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By Zoey Jones

The last time I checked, freedom of expression in Canada was covered under section 2(b) in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This sounds like freedom of speech is covered, but on closer examination there appears to be a few loopholes.

In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the right to free expression is "subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democractic society." What does this mean? It means that it can be a very circular argument. On the one hand, freedom of speech can be limited if it's argued that the restriction seems reasonable. On the other hand, the limitation can be lifted if it's argued that it isn't a reasonable limitation. So, what's reasonable? There's the problem. ‘reasonable' isn't defined.

Institutions, particularly schools, run in a similar fashion. The boundaries of free speech usually end up being decided by school administrators, and what is thought to be ‘reasonable' is dictated by school authorities with little input from the student body. In most cases, I would like to assume that the decisions are made in the best interests of students, otherwise, we'd be in chaos. But there are times when it appears that censorship has been imposed based on a limited view of what's appropriate.

Case in point. Think about all the great works of literature that have been banned from schools around the world at various periods over the decades.

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Banned for being obscene in the United States under the Comstock Law of 1873.

Ulysses by James Joyce. Declared the best novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, yet barred from the United States for 15 years.

Call of the Wild by Jack London. Banned in Italy and Yugoslavia for being too radical.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Banned in South Africa for being obscene.

These are just a few of the hundreds of books banned worldwide, because someone said they weren't reasonable for some reason or another.

With rules like these, how could I have argued a case for Oscar's video or anything else that the school may have decided to ban? I'm not normally known for being a radical, but the whole thing made be feel somewhat powerless in a country that is known for its rights and freedoms for individuals.

I guess this is what my parents mean when they talk about getting involved if you want to see change. Hmmm, Prime Minister Zoey Jones has a certain ring to it...

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