EDITORIAL: Equivocating with our rights

It’s a shame that, in practice, so many politicians seem to want to put limitations on free speech

Free speech, in theory, is such an easily supportable concept for elected officials, it’s a shame that in practice so many of them seem to want to put limitations on it.

In the United States, since long before Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in 1919 that “free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater,” the courts have placed it and other concepts of the First Amendment high above other rights. This mandate has resulted in a standard for defamation cases in which the offended party must prove an accusation to be false in order for litigation to be successful.

In Canada, where free speech is treated as secondary to other rights, the accusation must be proven to be true – putting all the onus on the defendant – though we still profess to be staunch advocates of the principle.

But in both countries – as in other free nations – citizens have a right to express political opinions, so long as they do not incite others to violence or otherwise cause endangerment.

Enter the City of White Rock, where, thanks to Coun. Grant Meyer, civic leaders are now entertaining the notion of prohibiting vendors at the White Rock Farmers’ Market from wearing T-shirts with political slogans or endorsements prior to the city’s next civic election in 2018.

The city’s involvement, they say, is because the market is a city-sponsored event (a notion disputed by market manager Helen Fathers who, somewhat coincidentally, is also a city councillor). But regardless of any city support for the market – or lack thereof, as has been all too blatant from Fathers’ council opponents over the years – it should be suggested that civic sponsorship should not be a factor when it comes to such basic human rights.

It is not at all the same as a private business or government body disallowing employees from wearing political T-shirts, which could hurt the employer. In this case, the vendor is the business. If the vendor promotes one candidate or ideology over another, the customer can make the choice whether to do business.

As for Meyer’s insistence he’s not advocating one way or the other, merely bringing up the concerns of an unnamed constituent, he should take a stand. His defensive waffling only draws attention to how few issues he has actually raised publicly over his years on council.

And if politicians are so keen to consider disallowing individuals from expressing their political views, they should prepare to hear a few more speeches in their very near future.

 

White Rock Farmers’ Market. (File photo)

Just Posted

No WorkSafeBC orders after ruptured water main damaged White Rock theatre

Investigation confirms that the water line ruptured as a result of pressure testing

3 ‘Dream Home’ lottery prizes located in South Surrey

Proceeds support BC Children’s Hospital

Teen stabbed at Surrey’s Unwin Park

17 year old was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

White Rock’s Johnston Road re-opened

North and south traffic re-opened Friday evening

UPDATE: Power outage in South Surrey, White Rock

Power has been restored to 1,004 customers

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Porsche impounded for going 138 km/hr in 90 zone during charity rally

West Vancouver Police said wet roads and heavy rain made it extra dangerous

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Phase 2 of $1.35B Royal Columbian upgrades won’t be a public-private partnership

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says it will be a design-build

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

Man facing charges after allegedly climbing into police car, spraying fire extinguisher

Vancouver police say the man appeared to be under the influence of drugs

Most Read

l -->