What does freedom of expression mean? For me it represents a Montesquieuian framework of society where all the parts watch over the other. These checks and balances are crucial to ensure that basic civil liberties enshrined in documents such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights are vigorously defended and encouraged.
Even though the law is pretty clear what ethnic incitement is, it is an important safeguard that won’t allow certain groups to go on a vigilante rampage against certain minorities.
Freedom of speech works in the same way in the United States but with a very big difference. US’ mosaic society, which comprises of many ethnicities, has learned to live in relative peace after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Europe is still light years away from the United States never mind Canada. All we have to do is open our history books and read about the horrors that took place in the former Yugoslavia, the racism that groups like the Roma suffer, and the Nazi Germany regime that over-dosed on its own madness.
Some Europeans still live so far back in time that they believe that diversity and innovation are threats.
The aforementioned are stark reminders of how Europe is still having a difficult time coexisting with minorities. That is one reason why the rise of far-right groups in Europe are a cause for concern.
Motives are another aspect that puts into question those ultra-right nationalistic groups. Are they really interested in defending everyone’s civil liberties if the first thing they would do if in power would be to put minority rights in cold storage? Can you trust a group that claims to defend civil rights with one hand and bashes certain minorities with another?
Do you set a good example for others to embrace your culture if the first thing that you show them is your loathing?
Any sensible person with a strong sense of justice and equality would not go around insulting and inciting other ethnic groups because they are different.
There are certain practical rules of conduct on how you behave when with members of the same groups or with those belonging to another culture. These rules only require common sense and are there because they facilitate peaceful coexistence.
Rule of thumb number one: Treat others like you would treat people in your own culture.
I personally believe that as our societies become more diverse we will find the right balance between what is appropriate and inappropriate. Such a balance will help us understand what the real meaning of freedom of expression means.