January 22, 1999
I'm passionate about free speech.
And I think that people with really offensive
views are the ones who put our commitment to free
speech to the test.
After all, it's not the rights of people we
agree with that need protecting.
So what does a free-speecher do with the most
offensive of the offensive? I'm talking about
peddlers of child pornography.
To remind us once again that British Columbia is
what you get if you cross Franco's Spain with
Woodstock, the BC Supreme Court has ruled child
With a lotus blossom firmly planted in each
nostril, the B.C. Court ignored the Supreme Court
of Canada and decided last week to let child
pornographers let it all hang out.
In fairness, Mr. Justice Shaw is considered a
thoughtful, careful and even conservative judge by
those who know him.
Mr. Justice Shaw said no connection between
child pornography and violence against children had
been proven. So he decided that the law against
possessing kiddie porn is too big an "intrusion
into freedom of expression" to let it stand.
He's talking about freedom of speech, something
I passionately defend. Something it appears Mr.
Justice Shaw also holds dear.
But let's get something straight. Kiddie porn
is not about free speech.
A wise judge (not from B.C.) once said, freedom
of speech does not give you the right to yell
"fire" in a crowded theatre.
It also doesn't give you the right to hurt
people. That's why we have laws against libel and
But the B.C. court wasn't convinced that anyone
would be hurt by child pornography.
Maybe that is true when it comes to the books
and stories found in the accused's possession. If
he wants to scribble or read sickening stories
about what he blandly calls "intergenerational
sex", maybe that is his business. Maybe.
And maybe you can't prove with certainty that
the products of his imagination cause actual harm
to real children, or inspires other people to do
But he was also charged with having possession
of pornographic photos of children - and that's
where the harm is.
That's where the court - in my respectful
opinion - was asleep at the switch.
We're not talking about jack-booted thugs
burning works of art, or novels like Lolita, which
is where the knee-jerk civil libertarians get the
freedom of speech thing wrong.
We're talking about real children in these
photos who cannot consent to being posed and
exploited for some pedophile's enjoyment.
That's what makes kiddie porn different from the
rest of the sleaze trade. When you see
pornographic pictures of a kid you know its because
some adult has made them do it.
Kids can't consent - that's why they don't vote,
sign contracts or get to pick their bedtimes.
They trust adults to make decisions for them,
and there is no greater betrayal of that trust than
There's the harm the B.C. court couldn't find.
And the person possessing these pictures supports
and furthers that harm.
The real victims stare out at us from the
pictures in a pedophile's scrapbook.
There is no basic human right to possess kiddie
porn. And keeping it a criminal offense to possess
these photos wouldn't lessen anyone's right to free