The Carter ruling is correct, though I don’t agree with it

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Criminal Code provisions making assisted suicide illegal:

In a charter precedent that will go down in the history books as Carter vs. Canada, the court unanimously struck down the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death to mentally competent but suffering and “irremediable” patients.

The emphatic, unanimous ruling prompted tears of joy and frustration on both sides of the debate, reverberated through provincial health ministries and doctor’s offices across Canada, and left skittish federal parliamentarians groping for time to digest the implications.

“The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes on the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” the nine justices flatly asserted.

The judgment — left unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court — gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

And to put an exclamation mark on the ruling, the court awarded special costs against the government of Canada for the entire five-year course of the litigation, less 10 per cent to be paid by the government of British Columbia.

The court suspended its judgment for 12 months, during which the current law continues to apply, placing enormous pressure on Parliament to act in what is an election year.

(An aside: remember when Stephen Harphitler was going to pack the Supreme Court with Conservative loyalists who would rubber-stamp everything he did?  Didn’t quite work out that way, did it?)

I’m torn on the issue of assisted suicide.  I fundamentally believe a person should have the right to do what he wants with his body, and if you’re suffering from an incurable, terminal medical condition, I can understand why you’d want to end the misery on your own terms.

I also firmly believe that this starts the proverbial slippery slope toward extending this “right” to people who are not competent to make the decision to end their lives, young children, and that we will ultimately see people given the right to make end-of-life decisions for disabled people in their care.    (Indeed, supporters of Robert Latimer have been arguing for this ever since he took the life of his severely disabled daughter in 1993.)

Andrew Coyne argues that the Court did not seriously consider the implications of its ruling:

…on what grounds could any limit be placed on this right? Once we have embraced the idea of suicide, not as a tragedy we should seek to prevent, but a right we are obliged to uphold; once the taking of life has been converted from a crime into a service — “physician-assisted death” — to be performed at public expense; once we have crossed these sorts of philosophical and legal divides, how is it to be imagined that we could stop there?

The Court airily dismisses concerns that euthanasia will be expanded or abused, as it has been in those few jurisdictions where it has been legalized, as “anecdotal.” Very well. Perhaps the Court is right, that the “medico-legal culture” of Belgium, where assisted suicide is now provided to children and prisoners on demand, is different than Canada’s.

But it is not in the administration of the law that I fear we will see the “slippery slope” at work so much as it is in its interpretation. Perhaps the Court’s confidence that “safeguards” can be devised that will prevent the spread of euthanasia beyond the competently adult and the clearly consenting is well placed. But there can be no safeguard against the Court’s own future decisions.

Some day, someone is going to bring a case before the Court arguing that children with an incurable disease and in “intolerable” pain should also have the right to assisted suicide, perhaps with their parents’ consent. Is the Court really going to condemn them to endure years of excruciating pain until they are of age? Likewise, is it really prepared to leave the mentally incompetent to suffer unbearably, when with the signature of a legal guardian they could be released? Or if personal autonomy is all, why should a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” be required? Isn’t it enough that you want to be dead, but need someone to help?

So, I’m worried about what the Carter decision means.  And yet, paradoxically, I think the Court dealt with the slippery slope argument appropriately.

In deciding whether a law is unconstitutional, a Canadian court must then turn its attention to whether the infringement of a Charter right can be justified “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” as stated in section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In layman’s terms, it must be established that the offending law has an important, pressing societal objective, and that it carries out this objective by infringing upon the Charter rights as minimally as possible.

The Court notes, correctly, that “slippery slope” arguments are speculative by nature:

[118]                      Canada also argues that the permissive regulatory regime accepted by the trial judge “accepts too much risk”, and that its effectiveness is “speculative” (R.F., at para. 154).  In effect, Canada argues that a blanket prohibition should be upheld unless the appellants can demonstrate that an alternative approach eliminates all risk.  This effectively reverses the onus under s. 1 , requiring the claimant whose rights are infringed to prove less invasive ways of achieving the prohibition’s object.  The burden of establishing minimal impairment is on the government.

[119]                      The trial judge found that Canada had not discharged this burden.  The evidence, she concluded, did not support the contention that a blanket prohibition was necessary in order to substantially meet the government’s objectives.  We agree.  A theoretical or speculative fear cannot justify an absolute prohibition.  As Deschamps J. stated in Chaoulli, at para. 68, the claimant “d[oes] not have the burden of disproving every fear or every threat”, nor can the government meet its burden simply by asserting an adverse impact on the public.  Justification under s. 1  is a process of demonstration, not intuition or automatic deference to the government’s assertion of risk (RJR-MacDonald, at para. 128).

[120]                      Finally, it is argued that without an absolute prohibition on assisted dying, Canada will descend the slippery slope into euthanasia and condoned murder.  Anecdotal examples of controversial cases abroad were cited in support of this argument, only to be countered by anecdotal examples of systems that work well.  The resolution of the issue before us falls to be resolved not by competing anecdotes, but by the evidence.  The trial judge, after an exhaustive review of the evidence, rejected the argument that adoption of a regulatory regime would initiate a descent down a slippery slope into homicide.  We should not lightly assume that the regulatory regime will function defectively, nor should we assume that other criminal sanctions against the taking of lives will prove impotent against abuse.

In practice, I do not believe assisted suicide will be limited to those who care competent to request it.  But I concede that this is speculative, and that our courts may very well rule that this is something the disabled and the young should be protected from, not a right that should be extended to them whether we really know they want to exercise it.

“Slippery slope” arguments are considered logical fallacies, and court decisions should not be based on logical fallacies.  I think my fears about assisted suicide may be borne out, but they aren’t inevitable.  And if they aren’t inevitable, the Charter right is not minimally infringed upon.

I know this seems pretty confusing, but it’s a morally complex issue (dominated, like most morally complex social issues, by the loudest and most extreme voices on each side).  To summarize, by head agrees with the Carter ruling, though my heart is worried about it.

Blasphemy is a crime in Canada

Not because we’re living under the Stephen Harper Christofascist dictatorship, though. (Sorry, Michael Harris.)  It’s actually a law that hasn’t been enforced successfully since 1935, but remains part of the Criminal Code of Canada:

Section 296 of the Criminal Code makes “blasphemous libel” punishable by up to two years in jail in Canada.

No one been prosecuted under the law since 1935. As late as 1980, the law was used to charge the Canadian distributor of Monty Python’s film Life of Brian; the charges were later dropped.

Only last month, the heads of Humanist Canada and the Centre for Inquiry, a national organization that promotes “skeptical, secular rational and humanistic inquiry,” met with Ambassador Andrew Bennett, head of the federal government’s Office of Religious Freedom, to note the law’s inconsistency with Canada’s policy of supporting religious freedom abroad.

[…]

Derek From, a lawyer for the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation warns that while the law may be dormant, it is not dead. Britain’s blasphemy law, for example, was considered “dead” until it resurfaced in 1977 when a pornographic magazine was charged with the offence for publishing gay poetry about Jesus.

“It is an open question whether the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of expression will offer any protection,” Mr. From wrote in a 2013 letter to Calgary-area MP and Minister of State for Finance Kevin Sorenson. “This is a constitutional question that has never been tested.”

“The conservative right gets bents out of shape about hate speech provisions because they see it as an unconstitutional restriction of their freedom of expression. But that’s exactly what people who are [irreligious] would say about the blasphemy prohibitions — that they cannot say what they want without freedom of prosecution,” Mr. From said.

There’s no way the offence of “blasphemous libel” is compatible with a modern, democratic society, or constitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  That said, if threats of violence will keep people and media outlets from publishing material some people find blasphemous, what difference does it really make?

(Note: needless to say, an image of “Piss-Christ” was easily found on the CBC website.)

It’s dirty work (and lawyers get to do it)

Canadian Lawyer‘s Gail Cohen praises the late Doug Christie for representing people many lawyers wouldn’t touch:

Christie, often called The Battling Barrister or Counsel for the Damned, became notorious for his defence of some of the most reviled hatemongers in the country. His clients included holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, former Nazi guard Michael Seifert, fascist John Ross Taylor, and white supremacist Paul Fromm. Christie studied law at the University of British Columbia and rose to prominence in the mid-1980s defending James Keegstra, a schoolteacher fined $5,000 for willfully promoting hatred against Jews by teaching his students the Holocaust never happened and that a Jewish conspiracy controlled world affairs.

Christie was strongly criticized by anti-racists, had rocks thrown at him, and his office windows were smashed so many times he had to board them up. Once, someone drove a truck through his office. He was a polarizing figure, there’s no doubt. Christie, along with Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman, were the subjects of Canadian Lawyer’s March 2009 cover story “War of the Words,” which looked at the battle between the free speech advocate and the push for laws outlawing hate. Warman would not consent to have his photograph taken with Christie, going as far as insisting we note in the article that the two men had been photographed separately.

Many of his critics insisted Christie held the same repugnant beliefs of those he defended in the courts but other than his desire to separate the Western provinces from the rest of Canada, his personal beliefs were never really out there on display. Until the end, Christie insisted he was defending those who others wouldn’t. In one of the last interviews he gave before passing away, he told Canadian Lawyer writer Jean Sorensen, “I take cases on principal – I don’t care how long they take or if it costs me.”

[…]

Even the professional regulator saw that Christie was willing to do what most other lawyers weren’t. When the B.C. lawyer got into trouble with the Law Society of British Columbia over some questionable subpoenas, his contribution to society was recognized. Christie was found guilty of professional misconduct but in assessing costs, the hearing panel tried to keep them as low as possible so it didn’t affect Christie’s ability to practise. “The Panel recognizes the Respondent’s valuable contribution to our free society and wants to enable him to continue with his work, which he has often done pro bono or for greatly reduced fees.”

Whether you agreed with Christie or not, he played a pivotal role in the free speech debate in Canada. There have to be lawyers who are willing and able to fight for those no one wants to fight for. It’s the essence of a free and tolerant society. Who, now, will rise up to take his place and defend those people, even if it means possibly being on the wrong end of a thrown rock?

Actually, there’s not much doubt that Christie did indeed support the causes promoted by his extreme-right client base.  But he did what a lawyer is supposed to do: stand up against the power of the state when that state threatens to infringe upon someone’s liberty.

In most cases, this is precisely what lawyers are doing when they take on clients who have engaged in particularly repugnant behavior.  Another example: the Ohio attorneys trying to keep convicted killer Steven Smith from being executed for an undeniably appalling crime.

Condemned killer Steven Smith’s argument for mercy isn’t an easy one. Smith acknowledges he intended to rape his girlfriend’s 6-month-old daughter but says he never intended to kill the baby.

The girl, Autumn Carter, died because Smith was too drunk to realize his assault was killing her, Smith’s attorneys argued in court filings with the Ohio Parole Board, which heard the case Tuesday. And Ohio law is clear, they say: A death sentence requires an intent to kill the victim.

“The evidence suggests that Autumn’s death was a horrible accident,” Smith’s attorneys, Joseph Wilhelm and Tyson Fleming, said in a written argument prepared for the board.

They continued: “Despite the shocking nature of this crime, Steve’s death sentence should be commuted because genuine doubts exist whether he even committed a capital offense.”

Smith, 46, was never charged with rape, meaning the jury’s only choice was to convict or acquit him of aggravated murder, his attorneys say.

However, rape was included in the indictment against Smith as one of the factors making him eligible for the death penalty. Under Ohio law, an aggravated murder committed in the course of another crime — such as burglary, robbery, arson or the killing of a police officer or child — is an element that can make someone eligible for capital punishment.

The Richland County prosecutor said Smith continues to hide behind alcohol as an excuse and calls Smith’s actions “the purposeful murder of a helpless baby girl.”

I’m opposed to the death penalty because of the possibility – make that certainty – that innocent people will be executed.  That doesn’t mean some people don’t deserve to be put to death, however, and it’s hard to imagine what other punishment would suffice for a scumbag like Steven Smith.

That said, his lawyers have a point.  Murder is a crime requiring specific intent – the killer must intend to kill, not just harm, his victim.  Impairment by alcohol is not a defence to most criminal charges, but if Smith was so intoxicated that he couldn’t have formed the intent to kill, then under Ohio law he shouldn’t be on death row.

The state shouldn’t have the power to kill.  But if it does, at the very least it’s the lawyer’s job to ensure that this power is only carried out in the limited circumstances allowed.  Steven Smith might be the most loathsome defendant imaginable, but next time it could be someone someone more sympathetic – or innocent.

Yes, income tax is constitutional

The National Post profiles an Ontario man and his quixotic battle with the Canada Revenue Agency:

Jack Klundert, a Windsor optometrist, has been on an arduous, 20-year protest against paying income tax, claiming it is his “moral obligation” to fight against its unconstitutional collection. The Canada Revenue Agency, and every court in the land, has so far disagreed.

If the tax agency is seen as unyielding, however, the same might be said of Mr. Klundert.

His latest plan to avoid turning over more than $1-million has been rejected, a bid to use money seized from his bank accounts to pay off his criminal fine for tax evasion rather than his tax bill. The government said doing that would allow him to declare bankruptcy and avoid the civil obligation of paying his tax debt.

Last week, the Federal Court of Canada sided with the government but Mr. Klundert remains unbowed and is still fighting the tax assessment in the Tax Court of Canada.

After multiple trials for tax evasion — with a jury twice acquitting him — several appeals, a criminal conviction, jail time, lawsuits and more, he continues to press his anti-tax crusade.

[…]

Up until 1993, Mr. Klundert properly filed and paid his income tax each year.

Then he read a pamphlet questioning the constitutional validity of the federal government enforcing taxation. Soon after, he attended a lecture in Chatham, Ont., by Murray Gauvreau, an Alberta anti-tax crusader who was popular in the 1990s when he went on a cross-country speaking tour spreading his anti-tax message.

Mr. Klundert then read Canada’s tax laws, studied the British North America Act and became convinced it was unconstitutional for the federal government to impose and collect personal income tax.

“I studied it for quite a while. When they wrote the BNA, they did not want direct taxation coming under the laws of the federal government, but under provincial governments,” Mr. Klundert said.

The Canada Revenue Agency, unsurprisingly, says Klundert is wrong.  But even the anti-tax Canadian Taxpayers Federation rejects the argument – which, interestingly, springs from a case involving Halifax’s landmark Lord Nelson Hotel:

Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly called the British North America Act) list subject matters over which the federal and provincial governments can exercise legislative jurisdiction. Section 91 sets out the federal powers; section 92 the provincial powers. Each level of government is stated to have exclusive jurisdiction over its own particular subject matters, which means the other level is excluded from legislating on those subjects. Since each level of government imposes taxes, it is not surprising that under the Constitution each is given a specific taxing power. The federal taxing power is contained in clause 3 of Section 91 which reads, “The raising of money by any mode or system of taxation.” One would find it difficult to devise a comparable set of words which could convey any clearer the intention to make the taxing power of the federal government all embracing in scope.

The provincial taxing power, on the other hand, is contained in clause 2 of Section 92 which reads, “Direct taxation within the Province in order to the raising of a revenue for provincial purposes.”

The argument saying the federal income tax is illegal goes something like this. Since each level of government is afforded under the Constitution exclusive jurisdiction on the subject matter listed to the exclusion of the other (true) and since income tax is direct taxation (true), then only the provinces can impose income tax (false).

The fallacy lies in not reading fully what the provincial taxing powers says. It does not say the provinces have the exclusive right to impose direct taxation. What it does say is that the provinces have exclusive right to impose direct taxation to raise “revenue for provincial purposes.” By contrast, when the federal government imposes an income tax it does so for federal purposes (obviously) and therefore it cannot be said to be infringing upon the provincial taxing power. The provincial taxing power, i.e. direct taxation for provincial purposes, must be looked upon as carving out a small chunk of the ample federal taxing power described above. It means the federal government cannot impose direct taxation (including income tax) for “provincial purposes”, but why would it want to?

[…]

This leads us to a consideration of the Lord Nelson Hotel case. What did it really decide and how is it that over the years it has become the Holy Grail of those who claim that federal income tax is unconstitutional?

The case concerns an attempt by the government of Nova Scotia to provide by enabling legislation the delegation of certain of its exclusive legislative powers to Parliament in Ottawa and also to provide Ottawa the power to delegate certain of its powers to the legislature of Nova Scotia. The Bill was passed in the Nova Scotia legislature in 1947 and because doubts immediately arose as to its constitutionality it was referred to the courts for an opinion. Both the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia en banc and the Supreme Court of Canada found the legislation to be unconstitutional on the grounds that one level of government could not delegate its power to legislate on matters within its jurisdiction to the other level of government and vice versa. The subject matters over which Nova Scotia sought inter-government delegation dealt with employment in industries, works and undertakings. The legislation also attempted to delegate certain indirect taxation power to Nova Scotia.

Those claiming federal income taxes are illegal state that this case decided that one level of government cannot delegate its law-making power to the other (true). They then take a giant leap by declaring that since only the provincial government can impose direct taxes (false because of reasons previously cited) it is unconstitutional for the federal government to impose the ultimate direct tax — income tax (false).

The Lord Nelson Case is one of the leading authorities on the question of interdelegation of legislative powers between the two levels of government, but it has absolutely no application to the question of whether the federal government can impose income tax. [emphasis added]

Complain about your federal income tax all you want – heck, I’ll join you! – but you have to pay it.  Period.

Sometimes, there really is a fire

Whenever a free-speech controversy bubbles up, you can always count on apologists for censorship to declare that “there’s no right to shout fire in a crowded theatre.”

Ken at Popehat, in an absolutely devastating post, explains where that phrase comes from, and it’s not pretty:

In her Los Angeles Times opinion piece justifying prosecution of the author of the “Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube, Sarah Chayes opens exactly the way I’ve come to expect:

“In one of the most famous 1st Amendment cases in U.S. history, Schenck vs. United States, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. established that the right to free speech in the United States is not unlimited. ‘The most stringent protection,’ he wrote on behalf of a unanimous court, ‘would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.'”

Holmes’ famous quote is the go-to argument by appeal to authority for anyone who wants to suggest that some particular utterance is not protected by the First Amendment. Its relentless overuse is annoying and unpersuasive to most people concerned with the actual history and progress of free speech jurisprudence. People tend to cite the “fire in a crowded theater” quote for two reasons, both bolstered by Holmes’ fame. First, they trot out the Holmes quote for the proposition that not all speech is protected by the First Amendment. But this is not in dispute. Saying it is not an apt or persuasive argument for the proposition that some particular speech is unprotected, any more than saying “well, some speech is protected by the First Amendment” is a persuasive argument to the contrary. Second, people tend to cite Holmes to imply that there is some undisclosed legal authority showing that the speech they are criticizing is not protected by the First Amendment. This is dishonest at worst and unconvincing at best. If you have a pertinent case showing that particular speech falls outside the First Amendment, you don’t have to rely on a 90-year-old rhetorical flourish to support your argument.

After Holmes’ opinions in the Schenck trilogy, the law of the United States was this: you could be convicted and sentenced to prison under the Espionage Act if you criticized the war, or conscription, in a way that “obstructed” conscription, which might mean as little as convincing people to write and march and petition against it. This is the context of the “fire in a theater” quote that people so love to brandish to justify censorship.

Sarah Chayes’ L.A. Times column demonstrates how Holmes’ rhetorical dodges can be employed in support of unprincipled and broad calls for censorship. Holmes blurred the line between what the government should be able to prevent (speakers urging listeners to imminent lawbreaking, like riots) and what it would merely like to prevent (loss of support for the war). Similarly, Chayes and her ilk blur the line between what the government should be able to prevent (speech intended to incite, and likely to incite, people to imminent lawbreaking), what it would like to prevent (violence by mobs, whether actually motivated by insulting videos or whether manipulated by forces using those videos) and what it should not be able to prevent (expressions of opinion which might offend someone and be used as an excuse for violence). Holmes accepted you shouldn’t be permitted to make the populace doubt the war efforts in wartime; Chayes and her ilk accept you shouldn’t be able to say things that can be used by distant mobs as justifications for rioting.

I suspect many of the people who want “Innocence of Muslims” banned marched enthusiastically against the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Whether they’re ignorant of what Justice Holmes meant or whether they’ve rationalized it somehow, only God knows.

Omar Khadr and the rule of law

Dan Gardner explains that the Khadr case is not about national security so much as it’s about holding the federal government to its obligations under the constitution:

In 2010, a federal court judge agreed that the involvement of Canadian officials in Khadr’s detention and interrogation brought the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into play and that Khadr’s Section 7 right to security of the person had been violated. It ordered the government to ask the American government to send Khadr back to Canada. The federal court of appeal agreed. So did the Supreme Court.

[…]

But then the Supreme Court balked.

Traditionally, courts have been very deferential to a government’s exercise of its prerogative power to direct foreign affairs. And for good reason. Courts have not the expertise, capacity, or mandate to conduct foreign affairs. But they do have the expertise, capacity, and mandate to uphold the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — which had clearly been violated.

The Supreme Court tried to square the circle. “We conclude that the appropriate remedy is to declare that, on the record before the Court, Canada infringed Mr. Khadr’s s. 7 rights, and to leave it to the government to decide how best to respond to this judgment in light of current information, its responsibility for foreign affairs, and in conformity with the Charter.”

So the Supreme Court didn’t order the government to ask for Khadr’s return. It did not order the government to act at all. But given the gravity of the ruling, it clearly expected that the government would act.

Facing a grossly unfair trial, and life in Guantanamo if found guilty, Khadr accepted a plea bargain of eight more years in prison, with transfer to Canada after one. The government signed on. Does that honour the Supreme Court ruling? It’s hard to see how it does. But at least it’s something.

Or rather, it would have been something if the government had upheld the bargain. But it hasn’t. Instead, the government has pretended Omar Khadr doesn’t exist.

In doing so, the government has disregarded the Constitution and ignored the Supreme Court. Arguably, it has even been contemptuous of both.

Omar Khadr is a citizen of this country. What you think of him doesn’t matter. He is a citizen. And if the government can do this to him, it can do this to any citizen.

Roach v. The Queen

A Toronto lawyer is pursuing legal action against the requirement that new Canadian citizens swear an oath to the country’s formal Head of State:

Charles Roach estimates he has at least a year and a half left to live before brain cancer kills him.

The Toronto lawyer and activist has spent nearly 50 years in courtrooms, trying to win mostly human rights cases.

He wants one more victory before he takes his last breath.

Roach, who moved to Canada in 1955 from Trinidad and Tobago, wants to become a Canadian citizen. In the 1970s, he fulfilled the requirements to do just that.

But one thing got in the way of receiving his citizenship certificate.

He refuses to pledge allegiance to the Queen, something he has to do in an oath all citizenship candidates older than 14 must take to become Canadian.

“In my belief, the Queen represents or is the most important representation of inequality and racism. I cannot take an oath to a symbol of racism,” said Roach, referring to England’s colonial past. He believes that anybody, regardless of their family lineage, should be able to serve as head of state.

[…]

On June 18, the Ontario Superior Court gave Roach and three others the green light to continue to argue that the oath to the Queen is unconstitutional.

The four plaintiffs, half who aren’t Canadian and half who say they took the citizenship oath “under duress,” must each file individual applications to the court by Sept. 21.

The decision was a victory for the Roach camp, who hope to argue the case in the next six to eight months.

Anyone else think this is kind of like moving next to an airport, and then suing to shut it down because of all the noise from the planes?

Update: Dan Gardner on Canada’s historical ties to the monarchy, and whether we’re really prepared to throw it away:

There was a period, after the Second World War, when “new” meant plastic, Formica and all things shiny and wonderful. “Old” was simply in the way. The result was a wave of destruction as old buildings were reduced to rubble and replaced without the slightest consideration for what would be lost. We have regretted that mania ever since.

Today, it’s hard to imagine that mentality, at least in our built environment. We protect heritage architecture. We know that age has inherent value.

Anyone can see that by taking a careful look at the Stanley Cup. Donated by an English nobleman to the winner of the “Dominion Hockey Challenge,” everything about it is archaic, right down to its curlicue decorations, but its very visible age doesn’t diminish its value. It is its value. Its age makes it a symbol of continuity, stitching together decades and generations. It is the history of hockey in one object.

Of course age alone does not place venerable things or institutions beyond all other considerations. Old trees are still cut, old buildings torn down. Change continues, as it must, always. The Stanley Cup has been reshaped and altered countless times. The monarchy itself is the product of a thousand years of constant revision.

But today we only make these changes after careful consideration of what would be gained and lost — with history weighing heavily on the latter side of the scales. That’s what’s missing in glib calls to junk Canada’s monarchy. There’s no appreciation that the monarchy is this nation’s oldest institution, no weight given to history, no respect for age.

“How About Defending Speech Because It’s Speech, Not Because You Agree With It?”

I want to print this post from Popehat, frame it and mount it on my wall.

…Say that someone sues, or threatens, or abuses someone whose ideas you despise, someone whose good faith you doubt, someone working for political or social ends you are struggling against. If that censor is successful in any measure, are you harmed? Yes. You are harmed because the next censor, the one gunning for you or someone you agree with — is emboldened. You are harmed because people, in general, are deterred from discussing controversial ideas. You are harmed because when censors are successful, censorship increasingly becomes the norm, and the populace’s already tenuous support of principles of free expression ebb a little more.