There is a Toronto radio station that announces several times a day that it plays music for a “crazy world.” That is not just an advertising agency’s gimmick – we do, indeed, live in a world gone mad. What not so long ago was accepted as good and proper is now loudly and brazenly condemned. That which was abhorrent and shunned in normal society is now the norm.
That norm is not just the virulent anti-Semitism that has again reared its ugly head all over the world – frequently, but not so successfully, attempting to hide behind a mask of anti-Israel activities, such as BDS. Tragically, the real casualty of what is happening everywhere – and Canada is far from being exempt – is the rule of law. Whether it is lack of respect for morality, intolerance toward those whose beliefs differ from one’s own, discriminatory failure by the authorities to enforce laws, sham charities illegally distributing funds to terrorists, disguised support for terrorism, the stealthy introduction of religion into the public school system, wilful distortions in media reporting, suppression of free speech, false assertions of what is hate – even newly revealed political interference with public prosecutions – all these are in full bloom.
If the rule of law is in danger, so are we all. This danger has led a registered charity, Canadians for the Rule of Law, of which I am president, to organize an upcoming “teach-in” in Toronto. The full-day event will feature panel discussions and lectures from experts in subjects such as propaganda in the media, hate speech, religion in the public space, terrorism and public safety, and the illegal activities of registered charities. There will also be an examination of the efforts of “lawfare centres” in Canada, Israel and the United States. Among the participants will be well-known experts, including Anita Bromberg, Tahir Gora, David Matas, Salim Mansur, David Nitkin, Michael Mostyn, Andria Spindel, Robert Walker and Irving Weisdorf. The thrust of the teach-in will be the recruitment of volunteers to assist in research, advocacy and litigation. For the first time, citizens will have the opportunity to do something more consequential than the traditional wringing of hands.
The event, scheduled for March 17, has not been without controversy. When preliminary announcements were made, two self-declared adherents of “progressive Zionism” decided to squelch freedom of speech. They railed against what they improperly defined as “hate.” Using the horror and fear created by the murderous attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the antagonists set about instilling fear in the leaders of Toronto’s Beth Tikvah synagogue, which was to have been the event venue.
They alleged that one or two of the many presenters were “Islamophobes” and “homophobes,” and initiated a campaign to muzzle what they called “hate speech” (which, in reality, is the free speech that true “progressives” hold sacred). Further fulfilling their real role as retrogressives, they descended on the rabbi of Beth Tikvah, resulting in the board of that synagogue denying the use of its premises, for reasons of security. One of the antagonists, taking advantage of his regular column in these pages, triumphantly condemned his interpretation of the nature of the teach-in, without the slightest knowledge of its real program. An unsuccessful step was taken to scare off a committed speaker. (A report on the whole tumult ran in the same edition of The CJN.)
In Canada, hate speech is specifically dealt with in legislation and has been defined in court decisions. It cannot be defined at the whim of free-wheeling, self-appointed guardians. Despite the ill-conceived efforts of those who would stifle free speech and encourage the taboo against discussing, advocating and following the rule of law, the teach-in will go ahead.