Canadian children weak; cannot handle the truth

By J. DeVoy

A 24-year-old man was arrested in Canada for telling children that Santa Claus does not exist at the annual Kingston parade celebrating this seasonal icon. (source)  While excessively praising this torch-bearer in a dark world of child-coddling would be too try-hard, I would definitely buy him several drinks after his complete exoneration and release from incarceration.  Except, oops, this didn’t happen in the United States where you can freely correct unhealthy delusions without fear of criminal prosecution.

For being “America’s hat,” Canada has remarkably poor speech protections.  Being arrested for telling children the unvarnished truth is but one example; Canada’s complete lack of analogues to 47 U.S.C. § 230 and the SPEECH Act, as well as a breathtakingly broad view of  group libel that includes disparaging remarks about broad loosely related (or unrelated) groups, reveals that the country operates more like Saudi Arabia than the US when pure speech is involved.

The article indicates that the perpetrator was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and a probation violation.  Thus, the story may have a veneer of legitimacy that goes beyond typical “think of the children” idiocy – but not by much.

For more reading on probation violations and offensive expression, see this entry at Popehat ¶ 3.

3 Responses to Canadian children weak; cannot handle the truth

  1. Observerwwtdd says:

    The linked story says he was publicly intoxicated and in breach of his probation……

    Unfortunately no mention of a law against being a loudmouthed asshole of an attention whoring scumbag was mentioned.

  2. J. Devoy suggests that Canada has a “breathtakingly broad view of group libel that includes disparaging remarks about broad loosely related (or unrelated) groups…”.

    Hold your breath and exhale.

    The Supreme Court of Canada in Bou Malhab v Diffusion Métromedia CMR Inc (2011 SCC 9) refused to permit a “class action” for libel by Arabic and Creole speaking Montreal taxi drivers subjected to racist and abusive coments by a local “shock jock” Andre Arthur, a “shock jock” (turned MP) in the course of a radio broadcast.

    Writing for the majority, Madam Justice Deschamps concludes:

    [91] In Gauthier v. Toronto Star Daily Newspapers Ltd. 2003 CanLII 49328 (ON SC), (2003), 228 D.L.R. (4th) 748, a defamation case involving an allegation of reprehensible behaviour by members of a group — the Toronto police — the Ontario Superior Court stated the following:

    In some cases both the size of the class and the extravagance of the allegedly defamatory statements will indicate that they cannot have been intended — and should not be understood — to apply to each and every member of the class. Statements such as “all lawyers are thieves” and “all police officers are racists” would fall within this category which Lord Atkin described as consisting of vulgar and unfounded generalizations. [para. 21]

    In my opinion, allegations that all taxi drivers whose mother tongue is Arabic or Creole are incompetent, unclean, arrogant and corrupt also fall within that category.

    [92] In short, having regard to all of the circumstances, I find that the group is of considerable size and is heterogeneous, that the characteristics attributed to the members of the group are individual and do not lend themselves well to extrapolation, and that the remarks are an extreme, irrational and sensationalist generalization. Accordingly, an ordinary person, while sensitive to such excessive remarks, would not in my view have formed a less favourable opinion of each Arab or Haitian taxi driver, considered individually. I therefore conclude that Mr. Arthur’s comments, while wrongful, did not damage the reputation of each Montréal taxi driver whose mother tongue is Arabic or Creole. The plaintiff did not prove that a personal injury was sustained by the members of the group.

    [93] Moreover, I cannot endorse the conclusion of Guibault J., who in an attempt to make up for the absence of personal injury, awarded a collective remedy. It was no doubt because he considered himself bound by what Rayle J.A. had stated in her decision to authorize the bringing of the class action that he ordered the payment of damages despite the absence of proof of personal injury. However, the Court of Appeal’s decision to authorize the class action did not limit his discretion as the judge responsible for deciding the merits of the action, especially since the legal test applicable at the stage of the application for authorization differs from the test applicable to the merits. Thus, given the absence of proof of personal injury, the respondents could not be found civilly liable and the judge ought to have dismissed the class action in defamation.

  3. Dismoun says:

    I’m just not sure this is a free speech issue. If you can think of a modern first world country where an intoxicated individual would NOT be arrested for wandering around drunk and shouting obscenities during a parade, I’d like to hear it.

    Now per the Kingston Police, http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1290201–kingston-police-arrest-man-who-told-kids-santa-isn-t-real it is obvious that the content of the man’s intoxicated blathering did motivate the officers to attend faster, but I strongly suspect that had he simply been drunk and loud, even if in support of Santa, he would have found himself in the same place.

    Anyone who is on probation with a no-alchohol condition is someone who has, at least once previously, been convicted of an offense for which the court believed that Alcohol was a contributing factor, plainly this is an individual who cannot handle his liquor.

    If you want to slam Canada for it’s poor protection of free speech, do a little digging into our “human rights tribunals”

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