By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
In their latest bout with the Leviathan, Canada’s little guy and gal came away with a victory: Judge Richard Mosley ruled last week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2022 use of emergency powers to break up protests against Covid-19 restrictions and mandates was unjustified and “infringed” on the constitution. Truckers 1, Nanny State 0.
But don’t break out the Molson yet. The government says it will appeal, and the case could end up at the Supreme Court. As clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor emeritus Jordan Peterson can attest, that doesn’t augur well for Canada’s Forgotten Man.
If not for the wide latitude the high court has given the administrative state across Canada, an Ontario regulator wouldn’t have the power it’s now using to punish Mr. Peterson for his political beliefs. As Bruce Pardy, executive director of Toronto-based Rights Probe and a professor at Queens University in Kingston, explained in an August op-ed for the National Post, “judicial deference grants control not to a monarch but to a professional managerial class.”
That “broad discretion in the hands of administrative bodies,” Mr. Pardy wrote, “has become the foundation of our modern system of government.” The Peterson case is only the latest example of creeping Canadian authoritarianism.
Mr. Peterson hasn’t seen patients since 2017. He makes a living as speaker, author and podcaster. He calls himself an “online educator.” He has five million followers on Twitter. He is, in a word, influential.
He’s also controversial in that he bucks the academy. According to Ontario court documents, he’s been the subject of complaints since 2018 about his public statements “on topics of social and political interest, including transgender questions, racism, overpopulation, and the response to COVID-19, among others.” The complainers—none of whom seem ever to have been his patients—mainly tweeted their objections to the provincial licensing board known as the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
The board’s job is to regulate for competence, not for political views. Nevertheless it assigned a committee to investigate the complaints. In March 2020 the committee recommended no action, though it said Mr. Peterson’s “manner and tone” were of concern.
The griping continued. In August 2022 the board wrote to Mr. Peterson on behalf of its panel of investigators about his “demeaning, degrading and unprofessional” public statements and the “harm” they could cause people. He could solve the problem, the bureaucrats said, if he would agree to attend a re-education camp of its choosing.
Mr. Peterson declined the offer—though he wrote in a letter to the board that he had turned to people in his life he trusts for advice and counseling. The board said failure to be re-educated its way “may constitute professional misconduct.” This is all the more surprising because there was no disciplinary hearing, a necessary step in a judgment of misconduct.
Mr. Peterson took the board to the Ontario Divisional Court, which ruled against him in August. Earlier this month the Ontario Court of Appeal said it wouldn’t hear his case. That’s the end of his legal road. Either he agrees to provincial rehabilitation or he might lose his credential.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s Mr. Peterson’s worldview, not his delivery, that has gotten him into trouble with the authorities. After all, online snark isn’t yet a crime in Canada. Court documents cite instances of name-calling politicians and his refusal to use pronouns other than those that correspond to biological sex. In May 2022, court documents say, “he commented on a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover with a plus-sized model, tweeting: ‘Sorry. Not Beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.’ ”
In his willingness to fight back, Mr. Peterson may be an outlier. Many Canadians undoubtedly prefer self-censorship to the risk of getting crosswise with the Red Guard or being reported to human resources. But Mr. Peterson is a polemicist who is unafraid. This makes him a problem for the mob and a danger to a system that relies on cultural repression to advance its agenda.
It isn’t necessary to decide whether Mr. Peterson is correct in his views, or in the way he expresses them, to decry this bullying from on high. In a free society there is a right to be wrong. Sardonic commentary is an age-old rhetorical weapon. Mr. Peterson is entitled to his politics as much as the butcher or the baker.
If only Mr. Peterson’s treatment were an exception to the administrative state’s modus operandi. In 2018 the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia refused to credential Trinity Western University’s law school because the university makes students take a vow not to engage in sex outside marriage, traditionally defined. This would seem to be a matter of religious freedom. But the court said the regulator was acting in the public interest.
A court that cancels liberty has lost its way and the nation can’t be far behind.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady is an Opinion Columnist, writes «The Americas,» a weekly column on politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada that appears every Monday in the Journal. Ms. O’Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She was appointed an editorial board member in November 2005. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund. EnergiesNet.com does not necessarily share these views.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), on January 28, 2024. All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.
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EnergiesNet.com 01 29 2024