Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Champion of freedom of speech silenced by death

So, farewell then, Douglas H. Christie, champion of free speech. On the wall of your office you had a portrait of Robert E. Lee -- someone who did the best he could fighting for a lost cause.

Mr. Christie was a Canadian barrister -- courtroom lawyer -- who adopted the almost-lost cause of freedom of speech. He believed that any person should be able to give voice to his sincere belief, no matter how odious it might seem to conventional or "progressive" thinkers.

He gained a national profile in 1984 when he took on his first major "hate-speech" case, defending James Keegstra, a teacher fired from his job and charged under the Canadian Criminal Code with promoting hatred, for teaching students that there was a Jewish conspiracy.

Mr. Keegstra was convicted of hate speech, but Mr. Christie successfully convinced the Alberta Court of Appeal court to overturn the conviction, though it was reinstated in 1990 by the Supreme Court of Canada, which effectively rewrote Canadian law to enshrine political correctness.

Over the years, Mr. Christie defended several others for whom no-one else would speak: German Holocaust downplayer Ernst Zundel; "neo-Nazis" Wolfgang Droege and Paul Fromm; white supremacists Doug Collins, John Ross Taylor and Terry Tremain; and alleged Nazi war criminal Imre Finta.

Although suffering from an aggressive liver cancer, Douglas Christie donned his gown and went to battle right up till the end. At the time of his death he was defending Arthur Topham, a British Columbia man facing trial on a rare charge of willful promotion of hatred online.

Mr. Christie had to withdraw from the case last week because the doctors wouldn't let him out of the hospital. He died on Monday, at the age of 66. RIP.

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