The WesternStandard.ca asked my Tyranny of Nice co-author Pete Vere and I to contribute original essays to the site’s “Freedom of Speech” week.
Here, Pete shares personal anecdotes about his encounters with racism on both sides of the border, and observes:
We talk about tolerance in Canada. More often than not, as our electoral choices show, Canadian tolerance is just an excuse to avoid discussing our differences. Thus Canadians stick to what’s comfortable, what’s least likely to offend the most people. We don’t want our differences to cause division and disrupt the social peace.
Americans, on the other hand, relish their differences. Tolerance is created by confronting their differences, then discovering that they share many of the same values and concerns. Americans understand, rightly, that tolerance is a product of free speech. The First Amendment allows them to get past their differences, correct misconceptions, and move on to more pressing issues.
On the other hand, the folly of subjecting free speech to tolerance and multiculturalism was demonstrated to me during my undergraduate years at a small university in Northern Ontario. During multiculturalism and tolerance week, the university brought in a human rights ‘expert’ from Toronto. She worked for the government, if I recall correctly. She had come to address ‘lingering and systematic discrimination’ among the student body.
Her two prime examples? Two jewels of our Northeastern Ontario geography. Lake Nipissing contained the word ‘nip’ in it, this white woman said, which was a derogatory term for Asians. Obviously whoever named this lake was insensitive to the local Asian community. The other example was Manitoulin Island, which she cited as a misogynous reference to the first white males to settle the island.
In reality, both words are First Nations in origin. Nipissing is the Algonquin word for ‘big water’ and Manitoulin is the Ojibwe word for ‘spirit island’. In retrospect, it’s unfortunate our local First Nations communities did not lodge a human rights complaint over this. This is one complaint I would have supported.