It is long overdue that the trend in Canada towards silencing opposing opinions via demonization and intimidation tactics at venues stopped. The only way that can happen is if legal recourse is sought. Freedom of speech is the foundation upon which functioning democracies are built, and it is currently under assault.
In a society that values freedom of speech and DIVERSITY of opinion, free speech at a minimum means that everybody can express their opinions on matters of public policy and law. If that right is removed then democracy itself is threatened.
What we have seen emerging in recent times in Canada is the use of mobs and intimidation designed to prevent people from discussing public policy and important social issues. Such tactics were employed by the notorious “brown shirt” fascists in pre-Nazi Germany. The Brown Shirts would harass, intimidate, threaten, or do whatever was required to prevent opponents from speaking out against their political positions. Rather than relying on superior arguments, they found it easier to simply frighten or shame their opponents into silence and thus prevent the public from hearing their views.
This is what we saw on May 2 in Victoria (Oak Bay) BC at my talk at Windsor Pavilion when I attempted to give my controversial talk on transgender issues.
A mob was assembled based on false statements made by elected School Board official Ryan Painter who claimed that I promote “hatred of trans people” (despite the fact that I identify as trans). In various posts to social media, as well as statements made on local radio and outside the event, Painter implied not only that I promote hatred of trans people, but that students in the area might feel unsafe because of my “hateful messages.” At no point did Painter provide proof of his accusations against me.
After making false and defamatory statements about me, Painter then proceeded to organize a mob of people to protest my event. In relatively short time Painter had attracted almost a thousand people, all under the false assumption that I promoted hatred and bigotry.
Once the mob had assembled outside the venue the evening of my event, Painter again suggested to the crowd that I was hateful and he spoke through a megaphone saying they needed to “fight this kind of hatred” and “fight this kind of bigotry.” It was thus hardly surprising that the room where I was to talk in quickly filled with angry protesters bent on silencing me, and they did so by yelling and screaming insults and profanity, as well as singing and countless interruptions (see video of the event in this Freedom Free For All episode). The constant jeers and insults and noise in the crowd led to heated exchanges. Eventually a protester pulled the fire alarm, this led to pushing and shoving. On a least two occasions protesters tried to get to me but were blocked, and one protester tried to pull my $1000 projector onto the floor by its cable and was only just prevented from hitting the floor by a cameraman that was standing by it. At one point I heard somebody in the crowd say something about beating me up.
The police had to escort me off the property because they were very concerned about my safety and I appreciate their help in this regard. I was walked to my car and then the officer with me at my car observed people appeared to be following us. He instructed me to get into my car and drive away and he would block the people so they could not get close to my car or take or relay information so people could follow me. Even the next day I could not walk down the streets of Victoria without being recognized by people that hated me, once again thanks to Painter’s comments. Whereas I previously felt safe walking down the street, I now felt unsafe.
This is the kind of chaos making deliberately false statements can lead to, and what happens when you assemble a mob with the intention of shutting the event down.
Freedom of speech is NOT freedom to silence another person; that is the very antithesis of freedom of speech and has more in common with the aforementioned Brown Shirts.
The only exceptions to freedom of speech that have been almost universally agreed upon in free societies are:
1) Actual calls for violence against some person that could lead to injury or death.
2) Defamation. False statements that cause actual harm to another person.
Ryan Painter’s comments about me were false and defamatory, and not only put me in danger, but put everybody in attendance in danger. His words were not merely offensive, but caused me real harm — not just in terms of my reputation, but he affected the attendance of legitimately interested people (who wants to attend a “hate” talk?), and prevented me from giving my talk and thus recouping my expenses (I take merit based donations at the end of my talks to help pay for the cost of the venue etc). Painter’s actions also wasted tax payer resources in terms of police resources and the fire department being dispatched.
I did my talk in Maple Ridge and Hope in April. Nobody organized an angry mob based on false allegations, as such the events went off peacefully without a problem, without police being called, without the fire department being called. The only difference between those events and the event in Oak Bay was Ryan Painter and his friends organizing a protest and spreading hatred of me, because by portraying me as a hater you are in fact generating hatred towards me. Had his comments been true and not in my opinion knowingly false, I would not be pursuing this course of action. I have been in this debate for over two years and had all kinds of people say all kinds of things about me, but this is the first time I have taken action, because in this instance it was enormously harmful and dangerous. Furthermore, NDP Vice President Morgane Oger has said that because of my alleged “hatred” he would be seeking to make sure other venues would not host such talks in the future.
Defamation in Canada can be pursued in one of two ways: civilly (which involves enormous expense thus favors the wealthy not the poor) and criminally. In this instance I have chosen the latter although I may also pursue the former if I can find a lawyer to take the case on a contingent fee basis. But in the end I do believe Painter’s reckless and false accusations caused real harm (not just to my feelings) not only to me but to the community, and it could have been much worse, thus I feel almost an obligation to press charges in order to dissuade such reckless behavior in the future, and because, as Morgane Oger says, “we must make sure Canadian law is upheld.”
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