Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a bold statement that free speech should have “limits” and not be used to “arbitrarily and needlessly hurt” some communities.
The Canadian PM was referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons published by a French magazine that lead to several Islamic extremist attacks in France.
Echoing Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Kahn’s shocking statements this week, Trudeau said on Friday:
“We will always defend freedom of expression…But freedom of expression is not without limits. We owe it to ourselves to act with respect for others and to seek not to arbitrarily or unnecessarily injure those with whom we are sharing a society and a planet.”
He gave an example of someone shouting “fire” in a theater to drive his point home. Yet, in the United States, at least, where the Supreme Court case from which that “shouting fire in a crowded theater” phrase comes,? you can actually shout fire in a crowded theater.
“In a pluralist, diverse and respectful society like ours, we owe it to ourselves to be aware of the impact of our words, of our actions on others, particularly these communities and populations who still experience a great deal of discrimination,” Trudeau added.
He acknowledged the importance of having public debates on such issues but said people should “have these complex conversations in a responsible way.”
Trudeau’s thoughts on the issue were different from France’s President Macron, who defended the people who published the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, sparking anger in Islamic nations.
Macron fully defended free speech during last week’s tribute to the teacher Samuel Paty who showed the Prophet Muhammad cartoons in class while teaching about freedom of expression.
In a meeting with leaders in the European Union (EU) on Thursday, Trudeau condemned the recent extremists’ attacks in France, saying they were “awful and appalling.” On Friday, he still condemned the attacks but argued for the limits of free speech.