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 Posted Wednesday, June 9, 1999

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June 9, 1999

Free Speech Supporters Win the Battle of Saanich

VICTORIA B.C. and region is the Mississippi of Canada, with a police force that rivals in incompetence and bigotry the goonish Southern sheriffs of yesteryear. The B.C. capital region police regularly stop motorists in four-car roadblocks, nosily demanding: "Where are you going? What are you doing there? Have you had anything to drink?" However, when it comes to preventing anarchist thugs from shoving and intimidating people trying to attend a free speech meeting, they are nowhere to be found. In fact, on June 5, one officer, when asked to intervene to assist an incapacitated senior citizen with a walker trying to get by anarchists blocking the meeting entrance, said he couldn't as he was "afraid."

On June 5, 55 people, many of them seniors had to pick their way over protesters who sat down and blocked the entrance to the Nellie McClung Library in Saanich, scene of the fundraising event for journalist and World War II hero Doug Collins. The event, sponsored by the Canadian Free Speech League, raised $732 in a collection to assist Doug Collins in his application for judicial review before the Supreme Court of British Columbia to appeal his conviction earlier this year by a one-man B.C. Human Rights Commission tribunal for having written columns "likely" to promote "hatred or contempt" of privileged special interest groups.

As people began arriving for the meeting they were greeted by screaming protesters from the Trotskyist International Socialists, the Capital Region Race Relations Association and the University of Victoria New Democrats. The anarchist mob, some hiding behind bandannas and others sporting red armbands, chanted: "Immigrants in; Nazis out."

A recent refugee from behind the Iron Curtain recognized careful communist organization in the mob's tactics. Older people trying to step over the protesters, were shoved from behind. Then, the instantly aggrieved protester let out a howl that he'd been assaulted.

Collins (right) with CBC reporter
DANGEROUS NEO NAZI: Collins (right) with CBC reporter on earlier occasion

When he arrived, Collins, 78, a veteran of the Second Gloucesters in the British Army, with 11 escapes from German prisoner-of-war camps to his credit, was pummelled on the back by an East Indian male and had to shove his way through the mob. Several others tried to drag the sturdy veteran North Shore News columnist to the ground. "I still have a few punches left," he told a cheering audience later that night.

Frightened library personnel had phoned the police as the mob swarmed over library property and blocked the entrance to the downstairs meeting hall. It took the police, whom Doug Christie, general counsel for the Canadian Free Speech League, had contacted more than a week before, 20 minutes to show up. When they did, they sat in their cruiser, letting people be obstructed and harassed. Only once did they make an ineffectual foray and politely ask the protesters to let those interested in the free speech meeting pass.

Demonstrators, led by Ben Issit of the International Socialists, carried signs that read: "The CFSL are Nazis; Nazis Out!" "Self-Determination for First Nations" and "No Tax $ for Hate." Issit wore a yellow Star of David, along with a Canadian government-supplied "Stop Racism" pink and black button.

Doug Christie blamed the indifferent authorities for permitting the mob to exercize a "heckler's veto."

Introducing Doug Collins, Christie, Canada's most outstanding legal defender of free speech, said: "Doug Collins fought in a war for freedom and now he has to fight his way through a mob. God help us if we ever have to depend on that mob out there for our freedom. I asked: 'What kind of people are you who would try to stop an old man from entering a meeting.?' All they did was scream and chant."

Referring to the still chanting mob, who every now and again interrupted their slogans to let out a war whoop, feature speaker Collins said: "There you see the Canada of the future and it wouldn't be very different from Stalinist Russia."

Speaking to the standing room only crowd, Collins warned that the attack on free speech is "going on at all levels." For instance, "the Regina Leader Post refused an ad because the local human rights commission warned that it contained discriminatory opinions about gays."

Collins quoted U.S. professor Kevin Macdonald who has said: "Hate laws have no place in a free society. They are tools in the hands of repression."

Collins noted that the hostility to free speech extends even to elements of Canada's Supreme Court. "Three years after the human rights act amendments that were aimed at me passed in B.C., Madam Justice Heureux-Dube gave expression to her view that the law was a fine one."

Explaining the ongoing threats to free thought in Canada, Collins warned: "There are organizations in this country who want to criminalize holocaust denial. They've done it in Germany and, make no mistake about it, that's what they want to do in Canada."

He explained that during the debate in B.C. on the NDP amendments to the human rights legislation that brought in the press gag law under which he was convicted of a discriminatory practice, cabinet minister Corky Evans had argued: "We need the law because the courts don't always do what we want them to do."

Dealing with the much bandied about term "hate", Collins charged: "It's the special interest groups like B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress and some of the immigrant groups that are the haters."

Collins blasted the B.C. human rights procedures. "It's a kangaroo court where truth is no defence. If truth is no defence, lies prevail. You can be fined for hurting someone's feelings. There is no right of appeal under the Act. Finally, the complainant gets legal aid, even if he's a billionaire like Bill Gates."

Referring to recent efforts by lawyers for the B.C. Attorney General's Department to seek to quash Collins' application for judicial review, he said: Attorney General "Ujjal Dosangh and his gang don't want the issue to get to the courts at all."

Collins has twice been charged under B.C.'s notorious press gag law. Acquitted the first time, he was charged again last July on a complaint by Victoria businessman Harry Abrams of B'nai Brith. The judgement by one-man tribunal Tom Patch came down in February, 1999. It found that "individually the four columns didn't constitute hate, but collectively they did," Collins explained.

"They said I was subtle. I've never been accused of being subtle. I'm about as subtle as a sledgehammer. They said they knew what I really meant. You don't have to be a mind reader to know what they meant -- censorship," Collins told the meeting which gave him a standing ovation.

A recent article in The Economist ranked Canada tenth among nations for freedom of the press, behind the U.S., Spain, Portugal, Japan, and the Czech Republic.

The third speaker of the evening was Paul Fromm, a director of the Canadian Association for Free Expression, who had sponsored Collins at a fundraising rally in Prince George on Thursday. Fromm explained recent efforts at the May 19 meeting of Hollinger -- publisher of the North Shore News -- to get the media colossus to intervene in the Collins appeal.

Fromm said: "In World War II, they had a song, 'There'll always be an England.' Doug, there will always be men and women of good will across this great Dominion who respect free speech and honour your courage and determination. On behalf of your many friends in Ontario, here is our initial donation of $500 toward your defence fund."

During the question period, Peter Pollen, the former mayor of Victoria said: "I was mayor of this city for eight years. I don't agree with all that Doug Collins says, but he's a valiant man and I'm here to support freedom of speech. Ben Isset, a terrible creature with a megaphone, who was himself acting like a fascist, called me a 'fascist' and a 'Nazi' as I entered the hall tonight and I had said nothing."

Harry Abrams, who brought the most recent complaint against Doug Collins, told the Victoria News (May 28, 1999): "'Shame on them. Shame on them' ... for allowing the [CFSL] to meet. 'This doesn't have to be in our public facilities. ... Why the hell do we have to have these people spreading hatred in our public spaces?"

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