The Battle of Victoria -- The Gallant
29 Hold the Line for Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech won and the strident enemies of freedom failed in
their attempt to close down a free speech meeting at the Colwood Branch
of the Victoria Public Library Friday, June 19, 1998, in what Paul Fromm,
Director of the Canadian Association for Free Expression hails as "an
important milestone in securing free speech, at least in British Columbia."
Like Horatio holding the bridge in Roman history,
Doug Christie, the general counsel for the Canadian Free Speech League,
stood guard at the library door, letting in the participants and occasionally
having to deny admission to a screaming protester.
Twenty-nine free speech supporters, many of them middle aged or elderly,
had to walk through a protest mob estimated at 200, and endure slurs and
abuse and the chant: "Immigrants in; Nazis out!" Two free speech
supporters paraded in waving the Red Ensign, which they said was Canada's
real flag, before the massive erosion of rights that have occurred over
the past two decades.
The highly charged atmosphere, heated up by days of press coverage
and intense pressure on the Library Board to cancel the booking, grew more
feverish the day before as NDP MLA Mohinder "Moe" Sihota (Esquimalt-Metchosin)
joined the opponents of free speech and made a series of slanderous charges,
stating that the CFSL would "be propagating their hate." He added:
"These people are coming into the library with blood on their hands,"
suggesting that the CFSL had a hand in the murder of Nirmal Singh Gill,
a Sikh caretaker in Surrey in early January.
"Sihota lies," countered Paul Fromm. "Neither the Canadian
Free Speech League nor any of the speakers had anything to do with the
unfortunate events in Surrey. As for the widely circulated slander of 'hate',
no one at this meeting has ever been charged or convicted under Section
319 of the Criminal Code -- the hate law." Sihota, said Fromm, "is
trying to vilify and trash free speech supporters. It seems he's decided
to wiggle his ears and run his mouth to try to attract the attention of
Premier Clark and maybe get back into the cabinet by putting himself at
the head of a trendy anti-racist parade."
As the meeting opened, Christie led the free speech supporters in prayer.
"Just the fact that we have assembled here without violence on our
part proves that we are not what they say." He praised the Greater
Victoria Library Board for its commitment to intellectual freedom. "The
pressure is enormous on the library board. The library employees have shown
a lot of guts and so have those library union members who spoke up against
union leadership [in the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union]."
He added that Sandra Anderson. chairman of the Greater Victoria Public
Library Board "has been a very brave person. She's been under siege."
"Who's against freedom of speech in this province?" Christie
asked. "The unions and the NDP! Also, the media and the RCMP have
been creating the impression there would be 500 to 1,000 protesters."
The keynote speaker Friday night was long-time journalist and columnist
Doug Collins. On his way into the meeting, the much decorated World War
II veteran had scoured the crowd for Moe Sihota. "If
I'd seen Sihota, I would have told him he wasn't fit to polish the boots
of the people coming to this meeting and that he was a little snot,"
Collins said to laughter and applause.
"What we have here in B.C. is a heresy law where truth is no defence,"
Collins explained. "History doesn't belong to the Canadian Jewish
Congress," he said. "History belongs to history. We have the
right to debate history," he added, referring to the controversy about
a column he wrote where he dubbed the Spielberg movie Schindler's List,
"Swindler's List" and noted the extensive Jewish presence in
Hollywood. A complaint by the Canadian Jewish Congress
landed Collins before a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal last year. He was the
main target of Bill 33 -- amendments to the B.C. Human Rights Code that
made publishing statements "likely to cause hatred or contempt"
of a whole host of privileged groups an offence. Collins was exonerated
but the hearing cost the North Shore News over $200,000.
"Now," said Collins, "Harry Abrams of B'nai Brith in
Victoria has made a further complaint about six columns, including the
one of Schindler's List. Abrams gets legal aid, even though he's a fairly
well-off businessman," Collins explained.
"What does he want? He wants $5,000 from me and a further $5,000
from the North Shore News for the hurt and injury we've caused his people.
Good old Harry wants another $2,000 for business lost while preparing his
"My answer to Harry is: 'Get lost Harry!'"
the columnist said to enthusiastic cheers.
Collins concluded his talk by quoting U.S. columnist Joseph Sobran
who wrote: "An anti-Semite used to be a person who hated Jews. Today
it's a person who is hated by Jews."
The protest against the free speech meeting was organized by Jewish
Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island and by the B.C. Government
and Service Employees' Union. A poster produced by Local 301 of the BCGEU
called the coalition "Communities Against Hate" and urged people
to "Rally Against the Racists!" The defamatory flyer proclaimed:
"The Library Board needs to know that the platform they are giving
to hatemongers is an assault on the safety and dignity of our community."
The flyer insisted: "The Canadian Free Speech League is a front for
well known white supremacists, Holocaust deniers and Nazis. They are not
about free speech! They are about hate speech."
Saturday, the two day conference continued with featured speaker Miss
Terry Graham of California. She is the founder of Feminists for Immigration
Reduction Now. Miss Graham discussed California's problems with bilingual
education. One common approach, she said, means the students are taught
in Spanish all day long except for about 20 minutes of English. "This
goes on for 5 to 7 years. My country is being taken over. My schools are
not teaching our values and all this is being done with our money,"
Miss Graham explained. the result is catastrophe, she said. "Thirty
years ago, California had the best education system in the U.S. Now, we're
the lowest, except for Guam."
"We're being invaded," Graham
continued. "We immerse the children in their native language. Over
200 languages are spoken in our schools. American teachers are teaching
children to read and write in these languages, in which many of their own
parents are illiterate! We immerse children in their native language. We
have no objective standards to measure the results.
"In California, we pay out over $1.2-billion to teach illegal
alien children. Bilingual education means many children are coming out
of our system illiterate in two languages," she charged."Uncredentialed
teachers recruited from foreign countries whose only skill is that they
speak that foreign language. American teachers are being purged because
they only speak English.:"
Before introducing the next speaker, chairman Doug Christie announced
the death that afternoon of Miss Helen McNicol of Victoria. She had died
that afternoon of a stroke, shortly after her 90th birthday, May 13. Miss
McNicol had been a long-time family friend and loyal worker and supporter
of the Canadian Free Speech League. "In memory of her, we shall carry
on," Mr. Christie said. "She never gave up in this cause."
Eileen Pressler of Salmon Arm recently won a five-year defamation action
against communist professor David Lethbridge and Westcom, the owners of
a Kelowna television channel for libellous suggestions that she and her
husband were building a paramilitary compound on their rural property.
"I'd like to thank our legal team of Douglas Christie and Barbara
Kulaszka and our loyal cheering section who came to court each day for
their support and prayers. The decision brings to a close five and a half
years of abuse and business boycott at the hands of David Lethbridge. Lethbridge
demonized us through the platform of the media in order to isolate us,"
Ontario-based Paul Fromm, editor of the Free
Speech Monitor, told of a recent seizure of over $1,450 worth of books
by Canada Customs, including such books of Irish Fairy Tales and Arthurian
Legends. "During Ireland's occupation by Britain, Irish nationalists
wrote a popular ballad with the refrain, 'They're hanging men and women
for the wearing of the green,'" Fromm said. "In Canada, today
our thought police are seizing books of Irish myths." Fromm explained
the highhanded powers of Canada Customs and revealed that no book has ever
been the object of a successful prosecution under the hate law. Nevertheless,
Canada's list of banned books has hundreds of political and religious titles.
Mr. Fromm also hammered a recent unanimous decision by MPs to ban Ersnst
Zundel from the Parliament Buildings so that he could not use the Parliamentary
Press Gallery for a June 5 press conference to call media attention to
a recent Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that truth was no defence
in a charge, under Section 13.1, of telephonically communicating statements
likely to hold a privileged group up to hatred or contempt. "Parliament
has become a hotbed of hypocrisy and humbug,:" Fromm charged. "What
can you expect, however, from a body whose Speaker thinks the communist
Cuban system and ours are similar? What can you expect from a body that
lets its Speaker rule that MPs may not keep a Canadian flag on their desks
lest it offend the separatists?"
Oliver, B.C. Internet Service Provider
(ISP) Bernard Klatt explained that minority pressure groups had made
conditions untenable for him to continue at the present time. "Due
to pressure from some Jewish groups in 1996, Marc
Lemire's Freedom Site was kicked off some Toronto
sites. We hosted him. Then, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre urged us to
remove him. That is not how we do business. People can change the contents
of their webpage whenever they like. There's no feasible way for a provider
to monitor content."
Then, said Klatt, the pressure intensified. "Okanagan College
sent me a letter saying I couldn't teach Internet courses any more because
of my stand against censorship of the Internet. Sol Littman of the Wiesenthal
Centre hadn't forgotten us and early this year labelled Oliver 'the hate
capital of Canada.'"
Klatt hung tough, but B.C. Tel wanted him to sign a contract making
him liable financially and legally for anything anyone posted through is
service. He refused. Then, "the place we were renting space from in
town for our ISP equipment came under commercial blackmail from the local
newspaper. A reporter told his landlord: 'We know whom you're renting space
to. Wouldn't our readers like to know that you're renting to Fairview Technology?'"
In summarizing the Canadian Free Speech League's work, Doug Christie
said: "Over the past 14 years, we've kept the information flowing
to preserve freedom of speech. We've been a light in the darkness to preserve
our freedom heritage. Many of our forefathers fought and died for these
freedoms. This is the heritage of freedom we must hold dear."
The attacks on freedom of speech are becoming more frenzied, Mr. Christie
warned. "Now we see the intensification of the vilification. Moe Sihota
has branded this group by his suggestion that we have blood on our hands.
Thus, Sihota has hinted at the criminalization of me. However," Christie
concluded, "truth cannot be destroyed by lies!"
Doug Christie recognized and honoured Keltie Zubko for her dedication
and talent in producing and editing the monthly Friends of Freedom Newsletter,
published by the CFSL.
After the meeting's concluding banquet, Doug Christie called on Doug
Collins, the Grand Old Man of Canada's free speech movement, for some parting
advice. "I think Napoleon said it best:" Collins replied, "'Attack
is the best form of defence.' We should take every opportunity to give
the enemy hell," Collins urged to eager applause. "For instance,
in my own case, the Canadian Jewish Congress didn't count on the many groups,
like the B.C. Press Council or the B.C. Civil Liberties Association concerned
about freedom of speech. Over 2,000 people on the North Shore and as far
away as Paris and Britain subscribed to my defence fund. The only reason
the human rights tribunal dismissed the complaint was they knew the law
would be struck down if it was appealed in court."
Collins concluded with an announcement which resulted in a standing
ovation: "I'm bringing out a book of my columns in October."