- "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue
freely according to conscience, above all liberties." -John Milton
- "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend
to the death your right to say it." -The Friends of Voltaire
- There is a concerted right-wing effort to clamp down
on liberal academics in the US. The attacks on M. Shahid Alam and Ward
Churchill serve distinct notice that free-speech rights may be constitutionally
protected on paper, but those rights are fragile.
- The assault on free speech is not confined to the US.
Canadian security bills enacted following 9-11 have severely curtailed
freedoms enjoyed by Canadians. Several Muslim Canadians have been rounded
up along with one infamous historical revisionist.
- Sixty-five-year-old graphic artist Ernst Zundel, clad
in an orange jumpsuit, sits on a pile of documents (because he is not allowed
a chair) and sends off his last missives written with pencil stubs from
his prison cell. He has just passed his second year of incarceration without
charge. This prisoner is deemed to be a national security risk to Canada
although he has no criminal record and is avowedly a Christian pacifist.
- Zundel and his supporters have characterized his situation
as a "political kidnapping disguised as a deportation, based entirely
on drummed up charges." The situation was allegedly stacked against
- Once two cabinet ministers signed the draconian national
security certificate, Zundel was denied the right to cross-examine his
accusers or to know all the evidence against him. The Crown needed only
to convince Federal Court Justice Pierre Blais (a former Canadian Security
Intelligence Service head) that it was not unreasonable for two cabinet
ministers to think Zundel might be a terrorist. Now, Zundel has abandoned
his fight to stay in Canada and is slated for early deportation to Germany,
where he will be immediately arrested and tried for his controversial views
on the World War II Holocaust.
- Zundel's lawyer Peter Lindsay said authorities had informed
him there would be no wait for a Supreme Court of Canada review of his
allegation of judicial bias or rule on the constitutionality of Canada's
anti-terrorism laws. Lindsay condemned the legal process as "unfair."
Said Lindsay, "We should care. But ... most of us don't give a damn."
- Blais ordered the expulsion of Zundel, having determined
him to be a hate-monger and threat. "Zundel's activities are not only
a threat to Canada's national security but also a threat to the international
community of nations," opined Blais.
- Zundel's notoriety stems from his challenging the conventional
history of the World War II Holocaust. He does not deny European Jews were
persecuted: "The Jewish community has been victimized, no doubt in
my mind by National Socialist Germany; they were robbed of their human
rights. I say Germans should pay restitution, material restitution moral
restitution to Jewish institutions."
- The German-born Zundel was at one point enjoying a comfortable,
well-to-do life in Canada based on his success as a graphic artist. But
he gave that up when he took it upon himself to correct what he saw as
inaccuracies in World War II history. Said Zundel, "I owe it to myself,
as a person, to humanity, to tell this truth as I found it, and as I know
it-to submit it to people. I don't ask people to love me. I don't ask people
to even agree with me. I don't ask people anything but to let me state
my case and then for them to reflect on it."
- Zundel objects to the holocaust being portrayed as an
exclusively Jewish holocaust. "That Second World War was a Holocaust
for everyone in it. If we are to draw lessons from the Second World War,
we must find out what led to this monstrous event We must find out as
people, as a planet, as human beings what really happened. Because otherwise
we might well overlook when real holocausts are planned in the future."
- "Holocausts come under the guise of laws, robbing
people of their civil rights, their human rights, imprisoning them for
ideas; that's how holocausts start," says Zundel.
- Since promulgating his views on the World War II Holocaust,
Zundel has been threatened, a recipient of a mail bomb, physically attacked,
and suffered an arson attack that destroyed his home. To compound his misfortune,
he has been financially bogged down defending himself and his controversial
views in Canada's so-called justice system.
- Canada does limit free speech rights when hatred is promoted
against an identifiable group. Contrary to what is commonly thought, Zundel
was never prosecuted under the "group hatred" act. He was charged
under an old section of the Criminal Code pertaining to disinformation.
This is incredulous, as Zundel obviously believes in the verisimilitude
of what he is saying.
- At his 1988 trial, Zundel was tried and cleared in the
Supreme Court for disseminating "false news" in the form of a
reprinted 28-page revisionist booklet Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard
Verrall (but penned under the name Richard Harwood). The False News Law
was struck down.
- Zundel stated that all his alleged crimes are Internet-related,
dealing with the "Auschwitz Holocaust problem" and his defense
of the German people. Vituperation is directed at the Zundelsite, which
is adorned with Nazi-style flags featuring a "Z" fashioned after
the swastika. The site carries the transcripts of his previous court appearances.
Zundel considers this his legacy to revisionists.
- The truth of his claims, however, was considered irrelevant.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for investigating
"hate crimes," astonishingly concluded:
- "The truth in some absolute sense really plays no
role. Rather, it is the social context in which the message is delivered
and heard which will determine the effect that the communication will have
on the listener. It is not the truth or falsity per se that will evoke
the emotion but rather how it is understood by the recipient."
- Security Crack
- On 18 February, a crack did emerge in the rigidity of
Canada's national security laws. Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born alleged
terrorist agent, was finally released from a ministerial security certificate
detention after 21 months in jail.
- Federal Court Judge Simon Noel ruled Charkaoui to be
released on $50,000 bail-raised by several prominent Canadians-subject
to a number of strict conditions such as obeying a curfew and wearing an
electronic monitoring bracelet.
- Charkaoui is, however, only one of several Muslim men
being held under national security laws.
- It was not enough to affect Zundel.
- Free Speech Trumps Ideology
- A Marxist-Leninist friend was surprised that I would
write about the ordeal of Zundel. He advised, "Forget about him. He's
a fascist and a Nazi." But he relented to the degree that, harkening
to the wisdom of Martin Niemoeller, if Canadians remain silent about the
human rights of Zundel then who will be there to speak out for their rights
if and when their turn comes.
- Zundel is not a sympathetic figure. He is an unabashed
admirer of the Austrian-born and raised Hitler, who he lauds as "Germany's
greatest son." It is unsure how this squares with his pacifist declaration.
In the vein of Hitler, Zundel is also vehemently anti-Marxist. Marxism,
according to Zundel, is a "psychopathic ideology." In addition,
he adheres to a doctrine of white racial purity.
- Nonetheless, his incarceration and upcoming deportation
are morally wrong. It is relatively easy for progressives to stand up in
defense of progressives when their free-speech rights are imperiled. The
real test for progressives, however, is to defend free-speech rights of
those whose views are anathema to progressivism.
- Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.