Battles for Freedom
Paul Fromm's Oliver Speech.
March 21, 1998
Thank you very much Doug. Those are the words of a man who has paid
his dues in the battle for freedom of speech. The banner that we hold our
meetings under, right across this country, may be one that's familiar to
a lot of you who are perhaps of a somewhat older generation. (crowd identifies
the Red Ensign and applauds) And this is the banner under which both my
parents fought in the Second World War.
asked my folks, why my Mom devoted five years of her life to World War
II, and my Dad four. And they've said: "Well, first of all, they thought
they were signing up to fight for King and Country." But what does
that mean exactly? Well, they said: "We'd heard there were these Nazis
in Germany and they did things like burning books." And I thought
- well, my God - what has changed? They may have beaten Hitler, but we
still have book burners. We have a situation where you can't have a free
speech meeting in a town. Where we have people who are so terrified of
a new medium called the Internet, that they want to shut it down. They
want to impose the same restrictions on that Internet that they've largely
managed to impose on the print and the electronic media.
I know some people will say, "Oh why are you disturbing us in
Oliver? Our peaceful little town . We didn't want you coming in here. We
don't want to be disturbed!" Well, we found one of your citizens under
attack. Bernard Klatt runs a business. He didn't ask to be disturbed either.
An American import by way of Toronto, Sol Littman, a professional troublemaker,
a notorious liar, holds a press conference, speaks a lot of nonsense, calls
Oliver the "Hate Capital of Canada" and naturally your people
are upset. We felt we would be able to offer you some explanations of what
the Internet is. It's not some sort of monster. You know, you turn on your
computer and suddenly kiddie-porn grabs you or there's a swastika that
jumps out on your kitchen table. It's not like that at all. It's an opportunity
to shop, at your convenience, for a wide variety of information - like
a library - but better than a library. You never have to leave your home.
And you can interact, you can talk to somebody across the Valley or around
the world -- and that's what has the enemies of freedom scared blind.
How do these people [about 30 demonstrators protesting the press conference]over
there KNOW that there are bigots here today, or Nazis? I don't blame them.
I don't know who those people are - maybe they're sent by Mr. Communist,
David Lethbridge up the Valley. Maybe they're just ordinary people who
have read the papers and are concerned! Maybe they figure that Doug Collins
(Sergeant Collins) will be here with three horns or something. Maybe they
honestly believe this, and I would have to say, on the basis of what was
in the media, I don't blame them for being worried. I don't blame them
for being concerned.
I'd like to show you, how it is they may have had the impressions they
did. The Oliver Chronicle would not carry an ad for this meeting. However,
it did write up a story about the people who are speaking, and it wrote
up a story about me too. The story about me happened to be, on almost every
point, false. For instance, it mentioned that I had been fired for going
to a white supremacist rally in Alabama. Well, I did not go to a white
supremacist rally; I went to an immigration reform rally - and I was fired
11 months before I went to that rally. Now the Globe and Mail repeated
exactly the same nonsense on Thursday. Where did they get it? You might
say (if you were naive like me), or you might say, if you taught journalism,
as I did -- they must have gone to the source, they must have interviewed
Mr. Fromm. No Sir! No Ma'am! They did not! They got it from one of the
professional hate-mongers, smear-mongers, who goes around saying, "Collins
is Nazi, Fromm is this-and-that, Klatt is something else, and so on."
So if you only knew what you read in your local fish-wrap, if you only
knew what you read in the Groan & Wail, you truly would be misled and
you might well think (like our friends over there) that there was some
dangerous menace going to occur in town.
You know, your mayor mentioned that she was worried that there might
be skinheads here. Now I'm looking around and I see only one person over
here who is a skin-head, but I think that's because he's bald. There he
is! There's the gentleman there. There's our token skinhead. We have a
skin-head here, so I hope your mayor isn't too worried. He doesn't seem
to be causing us much trouble. This gentleman's alright, he's behaved himself
so far. So I think we're okay! Now, I don't know what your mayor based
this on. We did communicate with her, we wanted to present her with the
petition taken up over the Internet. And we've got almost 300 signatures
on it from across Canada - across the United States - from a dozen countries
from as far away as the Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil, Finland and so on.
We got a wide response. Our petition was not just one of these things where
you sign on a line with your name and address; we offered people an opportunity
to express their thoughts. You know, some of the thoughts were pretty mundane
but some of those thoughts were incredibly eloquent. People in other countries
say: "Don't lose your freedom!" People in the Ukraine said: "We
know what Communism is. Don't lose your freedom! We got ours back ; don't
Now, that's what people are saying. I know it's easy to be afraid,
and I don't blame people for being afraid and we bear no animosity to the
people protesting today because I think many of them don't know what they
are doing) and we wanted to follow the words of Lyndon Johnson, and that
was: "Let's dialogue together, let's reason together."
You may have read some wild things about the Internet. Maybe it's not
quite what you think. It's not the big danger. What it is is a great opportunity.
And I'll tell you why. Because if you'd been on the Internet, you could
have clicked in to our website. You could have said: "The Canadian
Association for Free Expression ... some people are saying it's a front
for this-and-that." Well, click in to it, check us out! You can do
that. But you can't do that if you only get your news from the kept media
like the Globe and Mail (which is, in many cases, unable to tell the truth)
or the local paper, that is so biased it will not even carry our ad. So
you're not in a position to know, but more and more, as people get on the
Internet, they will be a position to know. And I think that is why many
people are worried that people will be able to have a chance to check things
out for themselves. And without going to a lot of effort.
Now another term that's being thrown around, and I think I saw it on
one of those signs over there, is "bigot". I'd like to just turn
it around ever so slightly, if I might, and call it "prejudice".
We've heard a lot about prejudice. What do you call a person who says,
she doesn't want this meeting to occur and hopes that nobody will come?
I call that judging in advance. And I say it with all respect to your mayor,
because I don't know the pressure she's been under -- but I can well imagine
that the professional anti-racists have done a number on her. I don't blame
her for being afraid, but I do call it prejudiced: condemning a meeting
in advance and then cancelling it. I can understand if the meeting had
gone on and bad things had happened, the mayor might have a reason. But
I notice that they don't cancel the Regatta up in Kelowna when year after
year, young punks ride through the town. I think this brings up the matter
of prejudice even further. Your Attorney General in the province of British
Columbia, Ujjal Dosanjh, said he's "worried about meetings like this.
He says "because under the banner of free speech, in the past, some
of these meetings have spread hate".
I say, "Mr. Attorney General, you lie! Because you have the power,
under the law of Canada (under Section 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code)
to prosecute. If there has been a meeting, under the banner of free speech,
where hatred was promoted. Why didn't you charge them?" And I'll tell
you why he didn't charge them: because it isn't true -- it hasn't happened.
Yes, there are controversial views. Absolutely. Yes, a lot of us are saying:
"Let it all hang out -- let freedom reign". LET PEOPLE TALK!
Let people talk back and forth - let people say "You're nuts, your
views are crazy" -- but let these views be heard. Mr. Dosanjh, if
there was hate, why didn't you prosecute?
But I can well imagine, the fear that must have caused in your town
and with the mayor -- it's very upsetting. And it's a real challenge to
defend freedom of speech. If I might conclude, on the matter of law enforcement:
when I heard that the police had advised the mayor that there might be
a disruption and there might be violence, I thought:"Well, yes, and
so what's next?" You know there probably will be disruptions and violence
at the next Regatta up in Kelowna. Do they shut that down: say, "No
way?" No. The police do the duty that you pay their big salaries to
do. If there's going to be violence or disruption, or people are going
to break the law, they intervene, they try to keep the rowdies under control.
That is all that would ever have to have been done here. I want to know,
if the police are passing on accurate intelligence information - that they
had information that people were going to try to do something disruptive
or unlawful, why are those individuals not charged? That is the proper
duty of the police. I know it's easy to jusy say "close down the meeting"
Then, the problem will go away and we can go back to really constructive
things, like writing parking tickets and writing speeding tickets, and
harassing the motoring public. Because that's far easier to do that than
to do your duty but that's what we pay the police force for.
And we've seen this pattern in a number of other cities across Canada.
Free speech is very, very, very much in peril. I would like to think that
the ideals that my parents fought for in the Second World War, when they
fought for Canada when it was a Great Country, when we could sing that
anthem of real Canadian pride, The Maple Leaf Forever! I would like to
think that if we work together, we may be able to recapture that spirit
of freedom -- that spirit of real liberty -- and I would like to hope that
we could all let the words that ring throughout Northern Ireland, ring
throughout Canada. NO SURRENDER!