The Shotgun Blog
Friday, December 11, 2009
Parliament security bans free speech
The Toronto Star is reporting that Greenpeace t-shirts have been banned from Parliament Hill. This is in response to the illegal protest by Greenpeace earlier this week. Such an excuse is not a good enough reason to trample on the Freedom of Expression.
I'm no fan of Greenpeace, but I don't see why people wearing their t-shirts should not be allowed in Parliament. A spokesperson from the Speaker's office said that it was a routine precaution and went on to say:
"When someone is invited in as a member of the public in either the chamber or a committee, they're invited in as an observer, that's it," she said. "They're not a participant, they're an observer."
First of all you aren't invited into the chamber, we as the people have the right to see what our Parliament is doing. Yes when we do visit we must understand that we are observers, but how does wearing a t-shirt make you a participant? Is it because of the political message of the shirt? I own several t-shirts that make political statements, including one that mimics the Coca-Cola logo by saying "Enjoy Capitalism." Does wearing that shirt make me a participant?
No of course not, the reason is because members of that organization pissed off Parliament's security. They made them look incompetent, so they are cracking down on anyone who may be associated with Greenpeace.
It should be pointed out that not everyone wearing a Greenpeace shirt is a member of Greenpeace. My shirt that I mentioned before is a Bureaucrash shirt, but I have never been a member of Bureaucrash. I wear the shirt, like many that wear Greenpeace shirts, because I support the organization (and find the shirt amusing). Basically Parliament security is accusing Greenpeace supporters of being troublemakers just because they support Greenpeace.
Actually maybe it isn't about the supporters of Greenpeace but the message. The Star article said that a reporter was allowed to enter with a Greenpeace shirt if she agreed to turn it inside out. So obviously they aren't trying to exclude Greenpeace supporters. It is the message of Greenpeace that they are trying to keep out; not dangerous individuals that could disrupt Parliament, but the ideas that Greenpeace represents.
I agree with you 100% here. But it has not been all bad news on the free speech front in Canada this month. A week ago the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench overturned the 2007 ruling against Stephen Boissoin for his homophobic rant published in the Red Deer Advocate. I'm surprised this has not been reported on at the Shotgun, as the ruling appears to be quite significant in that the decision seems to place severe restrictions on how hateful speech can be limited by Alberta's Human Rights Legislation, limitations that would make it impossible for a case to be brought against a magazine that, for example, published cartoons of Muhammad.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-12-11 6:47:59 AM
Can't they be prosecuted under hate crimes legislation? Like Holocaust deniers and the CBC, they keep boasting about this fantasy that world is heating up. Now that it has been disproven, with allegations of corruption to boot, these people are now spouting hatred for the people especially Albertans.
Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-12-11 7:54:56 AM
Its called security. If 10 people show up wearing green peace T shirts they will quickly be able to recognize their comrades and then disrupt parliament like they did a few weeks ago.
No one is saying they can't wear green peace T shirts. They just can't wear them in the parliament buildings. Just like in many schools, gang T shirts and colours are not allowed. I don't see you defending freedom of expression on that one.
Its not an issue of freedom, its called security.
Posted by: Robert E Lee | 2009-12-11 8:19:58 AM
"If 10 people show up wearing green peace T shirts they will quickly be able to recognize their comrades and then disrupt parliament like they did a few weeks ago."
If 10 people show up wearing green peace T shirts, then Parliamentary security should be able to quickly recognize them and watch them very closely to see if they actually do disrupt Parliament, and if they do they can then apprehend them and charge them for the real offense of doing so.
"Just like in many schools, gang T shirts and colours are not allowed. I don't see you defending freedom of expression on that one."
There's lots of things you don't see me defending simply because the issue has never been brought up for discussion, but since you mention it, I do oppose such restrictions. It seems to me that schools are the perfect place to teach people how to allow others the right to speech that they vigorously disagree with.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-12-11 8:31:37 AM
Ya, I can see it now. The Bloods and the Crypts wearing their colours and living in perfect harmony at the local high school. Both groups with straight 'A's in their cultural sensitivity class.
Posted by: Robert E Lee | 2009-12-11 8:46:05 AM
I seem to remember some qoute regarding the trade off between security and liberty, and those that deserve neither.
Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2009-12-11 9:38:32 AM
Would you prefer the disruptors not wear t-shirts and disrupt anyway.
As for school, "The Bloods and the Crypts not wearing their colours and living in perfect harmony at the local high school". So all we have to do is prevent them from wearing the colours and it will all be ok?
Posted by: Charles | 2009-12-11 11:28:29 AM
Public institutions are governed by representatives elected at some level to represent the owners of the institutions. They do so effectively when they piss off the fewest vocal members of the public. Many people would be upset if, say Exxon Mobile T shirts were to adorn visitors as advertisements in the Gallery. Greenpeace is equally repulsive to many (more so to me). If T shirts today, what next, banners? The issue is no different than the endless debate on allowable activities on any public property. Some public properties where free speech is vastly more imperiled but desirable and appropriate is in Universities. Expecting laissez faire rules in the very heart of leviathan is rather naive. If we were talking about private property it would be the same thing as "no shoes, no shirt, no service". On a practical note, Parliaments are open to "observation" by other means, (eg. Hansard and CPAC) so the Gallery is only a symbolic tradition and one that would likely be closed if the Greenpeaces of the world were allowed to use it for stunts and props.
I despise the hysteria pimping business model of Greenpeace but defend their right to free speech where they own or have purchased the medium of communication. Lets not confuse free speech with bad manners.
Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-12-11 12:51:35 PM
How about if one wore the bandanna over the face, the symbol of the Oka crisis, into a bank or onto an LRT. Its just a symbolic expression. One should be free to do that right?
Posted by: Robert E Lee | 2009-12-11 4:13:25 PM
"How about if one wore the bandanna over the face, the symbol of the Oka crisis, into a bank or onto an LRT."
I've been on the LRT and sat next to a woman wearing a full face covering. In winter, I have worn a balaclava amid a sea of people wearing balaclavas on the LRT. I have no problem with a bandanna over the face on the LRT.
As for a bank, it's up to the owners of the bank to decide what they will allow. Private property means they can limit speech on their property however they want to.
Any more questions?
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-12-11 4:29:16 PM
Only in Harpo's fuzzy-fascist, Nixonian, Security State Canada, could a building whose name means 'to speak' ban free speech.
Disappointing, yes. Surprising? Not even.
Posted by: JC | 2009-12-11 8:40:52 PM
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