I have long suspected that William Whatcott never thought he would be taken so seriously. The Saskatchewan nurse calls himself a Christian Truth Activist and posts on the Free North America website ("North America's Ultimate Social Conservative Online Community").
He has also called himself the High Priest of the Calgary Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, dyed his hair and beard pink, and handed out "Gospel condoms."
During Toronto's Pride parade, he called himself a member of the fictitious "Gay Zombie Cannabis Consumers Association," apparently so that he could get close enough to the action to hand out his "Zombie Safe Sex Packages" which were basically anti-gay flyers.
Make no mistake, Whatcott is a homophobic sexist. His anti-abortion and anti-gay pamphlets are ugly, misinformed, bigoted and nasty. But so what? He is hardly the first and certainly not the last to try to tell others the how he thinks they should live -- and what he thinks will become of them if they disagree with his instructions. He is also not the only person to use invective, negative stereotyping and vilification of others in his rather odd attempts to get his message across.
Both of these men got to court where they could argue the validity of their ridiculous and foul ideas. And in the process, they received more free publicity than they could ever have afforded to purchase.
Last week, a $103 million class action lawsuit was filed against Whatcott. The suit claims that Whatcott defamed people who marched in the Toronto Pride Parade (including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau), Liberals and the LGBTQ community. Really? What kind of damage have they suffered as a result of Whatcott's flyers?
Has former Ontario deputy premier George Smitherman, one of the lead plaintiffs, lost status in the community because of Whatcott's flyers?
Did the Prime Minister have to go into hiding because of the publications (or did he march in two subsequent Pride parades?)
Did my LGBTQ family members and friends experience pain and suffering as a result of Whatcott's words?
Not that I noticed or heard about.
Like it or not, Canada is a country that celebrates freedom of expression. Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Everyone has freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication." That "Everyone" includes people like Whatcott who say objectionable, false, foolish, misguided, or even ugly things.
I did not happen upon Whatcott when I attended the parade in Toronto, or if I did I was enjoying myself too much to notice. I did not see much pain and suffering among the participants, either. If my family or I had been the recipient of Whatcott's flyers, we would have found the closest recycling bin -- and used it. After all, these bins are intended for unwanted paper. They could be the solution to the Whatcott problem.
When will we stop using anti-hate speech legislation, human rights codes, anti-defamation laws, and the courts to go after expression and fools we dislike such as Whatcott and Zundel? In the 1980s, Zundel was thrilled to find his image on the front pages of newspapers. Last week when William Whatcott was asked if he planned to be in court to fight the law suit, he said, "Oh yeah, now that I have a captive audience, I'll definitely be there in court."
As the late A. Alan Borovoy, General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association once said when asked about the use of Canada's anti-hate laws to prosecute an Holocaust denier, "...he should have been allowed to wallow in the obscurity he so richly deserves."
But, thanks to the most recent action against him, we can expect to hear, see, and read more garbage from Mr. Whatcott.
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