By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
CALGARY, October 25, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Provincial court Judge John Bascom said he will rule early next year whether University of Calgary security officials had the authority to charge Bill Whatcott with trespassing for handing out flyers on campus criticizing homosexuality.
Judge Bascom heard arguments on Friday from Crown prosecutor Kristyn Stevens and from defense lawyer Dale Fedorchuk.
Fedorchuk told the court that Whatcott was arrested by campus security on July 25, 2008 as a result of a complaint about the content of the pamphlets he was distributing. He argued that the arrest and subsequent charge of trespassing infringed on his client's right to freedom of speech.
Whatcott had previously been charged with trespassing on U of C property on January 17, 2005, and banned from campus, for handing out pro-life flyers. The charge was later stayed but the ban remained in force, the court was told.
“You have to go back to 2005,” Fedorchuk told the court. “There was a complaint because someone found the (pro-life) flyer to be offensive and campus security investigated.
“It was clear in 2005 the content of the flyer offended people. Security stopped and detained Mr. Whatcott. He was told it was policy, but we don't know what the policy states, just that it was against policy.”
Crown prosecutor Stevens told the court that the content of Whatcott's pamphlets was not the issue, but rather that he had been banned from campus because he did not have permission to distribute any kind of material at the university.
“Mr. Whatcott could easily have complied by applying to come back at a designated time and place,” Stevens told Judge Bascom.
“It has to do with policy, not content. Campus security is acting as property owners to determine who can come on the property or not. In this case, it is a relationship between a property owner and a member of the public who is not connected to the university.”
However, campus security officer Jean Beaudoin testified that he arrested and charged Whatcott in response to complaints about the “offensive nature” of the material being distributed.
“My flyers are strongly worded,” Whatcott told his lawyer, according to a Calgary Herald report. “Love me or hate me, my flyers do get read from front to back and people do think about it.
“They (university officials) did not like the content of my information and would not give me access to share my information.”
Judge Bascom indicated to the two lawyers that he will consider both aspects – freedom of speech and the content of the pamphlets – of the case before him.
The issue in the case, Bascom said, is “not what Whatcott says but his ability to say what he believes in a free democratic society. The last thing we want to do is restrict freedom of speech in any way.”
Nonetheless, Bascom added, “Let's not be naive. Content is why we're here.”
Conservative activist Bill Whatcott is well known for campaigning for life and family values, and has had both judicial and Human Rights Commission decisions against him overturned.
In 2008, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals ruled that a Court of Queen’s Bench decision upholding a judgment against Whatcott by the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses, that saw his nursing license suspended and a fine of $15,000 imposed for protesting abortion, was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals reinstated his nursing license and cancelled the fine.
In March of this year the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals overturned a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission decision that imposed a $17,500 fine and a “life time ban” on criticizing homosexuality on Whatcott.
That case involved four homosexual complainants whose “feelings were hurt” by flyers Whatcott distributed in 2001 and 2002 denouncing the homosexual lifestyle as immoral and dangerous.
See related LSN coverage:
Sask. Court Overturns Human Rights Ruling against Anti-Homosexuality Activist
Precedent Setting Ruling Reinstates Canadian Pro-Life Activist’s Nursing License, Cancels Fine
Catholic Activist “Banned for life” From Publicly Criticising Homosexuality