I used to live in Edmonton, Alberta, and from time to time I visited the luxurious downtown offices of the Edmonton Journal. What a holdover from an era when newspapers actually used to make money — and when they were the center of a city.
And right there in the lobby was the honorary Pulitzer Prize won by that newspaper way back in 1938. It was for the Edmonton Journal’s resistance to laws introduced by Social Credit premier Bill Aberhart.
Aberhart couldn’t stand critics of his government, so he passed a series of laws, including one that would force newspapers to run “editorial content” written by Aberthart’s government to “correct” the wrong ideas in the papers.
The Edmonton Journal, refused, and railed against this. The laws were soon enough struck down by the Supreme Court.
But look at this, from today's Edmonton Journal:
UCP prepares to roll out Ford-flavoured post-secondary changes in Alberta
The UCP government will require Alberta post-secondary institutions to adopt controversial free speech policies based on U.S. principles that allow speakers, no matter how “unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” say what they like on campuses.
Is free speech a U.S. principle? Is that what our Supreme Court of Canada said in the case of the Press Act and Bill Aberhart? Have you ever — you know — read the Charter of Rights? It’s right there in section 2 b! Or the Canadian Bill of Rights? It’s right there in section 1, d and f!
These policies, the Edmonton Journal continues:
...are called the Chicago Principles.
Hailed by Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides and others as the “gold standard,” they were developed by the University of Chicago in 2014 to demonstrate a commitment to free speech on U.S. college campuses.
But some worry they don’t allow universities to distinguish between groups or individuals who want to speak on campus, be it a flat-earth society, racists or a celebrity.
Here's an example of what the Chicago Principles are all about:
It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.
Can you disagree with that? Well, the Edmonton Journal does.
And having just mocked free speech as something un-Albertan, it goes on to quote one "Professor Sigal Ben-Porath, a University of Pennsylvania free speech scholar, helped Ontario institutions develop Ford-mandated policies."
“We are serving more and more diverse students…. (and) we need to be thoughtful in the ways in which we organize the environment in which they are learning,” she said.
So she’s saying that minorities or new immigrants can’t handle freedom.
Sorry, that’s the soft bigotry of low expectations.
There's more to this Edmonton Journal story, as I'll show you tonight.
I found this newsworthy because I used to live in Edmonton, and I’ve seen that Pulitzer Prize plaque; and I know how a premier tried to shut down the free press by calling it fake news. I loved my Alberta history, my pride in knowing that someone fought back, and lived up to the provincial motto, fortis et liber, strong and free.
Now that same newspaper is ridiculing free speech as a foreign idea, a wacky idea, even an illegal idea.
Sorry. That’s a disgrace.
And you oughta know about it...
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