Canadian Writers express Belated Anger at their Failure to Prevent David Irving's Expulsion from Canada.


Mark Abley of Montreal, Quebec, wrote these lines in the December 1992 confidential journal of the Writers Union of Canada



"IN MID-NOVEMBER [1992] the British author David Irving was expelled from Canada. The Department of Immigration ordered him to go. Irving had come here as a visiting lecturer; a historian by training, he believes that the Holocaust never happened and that the Nazis have been cruelly misunderstood.

"I find Irving's opinions repulsive; I'm sure most TWUC members share that feeling. Yet it disturbs me that our Union remained publicly silent about his expulsion. Penny Dickens, apparently, made some private representations; but the Union chose to say nothing on the record.

"I'm very uncomfortable with the thought that our government should have the power to decide what views are acceptable here and what views are forbidden. Yet isn't that the upshot of this whole affair? If a future government were to evict another foreign writer &endash; Salman Rushdie, say &endash; it could point to the Irving case as an excellent precedent.

"If we're serious about freedom of speech, aren't we obliged to extend that right to people whose opinions we detest? Otherwise, it becomes a very limited, provisional kind of freedom. A broken shell, in fact.

"I could make a different kind of argument on the grounds of sheer pragmatism. Something along these lines: 'By choosing to kick Irving out of Canada, where he has committed no crime, we risk giving his opinions the allure of forbidden fruit. We risk making his attractively dangerous, and dangerously attractive.'

"Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't. (If I'm right, by the way, I must also admit my own guilt; for in my weekly newspaper column, I said nothing on the matter.) But in retrospect, I think the key point is simply this: our Union is supposed to stand against the censorship of authors. By our tacit agreement that David Irving should be forced onto a plane and flown out of Canada, we have entered into complicity with the censors.

"Our hands are dirty."


© Focal Point 1999 write to David Irving