HANNAFORD: Trudeau's free-speech act fails the test of real life

"Lips pursed..." Prime Minister Trudeau delivers an emotional, but in Nigel Hannaford's view a deeply disingenuous, tribute to freedom of speech and cultural expression.
"Lips pursed..." Prime Minister Trudeau delivers an emotional, but in Nigel Hannaford's view a deeply disingenuous, tribute to freedom of speech and cultural expression.CPAC

Justin Trudeau's views about free speech are pretty well described in a story President Reagan used to tell about the Russians.

As he told it, an American and Russian were comparing their rights. The American says, "In America we have free speech. I can go right up to President Reagan and say, 'You sir, are completely wrong and a terrible president.' " The Russian says, "So what, we have free speech too. Any time I like I can go up to President Brezhnev and say 'President Reagan is wrong and he's a terrible president."

You have to hear Reagan tell it his way. But in Parliament Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau told it his way, sort of, while making a statement regarding the Hamas attack on Israel. And he's like Brezhnev. As long as you agree with him, as a Canadian, you have an inviolable right to freedom of thought and speech.

This is what he said. "We live in a country that upholds the freedom of expression, including religious and cultural expression, and every Canadian should feel safe doing so. This is the right and freedom every Canadian has under our charter. Canadian liberty is not about taking away the freedoms of others, but living in a way that expands and strengthens freedom for everyone."

Bold words indeed. How fortunate for Canadians that their prime minister is a man of such pure mind and impregnable intellect that words like these flow easily from his lips, to water the fertile soil of their democracy.

Yes, well. Although I completely agree with what he said, I'm not sure he does. In fact, it sounds a bit fake. An act.

In fact, perhaps even a cruel joke.

For, even as he utters the words in the House of Commons two very ordinary Canadians, Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are defending themselves in what is technically a criminal trial, but is actually for their part in a peaceful protest against government overreach during the COVID scare.

If it happened in Brezhnev's Russia, we'd have had no problem calling it what it looks like, a political show-trial. Certainly, the difference between these proceedings and what might have taken place in the USSR is more one of degree than of kind.

Nor is this prime minister respectful of religious and cultural expressions he doesn't care for.

He wrote off a whole group of Canadians who were merely trying to make a point about government getting too big, as 'racist, misogynist and holding inappropriate opinions.' And as readers may have observed from my friend and colleague Jonathan Bradley's report this morning, he doesn't much care for freedom of religion when it comes to Remembrance Day services, either. No prayer allowed.

This is also the government that's looking to give Heritage Canada a bigger budget to police the Internet for disinformation and political beliefs. One wonders who decides what's a legitimate attempt by a Canadian trying to make a point and what threatens the Trudeau-esque vision of an orderly, submissive people on the Chinese model he admires so much.

No, the prime minister's remarks to the Commons yesterday were masterful in their drama-teacher delivery but lack the ring of truth.

As one person observed to me, the words of his lips — tightly pursed you may have noticed, to convey a depth of feeling beyond audible expression — seemed to be read from a piece of paper, rather than emanating from the spontaneous thoughts of his heart.

Exactly. Like so much else about the prime minister, it's all for show. Trouble is, unlike Reagan's comedy routines, the joke's on us.

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