Some freer than others
The principle of free speech is that *all* are free to say what they wish, without any infringement. Adding "within limits" to that principle really makes speech not free.
What the proponents of Canada's hate speech legislation are saying is, I think, that to say what is not considered acceptable by the majority is not to be permitted.
How would they feel about a law that said that those people who do what is not considered acceptable by the majority is not to be permitted?
In a poll for the Washington Post in association with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, reported here, 57% of Americans said they found homosexuality unacceptable. Most Albertans agree. I couldn't be bothered looking further, but you'd get the same story, I suspect, elsewhere in the western world.
Don't get me wrong. I don't care who fucks who. I believe equality for all in all matters is a sound principle. My sister-in-law married her girlfriend, and I'm happy they're happy. Can't really grasp why I would be otherwise.
However, the values a society holds change. They are not eternal. They are always in flux. What's "acceptable" today will not be tomorrow, and vice versa. I might believe some things are right in themselves but that is just one belief among many. We forget that sometimes.
We need only remind ourselves that there are those in the USA who believe that "traitors" should be silenced (many of the same people who believe that "terrorists" should be imprisoned in small cages without trial).
I deplore hate speech. I deplore it when I hear it in the streets, and I deplore it when I see it written. I'll confront it when I hear it, even. But I'll never tell the speaker they don't have the right to say it. On what grounds could I? That it's unacceptable to me? That makes me a censor - a position I think I wouldn't be comfortable in.
Does that mean I welcome an environment that is "anything goes"? No, it does not. I do believe hate speech should be confronted. I believe its perpetrators should be shown to be wrong. I believe we should protect our minorities, not by banning people from saying bad things about them, but by showing that we stand with them, that we think we are their equals, that the haters do not speak for us.
Above all things, if we silence the haters by using a law, I fear we are giving them the message that what they say has power, that somehow we fear it. We don't.
If we are sure we are right, our rightness should prevail. We don't need a law to make us right.