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
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
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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