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Let all Canadians speak

Gayle Nichol's picture
Wed, 07/03/2019 - 15:20 -- Gayle Nichol

I love a sea of red and white Maple Leafs.

July seems to dawn bathed in the symbol of our Canadian union and people show their nationalist pride in clothing choices and lawn ornaments and of course by hoisting the Maple Leaf in celebration.

We are Canadian.

What it means to be Canadian seems to be changing.

Stepping out of the arena for a moment to look from the sidelines, and it is hard to watch as our countrymen – friends, families, jovial acquaintances – move to their respective corners of belief and try to shut down the voices of those who disagree with their own viewpoint. We have become aggressively single-minded in our determination to shut others out.

I still grapple with what has changed our ability to listen to another differing opinion. I think social media and the rise of countless individual voices has much to do with it. Suddenly everyone has a platform to divulge the very minutiae of each thought they have, and are certain that the world holds its breath to hear what they have to say.

But I’m less concerned with the need for every single person to speak.

I’m far more distressed by the new trend to silence those with whom we disagree.

Working at a media outlet provides a particularly sharp perspective on the issue of free speech.

Readers will come forward to support or dispute almost anything I have written in this space. People were outraged over my support of legalized marijuana. Others viewed my supplying of pizza and donuts to my aging father as elder abuse. They are all entitled to have, and voice, and share their opinions with this paper. That’s what we do. We open dialogue. We are the forum for thought and debate and the pursuit of truth.

A free press is one of the foundations of a democratic society. It provides the checks and balances, and it allows its readership to play a role in that.

Canadians who have fought and died to protect a free and democratic society did so, not to protect their own specific views, but rather to protect that right for all of us -- to have and share and live within a framework that allows us all to have our own views.

And we are tearing that down.

We are not honouring that sacrifice.

Every time we move to silence another. Every time we shame someone for not sharing our viewpoint. Every time we cannot listen, and hear, someone who doesn’t agree with the way we see an issue –federal, provincial or municipal representation, life or choice, single-use plastic, sexual orientation, dietary choices, child-rearing, education – we chip away at the foundation of who we fought to become.

We must speak up to disagree. We must shout, if necessary.

There are hate speech laws at work on a larger scale on a regular basis in the courts.

But we do not have to silence each other, to throw out the newspapers and choose for others what they can or cannot read. It does not fall to each of us to be the censor for others.

It is in this way that we fail. And it is in this way that the Maple Leaf will fall.

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