First Western leader to talk of ‘respect for others’ and not to ‘injure those with whom we are sharing a society and a planet’
OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended free speech on Friday (Oct 30), but added that it was “not without limits” and should not “arbitrarily and needlessly hurt” certain communities.
“We will always defend freedom o f expression,” Trudeau said in response to a question about the right to show a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, as France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine did.
“But freedom of expression is not without limits,” he added. “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,” AFP reports.
“We do not have the right for example to shout fire in a movie theatre crowded with people, there are always limits,” he argued.
Distancing himself from the position of French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Trudeau pleaded for a careful use of free speech.
“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,” he said.
At the same time, he said society is ready for a public debate on these issues, “to have these complex conversations in a responsible way.”
As he had done the day before with the leaders of the European Union, Trudeau insisted on condemning the recent “awful and appalling” extremist attacks in France.
“It is unjustifiable and Canada wholeheartedly condemns these acts while standing with our French friends who are going through extremely difficult times,” he said.
Canada’s parliament observed a moment of silence on Thursday for the three people stabbed to death earlier in a church in Nice, in southern France, by a Tunisian man who was apprehended.
Anger erupted in the Middle East in response to Macron defending the right to publish the cartoons in France without giving a serious thought on the issue and defending the wrong interpretation of freedom of speech.
Trudeau’s advice is timely and appeals to human intellect as all rights have their limitations to follow for the peaceful coexistence.
Macron made the comments during a tribute last week to Mr Samuel Paty, a teacher beheaded in the street for showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class in a course on freedom of expression. — (AFP with inputs added)