Toronto, the home of tolerance, has little patience for so-called “hate speech.” A Canadian city that bears more in common with Europe than the United States, Toronto shares the limited-speech ideals of many across the pond. No one can testify to this fact better than Eric Brazau.
Like most people who wind up at the center of speech controversies, Brazau is hardly a hero. Disturbed over the anti-Israeli sentiment that gripped his city during last year’s conflict in Gaza, he decided to make a public spectacle of himself on the subway. The 50-year-old Brazau hopped on the train last July armed with the blue-and-white flag of Israel. He brought along a friend to record his antics, which mostly involved criticizing Islam and the Quran.
I may be more sympathetic than many when it comes to launching verbal attacks on Islam, but I don’t have a lot of patience for people who simply want to cause trouble. There is a time and a place for protest, and there are avenues better suited to expressing your views than the subway. At least a few of Brazau’s fellow passengers felt the same way; one of them even pressed the emergency alarm, bringing the train to an abrupt stop. Brazau refused to leave, however, and the subway remained motionless for the next half hour.
An annoying dingbat? Yep. Deserving of jail time? Huh? Of course not. But jail time is exactly what he got. Brazau was arrested, denied bail, and thrown in the slammer. He has been there ever since, and last month he learned that it will be some time before he gets out. An Ontario judge convicted Brazau of breaking the peace, causing a disturbance, and defying the terms of his probation. “You had a ticket to ride,” said the judge. “Not a pass to harass.”
Brazau was sentenced to 20 months in jail with time served. That means he will be in custody for another full year for doing nothing more than speaking his mind. On top of that, the judge issued him a weapons ban that would extend throughout the two years of his eventual probation. As a way of explaining this, the judge said, “Language can be a weapon, too, Mr. Brazau.”
Okay. So what, right? It’s Toronto. But this is exactly the kind of legal atmosphere American liberals are desperate to bring stateside. They’ve gotten to the point where merely campaigning against hate speech is not enough. They want to outlaw it altogether. They want to put people in prison for offending their precious liberal views. For causing grief to our nation’s protected classes.
Our freedom of speech is already limited. Calls to violence are prohibited. Direct harassment is considered assault. Threats are illegal, and of course there are the civil matters of libel and slander. That’s not to say those limitations are a bad thing; it’s only to point out that liberals don’t have to move mountains to get their hate speech laws. If they are ever able to persuade the majority of Americans that what that Ontario judge said is true – that language is a weapon – then we can kiss freedom of speech goodbye. And because standing up for free speech means siding with cretins like Brazau, they may not even have to break a sweat.