Today's discussion:

‘You don’t have a First Amendment right to camp out on campus’: FIRE president Greg Lukianoff on how to determine when protest goes too far

Greg Lukianoff, the president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, discusses the pro-Palestine protests on college campuses, how to determine when protected expression crosses the line into harassment, and the state of free speech in academic institutions.

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Peter Morgan

Not a lot to discuss here. It seems pretty obvious that hate speech like “Go back to Poland” should not be tolerated in public, least of all in a school where the target group pays or is required to attend. Ditto for direct calls for violence such calls for “Intifada Revolution” and for actual obstruction of movement. Fortunately this hasn’t been seen much in Canadian schools except at places like York whose student council has a long history of supporting authoritarian regimes. It was Cuba back in the 70s when I attended. “Ryerson” a close second.

The hate preached on the streets is another story and I worry that our authorities are hoping against hope that it will all go away on its own. As we can see, avoiding the problem just makes it worse. Troubling as well is that there appear to be clandestine groups organizing and funding protests, groups that likely are not based in Canada. I say troubling because our federal government doesn’t appear to care if foreign entities disrupt democratic processes and instead view all conflict in light of electoral prospects. I hope our university admin can show more spine than our politicians if called upon to act.

23rd April 2024 at 7:43 am

Obvious difference btw Canada and US but I like the American focus of crossing the line is on the behaviour and patterns.
In Canada we are seeing troubling patterns and behaviours from ProHamas protestors that consistently cross the line. It appears to be their full time job as if they are funded to be out there to harass day after day. They often set up in predominantly Jewish areas (pattern) and are extremely aggressive and intolerant of others. The consistency of these protests & increasing aggression feel like some type of radicalization.

To take from K Popper, it’s time to be “intolerant of intolerance” before someone really gets hurt.

23rd April 2024 at 10:33 am
Kim Morton

For the last 30 years, BC loggers have been facing the same kind of violent protests, often with benign government reaction, and sometimes with elected MLAs actively involved in illegal protests. The right to protest is important. So is the right to earn a living in a legal manner. Protests should take place in front of government buildings, not in the workplace, and most certainly NOT by creating boobytraps and hazards that can kill workers. The fact that our extreme left courts have often let protesters off free, even after multiple offences, is only rubbing salt in the wounds. Now, polite society is reaping the rewards of these policies. The answer is to enforce the laws we have, not submit to intimidation.

23rd April 2024 at 9:40 am
A. Chezzi

I wonder what would be said if a group of pro-Palestinians protestors took over Parliament Hill as the “freedom” convoy did? Would Poilievre be there with coffee and doughnuts? Would the police be so lenient about passing out tickets or arresting people? Would Ford be so slow to implement a crisis program? Would the protestors be called freedom lovers or terrorists?
I agree violence is not an extension of free speech. It is the antithesis of free speech but what is good for one group of protestors and if the pro-Palestinian protestors became violent, by all means apply the law but if not, then they have the right to protest, even with hot tubs.

23rd April 2024 at 8:42 am
Kell Petersen

Canada and the rest of our Western democracies’ political-economic government system of Philadelphia 1787 based on since governed by laws Magna Carta! Offer my dictum from way back, “science and reality are the only basis on which a government in a western democracy should act! To do otherwise is to succumb to the mob and forego the advice of the ancients who gave us our democratic underpinnings in Philadelphia – 1787!” Franklin “If you can “keep It”! Judaism and Christianity were reformed from the inside by leaders who embraced science and democracy. So, must Islam be reformed from the inside to coexist with democracy! Muslims, particularly women, should ask themselves, ‘where is Islam leading us? Palestinians should look within themselves and towards their leadership! So, the hope is that Islam will be reformed from the inside to live in harmony with democracy!

23rd April 2024 at 7:47 am
Gordon Divitt

If these students are not protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Somalia’s civil war, Yemen’s civil war, etc etc then what’s happening is straight antisemitism.

23rd April 2024 at 11:04 am
Gord Edwards

In their 2018 book The Coddling of The American Mind, Lukianoff and co-author Jon Haidt address the roles of safetyism and concept creep in the rise of the ‘words are violence’ mantra so common now in society. While a product of the far left, it is a concept that has been too readily adopted by others – be they the old liberal left, somewhere in the centre, or actually on the right.

Defining speech one finds offensive as hate speech and demanding government intervention to stop it is great – as long as ‘your side’ is deciding what is acceptable to say and what is criminal. But you can’t guarantee that your views will always align with the vocal portion of society or government ideology. Criminalizing expression is a knife that can cut both ways.

Glorifying the barbarity of 7 October should rightly be condemned, by officials and the public. Speech can cross the line into direct intimidation or what Lukianoff calls discriminatory harassment. But the bar should be high and I think it is s safer for society to focus legal limitations on behaviours rather than ideas and views.

23rd April 2024 at 10:44 am

I don’t really see any real solutions being offered by here. Saying that the US requires fewer Bachelor graduates isn’t enough.

23rd April 2024 at 8:01 am

Why must everything and everyone be labeled,which of course creates more division and distrust. Can we not address each other, person to person, and understand that we are one race, the human race?

23rd April 2024 at 12:31 pm
Xiaoming Guo

If the year-long Hong Kong Riote in 2019 is a “peaceful protest” as the mainstream media named it, then there is no protest can go too far. We are a country of common law judging by precedent cases. Our geopolitics narratives are openly dishonest and are the biggest disinformation that deteriorates the moral principle of our society. When our mainstream media and politicians are hypocritical, the whole society is cynical.

23rd April 2024 at 10:18 am