned that “our government is on the verge of painting many innocent people, including many of our Honorary Members, and possibly PEN Canada itself, with the terrorist brush.”
A good point: The law as it exists could lead to the persecution of many people for lending “support” to “terrorist” groups, two concepts that are never well defined.
So where were the conservative Christian groups? They have an interest in freedom of expression, after all, since their views are often controversial and subject to repression. Yet not one spoke up against the terrorism law.
And where was PEN Canada when C-250 passed a few weeks ago? It is, as its literature states, concerned with “legislation which violates the right to freedom of expression.” This was a clear-cut case.
Even more important, it was close to PEN’s core principles. It is mainly concerned with defending the rights of writers who are persecuted in other countries for challenging the dominant values of those countries. Since Canada’s dominant values include tolerance of sexual diversity, PEN should have eagerly stood up for writers who challenge those values. Otherwise, it is simply congratulating itself.
Yet PEN was not among the groups that opposed C-250. It had rightly championed the Little Sisters court case, in which Canada Customs bans on explicit gay expression were challenged. But equal weight was not given to fighting for the rights of expression on the other side of the ledger. Where was PEN? It spent much of that time taking on the case of Stephen Williams, a true-crime writer who saw fit to publish banned information in the Karla Homolka case.
Just like the Christian conservative groups, this left-leaning organization’s principles extended only as far as its friendships.
I wish this were the only example, but there are many more. Alan Borovoy, the civil-liberties lawyer who stands almost alone among Canadians who have spoken up against laws that limit minority expression of both the left-wing and the right-wing variety, pointed out what I call the Protest Wedge.
First, they passed laws to ban certain types of perfectly legitimate protests, aimed at anti-abortion groups. Left-wing organizations mostly stayed silent, even though those protests were not materially much different from their own. Then the RCMP did some very questionable things in stopping legitimate protests outside international trade gatherings. The right did nothing to help — this wasn’t its issue, although protesting is one of its practices.
The notion that there is something important called “protest” and something equally important called “dissenting speech” should be evident to everyone — even if it isn’t your issue that is being protested, even if the dissenting speech happens to seem offensive to you. It wouldn’t be dissenting otherwise, would it?
So I propose to put a stop to this self-destructive isolationism. You’ll find me at that table over there, clouds of smoke billowing around me, surrounded by conservative Christians, Hamas supporters, abortion-clinic pickets and black-masked trade protesters. This may not be the kind of company you want to keep, but if you want to keep your own less-than-savoury opinions safe — and everyone has one or two such views — then you might want to send us a drink.
Bron: Globe and Mail