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Oh Canada

Matt Welch, over at the Reason Hit & Run blog, comes across this piece of nuttery from the land that gave us Dan Ackroyd and John Candy. How sad and oppressive that nation appears. Of course, there is no reason for anyone else to gloat: in Britain, we have more than our fair share of censors and wannabe controllers of supposedly offensive messages.

Canada does seem to be prone to a lot of this sort of nonsense. Mark Steyn, a Canadian national now living in New Hamshire, has had his problems with self-appointed guardians of what is considered to be acceptable to say and write.

My old man, when in the RAF in the 50s, once nearly emigrated there to serve in the Canadian air force. You might now be reading me with a Toronto or Vancouver dateline. Oh well, Dad chose to move into farming instead.

Erratum: I previously said John Belushi was Canadian. He was not. Sorry for the error.

34 comments to Oh Canada

  • Alsadius

    On behalf of all sane Canadians, I apologize for making the rest of you read this.

  • My sympathies, Alsadius.

  • Sigivald

    Occasionally, on the internet, I’ll run into Canadians who like to posture about how “free” Canada is compared to the horrible and authoritarian United States.

    This is yet another reason (beyond the “Notwithstanding Clause” and the perennially illiberal “Human Rights Councils”) to mock such assertions.

  • Someone ought to tell the Canadian “authorities” that in the UK (whence hails Mark Knopfler) a faggot is a meatball in gravy. And that if a Brit says he needs to go out and “get some fags”, a rapid response unit of the Mounties is quite unnecessary.

  • Dale Amon

    Originally it was a log on the fire… not quite sure how it got from there to other meanings, but the original is still there.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Do they really have the power to ban songs from all radio stations? In the UK in the past, when songs get “banned” all it really means is that they don’t play them on the BBC. Does our own Broadcasting Standards Council have power to do such a thing? If I want to play something genuinely unpleasant like The Macc Lads on a local FM radio station, can someone actually stop me?

    And what do they do about operas? In a world which can’t permit Dire Straits can we really allow Madama Butterfly’s ghastly racial stereotypes? Or the shocking sexism of Don Giovanni?

    It seems that everything’s gone wroo-ong since Canada came aloo-ong…

  • another_anon

    They’ve banned ‘faggot’??

    That’s so gay…

  • If the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ban a song that is sung in character (as the thoughts of some ordinary bloke watching music videos and envying the stars their “money for nothing”), you’d expect them to ban all those plays that include racist, sexist and homophobic villains.

  • PeterT

    Good banking system though. Shame about the people and weather.

  • Stonyground

    Whenever I have heard Money for Nothing on UK radio the offending verse is missed out completely. Both Independant and BBC stations have an annoying habit of editing rude words from songs. Rather than a bleep there is a sort of audible void where the word should have been or sometimes a non rude word is clumsily inserted instead. There is no consistency with regard to which words are edited in this way, Ami Studt is not allowed to say ‘arse’ but The Divine Comedy are. In the song Get the Party Started Pink was forbidden to sing the phrase ‘You’ll be kissing my ass’ but it was fine for Shirly Bassey to sing it. Christine Aguilera’s Candy Man seemed to have more gaps than words when you heard the radio version.

    F*****g Prudes.

  • Kevin B

    So I looked up the etymology (Link) of faggot and find that in the bundle of sticks sense it was

    “Especially used for burning heretics (emblematic of this from 1550s), so that phrase fire and faggot was used to indicate “punishment of a heretic.” Heretics who recanted were required to wear an embroidered figure of a faggot on their sleeve, as an emblem and reminder of what they deserved.”

    In the queer sense they give the following quote as an example:

    He [the prefect] used to fag me to blow the chapel organ for him. [“Boy’s Own Paper,” 1889]


    One of the obsolete senses is given as “vote manufactured for party purposes”.

    So be careful what you call that nice Mister Huhne.

  • llamas


    ‘In the queer sense they give the following quote as an example:

    He [the prefect] used to fag me to blow the chapel organ for him. [“Boy’s Own Paper,” 1889]

    The editors of the Dictionary of Etymology have the wrong end of the stick entirely.

    While there’s no doubt that That Sort Of Thing went on a-plenty at British public schools, the suggestion that a ‘fag’ was tantamount to a catamount is entirely incorrect.

    A ‘fag’ was a junior boy who would do chores and so forth for a more senior boy, and as a result would generally acquire a somewhat favoured or protected position. The senior was generally expected to help the junior with his studies, as far as he was able, and to protect him from bullies and the more egregious attacks of other upperclassmen..

    To ‘fag’ one’s junior – one’s ‘fag’ – was to require them to do something – not, as is suggested, to ‘blow the chapel organ.’



  • Laird

    And I presume that “blow the chapel organ”, as used in this sense, simply meant to operate the bellows so the pipe organ could be played. Remember, this [1889] was long before electric bellows were common, so someone had to manually operate the pump. Pretty straightforward sentence, really.

  • Kevin B

    llamas, the etymology site only suggests that the modern gay usage may derive from the British public school sense. The quotation they give is, perhaps, an etymologist’s joke.

    Being of a suspicious mind, I also wonder whether the writers of the Boy’s Own Paper were doing a bit of a ‘Round the Horne’ on the public of the day, but then I’m an old cynic.

    Perhaps I should recant and join the Canadian DJs in wearing a fasces on my sleeve.

  • Yep. Still, Knopfler meant what everyone thinks he meant – but he wasn’t speaking for himself, obviously.

  • Paul Marks

    Either there is free speech – or there are anti “hate speech” or “discrimination speech” laws.

    One can not combine freedom and “anti discrimination” (i.e. getting rid of the right of free association and nonassociation), but the modern system claims to combine the uncombinable.

    Just as one can not combine “justice” (to each his own – property rights) with “social justice” (the idea that income and wealth rightly belong to the collective and should be “distributed” according to some political rule) yet some moderns talk about “justice” and “social justice” as if they were the same thing – not the totally incompatible concepts that they are.

    Also the concept of a “right” is either a LIMITATION on government power OR some nice thing the government gives you – it can not be BOTH.

    Yet such things as the International Declaration on Human Rights (and so on) mix up lists of “negative” and “positive” rights as if there was no philosphical incompatibilty.

    In short most modern poltical philosophy (as taught in the universities and so on) is a total mess.

    And that has a direct practical effect – because politicians, administrators, MSM people and so on are NOT totally corrupt, they do sometimes try to do put into effect good policies.

    However, how they define what they should do (what they should aim at) is shaped by their ideas – the ideas they were taught (and, at least in part, remember) from their college days – with the constant reminders of official reports and other such (and the work of various organizations – out to “train” or “further the education” of politicians and administrators, and judges and ……).

    And these ideas are a total mess.

    So policy – the basic PRINCIPLES of policy is a total mess.

    And it is not just Canada – it is just about everywhere.

  • Getting back to the point, one thing that struck me about this story was that one complaint was enough to get a song that has been popular for 25 years banned, at least from public radio.

    PS Johnathan, could you unsmite my earlier comment?

  • David Gillies

    Err, llamas, you mean ‘catamite’. A catamount is a mountain lion, which generally take grave exception to any overtures of molestation.

  • Russtovich

    Not a great day to be a Canadian but…

    … as far as I know the rulings by CBSC (Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that decreed this piece of excrement) are not binding.

    In fact there is a station in Edmonton that plans to play “Money for Nothing” non-stop for an hour tomorrow and are urging Canadians to write to the CBSC over this fiasco.



  • Bod

    If I remember correctly, ‘fag’ is a contraction of the Yiddish ‘faygelah’, which might (I’ll defer to someone with some knowledge of pronunciation) may also be part of the reason we also have ‘gay’ too.

  • Tedd

    Canada does have a pretty stupendous problem of constraints on free speech. And, once in a while, it’s humiliating to be a Canadian for other reasons (such as our Prime Minister jumping on the anti-US bandwagon for domestic political gain back in 2002-2003, just like some European leaders.)

    But, all in all, it’s a pretty good place, freedom-wise, on the scale of contemporary western democracies. Admittedly, not the toughest scale to score well on, but still. And, yes, in some ways that even includes the U.S. Yes, our gun laws are more restrictive, but still less so than anywhere else in the Anglosphere outside the U.S. Economic freedom is not far off of what it is in the U.S. and, given present trends, likely to be better before much longer.

    Canadians seem to have a strange affliction wherein we value what someone says over what he or she does. We’re not very tough on people who commit hate-filled crimes. (Prior to 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in history was committed by Canadians, against Canadians, on Canadian soil, and the perpetrators have yet to be convicted, barring a couple of minor players.) But we over-react massively when someone says something we think is naughty. I don’t understand it, either.

  • Valerie

    If you’re refering to the Belushi Bro.’s of comedic fame, both were born in Chicago, Illinois. Let’s not forget Martin Short or Jim Carrey.

  • Laird

    And don’t forget William Shatner!

  • llamas

    David Gilles wrote:

    ‘Err, llamas, you mean ‘catamite’. A catamount is a mountain lion, which generally take grave exception to any overtures of molestation.’

    You are right, of course – I was so taken with the alliteration that I suspended thinking.



  • When the BBC tried this with Fairytale of New York, there was outrage and they backed down:

  • RAB

    But.. but… he was talking about large tasty pork based meatballs, surely? 🙂

    It is also of great comfort to us great unwashed that judging from Natalie’s earlier comment, contributors also get smited.

  • There was a case in the US (I think) where a teacher got in schtuck for using “niggardly”. The Powers accepted the meaning but objected to it’s sound and how others might interpret…

    You see not only is being offended protected but being offended through one’s own ignorance is as well. It can therefore never end.

    Even if you are a catamount 😉

  • Millie Woods

    Now just a minute! As a Quebec born Canadian I feel obliged to set the record straighht. For years the MSM set the tone for political correctness and wishy washiness. Quebec and Ontario were Canada. The rest, the west and east existed only to be exploited and laughed at. Well all that has changed thankfully with the bankrupting literally and morally of the two central powers and thanks to oil and natural gas developments the scorned outlying provinces are coming into their own. I love it.

  • Petronius


    which terrorist attack was that? The bombing of the Air india airliner over the Atlantic?

  • Tedd


    Yes, that’s the one.

  • Kim du Toit

    Wait till they ban Othello because of the “black ram tupping your white ewe” line.

    And some brainless asswipe is trying to publish Huckleberry Finn (surely one of the most subversive novels of racism ever written) without the word “nigger”.

    And some guy of similar asswipery complained, during a debate about the Dallas City Council budget, that the term “black hole” was demeaning to his race, so those racist astronomers need to watch their step too.

    Fucking hell. Even the mighty Jonathan Swift would be throwing up his hands about now and saying, “I quit.”

  • Adam Maas

    While the Belushi brothers are indeed from Chicago, their frequent partner in crime, Dan Ackroyd, is indeed Canadian.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Kim – the use of the word “nigger” in Huck Finn is (of course) subversive and is meant to be.

    Even at the time people said to themselves “hey that nigger is a good man – perhaps Huck should not be calling him that and looking down on him [which he does a bit at first – almost automatically], perhaps I SHOULD NOT …..”

    Mille Woods – Alberta is still tied to the rest of Canada.

    Unless they are going to leave the Dominion, there is only a certain amount they can do.

    Take the example of Nevada in the United States. 90% (or there abouts) is unconstitutionally “owned” by the Federal government. Vast amounts of money are taking in Federal taxes (dragging down the State – which would be a low tax place if it were not for the Federal level taxes).

    And even if one believes that Federal government spending “compenstates” for Federal taxes (which is an utterly false theory) Nevada does not get “much money back” (an absurd concept anyway – as it is the taxpayers who pay the money to the Feds and they are not the people who would get the “money back”).

    Yet leave the Union? Unthinkable.

    That is how Federations (and Confederations) get out of control.

    By the way I am NOT a supporter of the people in Gray – the Confederates really were about slavery (not freedom). But if a State or “Province” does not have the right to leave a Union (or Dominion on freedom grounds (not on the grounds of how they enjoy whipping their slaves) because the government really has become an unconstitutional wild spending monster (which the Union was NOT in 1860-1) then hope fades.