I suppose it was bound to happen somewhere in the Western world, but Canada elected to be the first to designate the racist/white supremacist organization “Proud Boys” a terrorist organization. As Ian Austen of the New York Times noted:
Canada formally designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity under its criminal law on Wednesday, a move that could lead to financial seizures and allow police to treat any crimes they commit as terrorist activity.
That groups like the “Proud Boys” are repugnant politically and morally is, to my mind, not even a debatable question. But as the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 1969 Brandenburg v Ohio case, repulsive speech is protected speech. What’s not protected speech is injuring or killing someone–but Canada, like the United States, already has laws to address violent behavior. Canada’s move is of course a sovereign decision, but for me the question is what kind of political and emotional signal does it send to the Biden administration and the now Democrat‐controlled House and Senate? Will we see similar efforts in Congress to pass laws censoring speech the dominant political party finds offensive? Will there be an effort to pass a domestic terrorism law that mirrors, or perhaps even goes beyond, the infamous PATRIOT Act?
In the wake of the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection by supporters of now former President Trump, many of the bedrock free speech and civil liberties principles that have guided us seem up for grabs. Giving into a misguided impulse to “do something” is exactly how we got the PATRIOT Act in the first place. In this case, Congress and the Administration should resist that impulse and not follow Canada’s lead.
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