The following op-ed piece by Victoria’s Doug Christie is of far more
value when it is provided along with its response, from Victoria
Barrister Gary Botting. Mr. Botting articled under Mr. Christie, and
has been outspoken in his condemnation of Christie’s political agenda,
as the following exchange illustrates:
Victoria Times Colonist Op/Ed April 8, 1998
Free Speech Means Listening Before Deciding
By Douglas Christie
The media attention has died down. Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh has
congratulated the good people of Oliver. Now might be the right time to
ask the important questions and have a rational dialogue on the issue of
free speech: Is it justified to close down a meeting of alleged racists and
hatemongers before they can speak?
How do we know that they are racists or hate mongers until we hear them?
The answer seems to be “because the media has told us so, and so why do we
need to hear them’?” The presumption is that people know who and what this
Oliver group is from a thousand sources, and they can’t all be lying.
But are there really a thousand sources or just one source repeated 1,000
times? Does the media really represent a large number of independent
assessments or just one copied by all the rest of the lazy reporters who
don’t want to write unique perspectives or perhaps cannot due to lack of
depth, ability, or time?
The reporters who attended Oliver went with a fixed agenda – shared, it
seems, by the Attorney General. Their view is that it’s better to “shut
the racists down” immediately. But the fact is, the rest of the people are
prevented from making their own informed assessment because the most
fundamental rule of learning has been broken, the rule of audi alteram
partem – hear both sides.
‘The real bigots and hatemongers are those who say there is no other side.
“My point of view is the only one and there is nothing to learn from
‘racists’,” they claim. But the difficulty arises in determining who is a
racist and what does it mean. Isn’t it necessary first to hear a person
before judging the speaker?
The Simon Wiesenthal representatives, Oliver Mayor Linda Larson and B.C.’s
Attorney General applauded the decision to prevent a speaker from speaking.
Then to rub salt in the open
wound, they asked former North Shore News columnist Doug Collins: “What
have you been prevented from saying?”
The supposed racists and bigots were not allowed a single direct quote on
the TV news, while their critics and protagonists were quoted ad nauseam
recasting accusations against them. Is there no shame in the media or
sense of justice?
It is ironic that the media in Canada are so shallow and foolish that they
are unable to stand by the simple principle that upholding free speech has
nothing to do with the approbation of any speaker or the content of their
speech. The media are in a sad state when they cannot see the value of
defending other people’s right to free expression. They have lost their
courage, objectivity and perception,
As a result of such ignorance among the media, the established authorities,
the mayor of Oliver and the RCMP, we see those who threaten violence
getting applause and approbation by the establishment, and the victims of
this threatening tactic being told to go away and be quiet. My father
fought in the Second World War, and my grandfather in the First World War
in the trenches of France. My great-grandfather fought against the Fenian
Raids in Ontario. All for freedom. Or so they thought.
I am told I cannot hold a public meeting in my own country. Where do I go
for the defence of freedom from violence and intimidation? I have to stay
and fight here, and I will.
This should be the same goal for responsible people everywhere who believe
in free speech for everyone. We only judge after we have heard from
someone – not just gossip about them, but heard them for ourselves. We are
then capable of deciding for ourselves.
Don’t silence people before they can speak. If violence or threats of
violence defeat free speech, why do we have free speech at all? Or is it
only for those the media tell us we can agree with’?
Douglas Christie is a Victoria lawyer who has argued free speech in the
defence of Jim Keegstra and Ernst Zundel.
Victoria Times Colonist, Op/Ed April 13, 1998
Freedom of speech No Excuse for evil
By Gary Botting
IN CONNECTION WITH the Oliver debacle, Doug Christie (Voices, April 8)
brazenly invokes the sacred legal rule of thumb audi alteram partem hear
the other side – as if we had not heard it a thousand times already.
The elected officials of Oliver were properly congratulated by Attorney
General Ujjal Dosanjh precisely because they allowed the world to hear the
position of the other side for once, and gave notice to the primary
perpetrators of prejudice in this country that their bigotry is tiresome,
ugly and obscene.
Is it justified to close down a meeting of alleged racists and hatemongers
before they can speak’? Absolutely, when those same people have for 15
years played the same cracked record of the same anti-Semitic tune at top
volume on a defective phonograph.
How do we know that they are racists or hatemongers until we hear them each
time? Because we have heard them spout their propaganda in the past ad
nauseam, and some of us have had the dubious distinction of watching them
t doesn’t take long for the average Canadian to make an informed assessment
to detect a mess on one’s shoes after a stroll through the bull pen. Most
Canadians are amazed that those listed to speak at Oliver have had the
fortitude to breathe, let alone apparently thrive, on the manure pile of
their own making as they blithely ignore the truism that you don’t shit
where you cat. But don’t expect the rest of us not to find the slop of
their insults and epithets to be offensive, even from afar.
What motivates Jim Keegstra to categorize Jews year after year as rats and
rascals? What motivates Ernst Zundel to minimize the loss of millions of
Jews to Nazi concentration camps?
What motivates Paul Fromm to campaign tirelessly against the immigration
to- Canada of people from Asia and elsewhere who happen to have a different
skin colour from his own? What motivates Doug Christie to get out there in
front of the parade and bang their drum?
It is not the media who have lost their objectivity and perception. It is
not the media who are slinging racist and anti-Semitic dungballs. In this
case, the media acted quite responsibly, resisting the temptation to spread
the stinking message any farther.
By all means allow these hollow men to indulge in their mutual Exaltation
over racist or
anti-Semitic pornography in their own private meetings. But spreading the
word to a public already tired of such obscenity? Forget it.
We’re not talking about freedom of expression here. We’re talking about
freewheeling slamming of minority groups. If the boot were on the other
foot, Christie and company, upon the first whiff, would instantly cry foul.
And that is precisely what Christie does in his article.
It is sad that Christie resorts to demeaning his forefathers’ efforts to
fight for freedom. Did they really take such risks for their son to have a
licence to promote freedom to spew insults against the Jews? Did his
father, who fought the Nazis alongside mine, actually believe that he was
risking his life to support the free expression of racial slurs and
anti-Semitism’? I somehow doubt it.
We have heard enough from Zundel, Keegstra, Fromm and company to make a
general assessment of the unworthiness of their tiresome message.
Unfortunately, Doug Christie has become the medium for their message – a
phonograph player with a cracked speaker and defective volume control.
Please, turn it off.
Gary Botting is a Victoria lawyer and proponent of civil liberties,
including freedom of speech. He testified as an expert witness at the
Zundel and Keegstra trials.