by Brian Lilley
I’m wondering what part of free speech the folks at the University of Regina don’t get. Or freedom of association or freedom of peaceful assembly.
On Monday in Regina two activists were arrested for simply speaking on the university campus.
Bill Whatcott and Peter LaBarbera were arrested after they set up a display and attempted to espouse their views about homosexuality.
You can agree with those views, you can despise their views, it shouldn’t matter – they should be allowed to speak. Instead the two activists were stopped by campus security and then arrested by Regina Police.
This came after Whatcott told the officers that he had a right to be there, that he had won two court cases regarding free speech. “I know you do Bill, but it’s time for you to go,” the guard said.
With that the police moved in and arrested them right away as students cheered. Truly a sad day when people are arrested for their views.
What are they charged with?
The news release put out by the Regina Police Service stated they face charges of mischief by “willfully interfering with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property, to wit: the University of Regina.”
I’m sorry, standing in a wide open public space with a couple of signs and flyers is interfering with the lawful use of property?
Give me a break!
Whatcott faces an actual court date in late May. LaBarbera, an American was kept in jail overnight, held by the Canada Border Services Agency and then left the country.
And you thought we had a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protected free expression, including speech. That Charter may exist but now it only protects politically correct speech.
Let’s be clear: Whatcott and LaBarbera were arrested not because of what they were doing but because of their message.
Is that what we want in Canada?
I don’t. If you can silence my speech, what’s to stop another group from silencing you either now or when political realities change?
“I think freedom of speech has its limits and when it starts inciting hatred and violence…that’s a line I think we should stop crossing,” Leah Keiser of the University of Regina Pride Centre told the Regina Leader-Post.
Except Whatcott and LaBarbera have not been advocating violence and hate. Well, that is an emotion and highly subjective. They disagree with homosexuality and they were met by a counter protest by Keiser and the Pride Centre. That’s how it should have ended, two groups with opposing views making their case and the public making up their own minds.
As kids most of us learned the old saying, stick and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me. Some people though missed that lesson, people like Keiser and Thomas Chase, the University of Regina provost and vice-president.
“The materials were graphic and the materials were disturbing. The materials, we felt, could harm members of this campus community who we have a duty to protect and support,” Chase said.
That an academic and one of the top officials at a public university can claim he needs to protect adult students from ideas is shocking and shameful. Sadly Chase is typical of academics today, no longer standing for freedom but instead what is fashionable. Same with journalists who don’t see this as a story worth telling or a freedom worth defending.
Freedom of speech is withering in Canada and sadly the so-called defenders of freedom are either silent or complicit.