Freedom of Speech in Regina

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I was reading an opinion piece by Brian Lilly entitled “Freedom of Speech Going Out of Fashion” and had a few problems with it. In it he talks about two homophobic bigots who were being denied the ‘right’ to spewing their drivel at the University of Regina. When I was reading this column I was reminded of some churches and self-proclaimed ‘Christian’ individuals in the US who had claimed the freedom of religion to discriminate on LGBT people.

So I went looking for more information on the incident in question and it seems to have boiled down to these points (I got most of this information from a more reasonable article “University Of Regina Attacks Freedom Of Speech”):

    William Whatcott and Peter LaBarbera went on to the University of Regina campus to hand out “literature detailing what they call “the dangers of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender relationships.” I have no idea what was contained within this but the title, at least to me, seems to indicate that any LGBT student would feel harassed to say the least. In the Regina Leader Post article “Whatcott, LaBarbera arrested on U of R campus (with video)” the university’s provost and vice-president and academic, Thomas Chase, stated “The materials were graphic and the materials were disturbing,”
    William Whatcott had been there before so was well known to the University. In a release to the media they stated “All guests are welcome to our campus. However, we ask that they accord themselves in a respectful fashion. Distribution of flyers and pamphlets that attack people for their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation compromise the respectful dialogue we expect on campus and are not acceptable.”
    Both individuals were arrested and charged with mischief. While this charge has different definitions the one under the Criminal Code of Canada section 430 (1) (c) where ”Every one commits mischief who wilfully obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property” seems to be the most applicable.

To get back to Brian Lilly’s column he made it sound like the moment the two showed up they were asked to leave and the cops immediately showed up to arrest them. The Regina Leader Post article indicates it took somewhere around two hours. Mr Lilly made reference to the freedom of expression provision in section two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He might want to have a look at Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code:

    14 (1) No person shall publish or display, or cause or permit to be published or displayed, on any lands or premises or in a newspaper, through a television or radio broadcasting station or any other broadcasting device, or in any printed matter or publication or by means of any other medium that the person owns, controls, distributes or sells, any representation, including any notice, sign, symbol, emblem, article, statement or other representation:

      (a) tending or likely to tend to deprive, abridge or otherwise restrict the enjoyment by any person or class of persons, on the basis of a prohibited ground, of any right to which that person or class of persons is entitled under law; or

      (b) that exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground.

That, in my mind, adds an interesting twist to the story. But were their rights to free expression violated? They were quite welcome to voice their opinion at another location but not there. The university was quite clear that they were not welcome and, rightfully, called the police when they refused to leave. The university had a responsibility to protect their LGBT students, under the Human Rights Code of this province, from harassment from this pair. i believe they did what they had to do.

As for the sticks and stones statement I can’t believe Lilly would stoop so low. Obviously words can be quite painful and have killed on numerous times in recent history. Just read up on cyber-bullying.

Teresa

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