Volume 93, Issue 53

Friday, December 3, 1999


OPINIONS

Interpret the Charter correctly

Not allowed to make up own mind

Police force out of line

Study leaves should go

Right is independent of content

Looking at USC democracy

Simply stating his own beliefs

Poppies just aren't for everyone

Attack was personal

Toon lacked accuracy

Interpret the Charter correctly



Re: "Police pull preacher" Nov. 16

To the Editor:

There has been considerable debate surrounding the removal of Christian fundamentalist Ed Wellein from outside of the University Community Centre last week. Supporters of the decision cite the derogatory content of his preaching.

Opponents decree the explicit protection all individuals are afforded under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to openly express their opinions and argue that his right to do so, has been violated as a result of his removal.

I support the gesture made by the university because they were fully within their jurisdiction. Individuals who support freedom of expression cite that all people are afforded the protection to voice their opinions. However, they are forgetting the specific application of the Charter.

The Charter is only applicable to governmental bodies and policy-making legislation. The government is forced to construct legislation that complies with the provisions of the Charter and the safety it affords only generalizes to relations between individuals if the laws specify.

In terms of freedom of expression, the Charter guarantees that the individual citizen is afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal from governmental bodies (or agencies acting on their behalf). Conversely, dealings between citizens and private industry are not covered by such a sub-section.

Think about it, a person cannot walk into a store and talk about anything that they want freely. An individual's refusal to leave the property when asked results in criminal charges such as trespassing, as specified by legislation.

When the University Police Department removed Mr. Wellein, they were not acting as agents of the government, they were acting on behalf of the university.

One may argue that since this school is publicly funded, Mr. Wellein is protected. However, this university is a private institution that offers a service for a fee. Our classes are not open to the public, so why should our campus be? Therefore, the university was well within its right to remove him.

The university is obligated to act on behalf of the will of its students, since we are the contributors. Since Mr. Wellein doesn't have student status, the university is not obligated to offer him special treatment.

One may argue that the university is a place where ideas are generated and if a couple of people voice their dissenting positions in such a place, then their voices will be systematically silenced in the interest of liberal democracy. This is always a reality – and not one that the Charter protects.

In fact, we should remember that while the Charter protects an individual's right to free expression, there are also laws prohibiting the proliferation of hateful messages and materials. We call it obscenity.

It is not a perfect system. We always risk silencing some minority voice, but this also helps ensure that marginalized groups are protected from organized hate.

There really should be no concern about compromising Mr. Wellein's right to free speech and expression. He could have easily walked down to Richmond Street to continue his preaching. This is a freedom that he is guaranteed.

Jennifer Wrye
Women's Studies and Psychology III



To Contact The Opinions Department:
gazette.opinions@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1999