A Saskatchewan People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate is defending comments in support of the use of “hate speech” he made recently on social media.
Some groups say they fear the comments could incite violence.
“Our country could use more hate speech, more offensive comments, more ‘micro-aggressions’, more violation of safe spaces with words and more critical thinking,” Cody Payant wrote on his Facebook page and Twitter account on July 16.
“Words are not violence and when we don’t have them to debate and articulate our thoughts when communicating, then all we have left is guns,” he added.
A confirmed candidate
Payant was nominated in May to run under the PPC banner in Saskatchewan’s Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek riding. He is listed on the party’s website as an official candidate.
Payant said he wrote the post partly in defence of Lindsay Shepherd, a former Ontario teaching assistant who was briefly barred from Twitter following an acrimonious online exchange with Jessica Yaniv, a transgender activist.
But Payant’s broader comments about hate speech and violence were noticed by Yellow Vests Canada Exposed. The Twitter group has monitored comments made by representatives of former federal cabinet minister Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada since the party’s launch in 2018.
So we’re all clear, we have a @peoplespca candidate calling for more hate speech. @mdgmedia @RVAwonk @andraydomise @OmarMosleh @StewGlobal @keithbaldrey @fatimabsyed @NatObserver @ricochet_en pic.twitter.com/7vcjTyxsYA
— Yellow Vests Canada Exposed 🏴 (@VestsCanada) July 27, 2019
An administrator for the Yellow Vests said the group saw Payant’s post as encouraging violence.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network agreed.
“It is a threat of sorts,” said Evan Balgord, the network’s executive director.
The comments hardly came as a surprise, Balgord added.
“It is a fairly common argument, actually, pushed by often right-wing extremists,” Balgord said. “Their conception is if you don’t let me say my hateful things then, oh, I won’t do it, but maybe some people I know or those other more crazy people, if you silence them, then they’re going to get violent.”
‘Hate speech is best said out loud’
In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Payant said he stood by his post and expanded on his intended message.
“Words are a tool,” he said. “Words are what we use to resolve conflicts in our society, so that suppression of free speech or suppression of expression is kind of an authoritarian tool.
“So if I had the choice between free speech and the alternative [violence], the alternative is always much worse.”
It’s better to have people voice their hate and face criticism for it than to have their feelings lead to violence, Payant said.
“Hate speech is best said out loud in the public square so it can be criticized and then broadly rejected by reasonable people in society,” Payant said. “It’s part of how we become well-adjusted people and how we communicate effectively as a society and how we resolve conflicts, and when we don’t have those words then all we have left is guns.
“Words are used to resolve conflicts without resorting to physical violence.”
Bernier will be in Saskatoon Wednesday to confirm the slate of northern Saskatchewan PPC candidates for this fall’s federal election.