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Something Wrong
With This Picture

by Stephen Lautens

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 pornography legal.

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 slander.

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 so.

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 sexual exploitation.

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 speech.


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