Thursday, July 6, 2017

"Proud boys" and free speech

An interesting issue has arisen in Canada, as chronicled here by CBC News. When a group of First Nations activists held a protest at a public site in Halifax, NS, on Canada Day, it was disrupted by off-duty military personnel who call themselves "the Proud Boys." Excerpt:
The members of the Canadian Armed Forces who disrupted a protest organized by Indigenous activists in Halifax on Canada Day will be removed from training and duties as the military investigates and reviews the circumstances, says the country's top general. 
"We are the nation's protectors, and any member of the Canadian Armed Forces who is not prepared to be the defender we need them to be will face severe consequences, including release from the forces," Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, said in a statement Tuesday night. 
On Saturday, a gathering of Indigenous people and activists held a protest at the Edward Cornwallis statue in downtown Halifax. The protest was disrupted by five off-duty military members wearing black polo shirts who referred to themselves as Proud Boys. 
Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, was a military officer credited by the British for founding Halifax in 1749. Later that year, he issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi'kmaq people. There's been considerable debate over the use of Cornwallis's name on public parks, buildings and street signs. 
"What happened in Halifax over the weekend is deplorable, and Canadians should rest assured my senior leadership is seized of the matter," said Vance. 
"The members involved will be removed from training and duties while we conduct an investigation and review the circumstances. Their future in the military is certainly in doubt."
Free speech issues are at stake, much as they are when serving personnel engage in hate speech of one kind of another, as has happened in other countries, sometime through the misuse of social media. What is the responsibility of military commanders in these circumstances? Does it matter that the personnel were out of uniform? If no civilian law was violated, should these people be subjected to military discipline?

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