It is funny because this morning (or was it yesterday night :)?), Bambi shared the following personal thought with her spouse: “I so much wish to see a wise, courageous politician, perhaps Mr. Legault, doing something about this problem… It is about time“. Well, Mr. Legault seems to have listened to Bambi’s wish :).
It is true that education is a provincial responsibility in Canada. However, according to Bambi (not mentioned by Québec PM), there is sadly a negative influence from our federal government (through funding of ideas/programs, perhaps based more on US-imported ideologies, which are becoming like our orthodoxies). Despite the good intentions of course, our federal government (without realizing it) may actually be contributing to the problem described below.
Of course, to this we add the increased intolerance of different opinions. In other places like Lebanon sadly, people/activists can be killed because of their different opinions. In our country, people/activists can be cancelled (or silenced). In both countries, there is fear and this leads to self-censorship.
Well, Québec, the “belle” province (or distinct society) of our beautiful Canada, has a tradition of public debates. It is not afraid of discussions and arguments (it even had two referendums on sovereignty and, more recently, a debate on reasonable accommodations). Perhaps because of that, and to keep preserving its unique culture (being a minority in North America), Québec may be perhaps more talented in pushing back against non-sense when it sees it. Who knows? Ironically, perhaps it would be Québec that could help save the rest of Canada from the potentially toxic influence of this US civilizational malaise (or by extension, the malaise of the Western world in general, which seems to be increasingly losing its points of reference).
This being said, thank you, Mr. Legault for suggesting “a serious chat” (or public debate) on academic freedom and freedom of expression in Québec. Bambi hopes it would be an inspiration to all of us.
Without further due, here is Mr. Legault’s tweet, followed by a quick translation of his beautiful Facebook message (https://www.facebook.com/400223946701308/posts/3855424881181180/?d=n). “Merci bien Monsieur le Premier Ministre du Québec”!
“We hear a lot about academic freedom and free speech these days. I am thinking in particular of the story of the University of Ottawa which shocked a lot of people, myself included.
We see that a handful of radical activists who are trying to censor certain words and works. We see a movement coming here from the United States and frankly, I find that it does not resemble us.
What is really worrying is that more and more people are feeling intimidated. They feel forced to censor themselves for fear of being insulted and reported in the public arena.
Professors are being asked to erase the works of some of our great writers, such as Anne Hébert, Réjean Ducharme, Dany Laferrière or Pierre Vallières. It’s absurd. It goes against the whole idea of the university.
And then it’s not limited to campuses. In the fall, I experienced it myself when activists tried to censor my reading suggestions because I recommended a book by Mathieu Bock-Côté, which dealt precisely with the excesses of political correctness.
Recently, a university lecturer testified in a newspaper that she had been denounced and harassed for using the words “man” and “woman”!
It goes too far. The situation is getting out of hand. I think this is the time to have a serious discussion all together.
The use of certain words can hurt, and the pain of those who feel it should be recognized. On the other hand, their just cause must not be hijacked by radicals who want to censor, muzzle, intimidate and restrict our freedom of speech.
Between injury and censorship, we have to draw a line.
While it may be healthy to question certain conceptions or behaviours and avoid offending or hurting, we should not sacrifice our freedom of expression. We need to stand up so that intimidated people know they have the right to present facts and ideas, and that we will be there to defend them.
The same goes for people who are victims of racism. They need to know that we will not ignore hate speech, racist acts or discrimination.
Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of our democracy. If we start making compromises on this, we risk seeing the same censorship spill over into our media, into our political debates. We will stop wanting to say anything anymore. No one will dare to talk about immigration, for example, if every time you bring it up, you get shouted nonsense. Nobody wants that. Not me anyway.
This problem started with our universities, and I think this is where we are going to have to fix it first. Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann is working on this with academic environments to act quickly.
Our universities should be places of respectful debate, uncensored debate and the search for truth, even when the truth may shock or provoke. We will do what it takes to help our universities protect our freedom of expression.
But we also have a responsibility there. We all have a duty to stand up for our fundamental principles in the face of bullying attempts.
If you start to censor yourself out of fear of being insulted, or if you don’t stand up for someone who is the victim of this, you are playing the radical game. I understand it can be scary, but we have to stand up, stay firm. The more people who refuse to give in to the intimidation of a minority of radicals, the more fear will recede.
Happy Saturday everyone.
Your prime minister”