Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail Gives A Ringing Endorsement of Free Speech for YOUR WARD NEWS

Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail Gives A Ringing Endorsement of Free Speech for YOUR WARD NEWS

 
 
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MARCUS GEE

Postal censorship is a cure worse than the disease

MARCUS GEE

The Globe and Mail

Last updated 

Canadians who value free speech – and let’s hope that is all of us – should be deeply troubled by Ottawa’s decision to tell Canada Post to stop carrying a fringe Toronto newspaper. Public Services Minister Judy Foote ordered the postal service to cease delivering Your Ward News, which has been accused of being anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi. Her “interim prohibitory order” gives its editor 10 days to appeal.

Those who have campaigned against the free paper are “ecstatic.” But consider the awful precedent this act of postal censorship sets.

If people who are offended by something that appears in their mailbox can complain and get it banned from the post, where does it stop? Can a pro-choice feminist block the graphic pro-life pamphlet that comes in the mail? Can a fierce pro-lifer ban a flier from an abortion clinic? Or consider the feelings of the victim of East European communism who gets a Marxist tract in the mail? Why should an agency of the government that her taxes support be allowed to introduce that propaganda into her home?

This is the trouble with just about all limits on free speech. Who says what is beyond the pale? Deciding to block child pornography or open incitement to violence is easy enough, because of the direct physical harm they can be shown to cause. After that, it gets tricky.

Someone must have the power to determine what is dangerous or odious speech and what is merely passionate expression. It is always a matter of opinion. The line is impossible to draw, the scope for abuse endless.

Even in democratic countries, authorities have often succumbed to the impulse to black out what they don’t like. Communist propaganda was blocked on the grounds that it threatened national security, erotica on the grounds that it undermined public morals. The postal system was once one of the main agents of censorship. A century ago, postal censors blocked mailed instalments of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Your Ward News is not Ulysses. Its editor, James Sears, who has been known to style himself as Dimitri the Lover, told City News that Hitler is his second-biggest idol, after Jesus. He ends his e-mails “Expel the Parasite!” – all in capital letters, of course. The group that has been fighting him calls his publication a “neo-Nazi-rag” that “has been permitted to disseminate racism, homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism to as many as 300,000 homes in Toronto.”

If so, there are a couple of ways to fight back short of censorship. One is simply to toss Your Ward News where it belongs: in the recycling bin. Nobody is forced to read it when it comes in the mail. People like Mr. Sears thrive on the oxygen of attention. Ignoring him is the best revenge.

Another is to argue back. If his opponents feel his maunderings are too despicable to pass over, they can always denounce or refute him. It is always better to fight speech with speech than to gag the speaker.

It is a good time to remember these old lessons about how to handle troublesome speech. Free expression is always under attack to some degree, and the danger seems especially acute today. The little tussle over Your Ward News is part of a wider struggle.

Overseas, authoritarian governments from Moscow to Beijing to Cairo are cracking down on the right to speak openly without fear. Canadians got a small glimpse of their attitude when China’s foreign minister dressed down a reporter in Ottawa for daring to ask a question about human rights. At home, on university campuses and beyond, the tendency to take offence is stifling healthy debate and silencing dissenting voices.

Sometimes those voices can be obnoxious, but it won’t do to try to snuff them out. Ottawa has no business telling the postal service to censor the mail just because some people don’t like what comes through the slot.

Warman’s At It Again: Wants Canada Post to Stop Distributing Your Ward News

Warman’s At It Again: Wants Canada Post to Stop Distributing Your Ward News

Let’s see, Ontario’s eccentric courts say I can’t refer to Richard Warman as the “high priest of censorship.” So, okay, this meddling lawyer, ensconced doing something or other in the Department of National Defence, doesn’t want Torontonians to be able to receive a community tabloid entitled Your Ward News through the mail. The politically correct long ago ceased debating with those who have a problem with the homosexual agenda, multiculturalism or the self-serving Hollyweird version of WW II. Disagree with them and they want to gag you and shut you down.

Local leftists, including sometime Liberal Party backroom boy Warren Kinsella, have been gunning for Your Ward News for over a year. the Main Street offices of the tabloid have had their windows smashed numerous times by the apostles of “tolerance” and “inclusion”. Then, about a year ago, the critics flipped out and tried to pressure Canada Post not to deliver the satirical tabloid. Some posties from the notoriously leftist Postal Workers Union, which for years has has a significant contingent of Maoists, threatened they would not deliver it. The complain that it is “hate” Even under Canada’s notorious “hate” law, the accused must still be afforded a trial before his writings can be declared hate.

In a healthier society, the critics would be urged to write a letter-to-the-editor, start a paper of their own, or, if they are offended beyond all endurance when Your Ward News arrives in the mail, they can simply toss it into the Blue Box for recycling. However, we live in a mean, Puritanical society assailed by domineering followers of political correctness who want to gag all dissent from their agenda.

So, along comes Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman. Your Ward News is delivered in the eastern part of Toronto. Almost certainly Mr. Warman didn’t find an unwanted copy delivered by the mailman. So, in the normal scheme of things, what’s it to him?

Anyway, he’s taken to letter writing to try to pressure Canada Post into not delivering Your Ward Newsbecause some of its views and irreverence don’t please Warman’s Ottawa sensitivities.

National Observer (March 8, 2016), an online news commentary, reports: “A prominent Ottawa human rights lawyer is after Canada Post to drop distribution of a newsletter that he says contains misogynist, homophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hate propaganda.

Richard Warman wrote Public Works Minister Judy Foote and Canada Post president Deepak Chopra in early March to ask for a halt to the postal distribution of a Toronto publication called Your Ward News.
Warman told National Observer that the newsletter was something he was aware of that was floating around the Toronto area.

“It had sort of a bad smell. When I finally had the chance to look at it closely, I was shocked to see the kind of bigotry that was being disseminated through Canada Post.”

In an email response to National Observer Tuesday, Foote said, “I have reviewed some of the material in question and I too find it highly offensive and well outside the norm of Canadian values. I have reached out to my colleagues to determine the best way forward in addressing this issue.

“This includes whether the material constitutes an offense under the Criminal Code.”

Your Ward News claims distribution of 300,000 and a readership of one million within Toronto. Canada Post delivers the publication unwrapped, meaning anyone is able to see the content.

The most recent issue of the quarterly publication (it was previously monthly) shows on its cover a bizarre collage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surrounded by women in bikinis. Beside him, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne waves a gay pride flag.

Two men are depicted on crosses, one of them clearly meant to be Christ; the other sprays blood on former advisor to Jean Chretien, Warren Kinsella, and in a word balloon says, “See you in hell, Kinsella!”

The entire spectacle is headlined “Marxist Lackeys Attack.”

Inside, the paper contains a number of racist slurs directed mostly against Jews and Muslims. The back page invites people to attend “The 1st Annual Old-Fashioned Toronto Anti-Marxist Book-Burning.”

The purported ad states that among books welcome to be burned are “FemiMarxist garbage by authors like Margaret Atwood; EnviroMarxist Agenda 21 propaganda by scientific sellouts like David Suzuki, etc.” ….

“In his letter, Warman tells Canada Post that he is concerned the Crown corporation’s distribution of the newsletter might constitute a breach of the Canadian Human Rights Act as the agency is “party to the dissemination of discriminatory material to the general public.”

Warman warns the Crown corporation that if it persists in distribution of the paper, “I will pursue the matter accordingly,” and cites, among other things, an example of defamatory libel in the newsletter against Warren and Lisa Kinsella.” …. [Actually, Your Ward News is a tabloid newspaper, not a newsletter.]

“While Warman’s letter is the most recent attempt to have Canada Post stop delivery of Your Ward News, it’s not the first time.
In May 2015, Arthur Potts, the Ontario MPP for Toronto’s Beaches-East York riding sent a letter to Canada Post’s Chopra asking the Crown corporation to reconsider its delivery of the newsletter.

In his letter, Potts noted that Toronto’s Hate Crimes Unit was probing a complaint about the then-current issue of Your Ward News, which featured “several offensive and anti-Semitic articles and caricatures.”

The Toronto Hate Crimes Unit could not be reached for comment. It’s not known whether the paper is still under investigation at this time.

Potts wrote that he was not only deeply concerned by the paper’s content and his constituents’ complaints, but added the fact that Canada Post delivered the paper, despite repeated complaints, “suggests that the Crown corporation may endorse its content.”

Canada Post did not respond to National Observer’s queries. The Crown corporation operates at arm’s-length from the government.

Megan Whitfield, the president of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, told National Observer that a number of postal workers have complained about having to deliver the publication.

However, Whitfield said Canada Post has threatened to discipline any workers who refuse to carry the newsletter.

“Both on the cover and inside they’ve had some very offensive material,” Whitfield said of the publication. At the very least the Toronto Local wants to see the publication shrink-wrapped in dark plastic so that the contents can’t be seen in the mail.
Of Canada Post, Whitfield said: “They just continue to allow it to go through.”

Ottawa human rights lawyer, Richard Warman. Photo courtesy of Richard Warman