Peter Menzies: Calgary Mayor’s Bylaw to Silence Protests She Disagrees With Goes Against Democracy

Peter Menzies: Calgary Mayor’s Bylaw to Silence Protests She Disagrees With Goes Against Democracy
Jyoti Gondek is sworn in as the new mayor of Calgary, on Oct. 25, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Gavin Young, POOL)
Peter Menzies
3/15/2023
Updated:
4/2/2024
0:00
Commentary

Imagine, if you would, a major North American city so overwhelmed with wokeness it feels compelled to muzzle the speech of citizens whose views its mayor finds disagreeable.

Welcome to Calgary. Deemed by some studies as the continent’s most livable city, it can now cheerfully stake claim to being a hillbilly haven of tin-pot dictatorship. Totalitarians R Us, the citizens of the city once known as Cowtown may now proudly proclaim.

The story began when some people protested children’s storytime events put on by transgender performers at city libraries. Other malcontents, apparently, have shown up at pools concerned that, going forward, their daughters will view male genitalia in the change room. Imagine.

These complaints, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek decided, are beyond the pale and “rooted in hatred.”

“We have performers being targeted for weeks & now vitriol in front of children at the library,” she Tweeted concerning the storytime protests.”These are not peaceful protests. This is hate. The kind of hate we rallied against for so long.”

There was certainly some misconduct at one of the events that led to police charging a man with mischief and causing a disturbance while motivated by hatred. So, while we await the outcome in the courts, if Gondek thinks others have broken the law, she should call the cops. Hate speech is illegal in Canada.

We don’t know if she has or will file a complaint, but the available evidence suggests the Criminal Code’s legal bars may be too high for her liking. She definitely got angry.

As The Epoch Times reported: “Gondek posted a video clip of a Jan. 17 city council meeting on Twitter, where she stated, “Unfortunately, some members of our population thought it would be a good idea to protest this event, which is, I’m just going to use my opinion, a horrible thing to do.”

Which you’d think would be the end of it. While there was a cancellation, stories got read to children whose parents approved, protesters who disapproved got to voice their disapproval, and Her Whatever (Gondek has eschewed the honorific Your Worship for being overtly colonial) got to voice her disapproval of the disapproving points of view. There was an apparent breach of the law and police intervened. That’s how liberal democracy works, right?

Well, not in Calgary apparently. And not anymore.

Gondek, as mayor, has a significant pulpit from which to preach whatever fire and brimstone sermon she wishes. But her actions indicate she is convinced her perspective on the world is The One To Be Followed and so she has chosen to use her power not as a light but as a sword.

In a dangerously Orwellian move, she had her staff create a “Safe and Inclusive Access” bylaw.

The move, approved March 14, has been panned by lawyers as clearly  unconstitutional. And not just the usual suspects have raised eyebrows.

Adrienne Smith, a non-binary social justice lawyer, told the CBC that there are plenty of protections already available, including human rights legislation and the Criminal Code of Canada.

No reasonable person can object to the part of the bylaw that ensures access to public facilities is not blocked by protests—although a 100-metre no-go zone is way over the top.

But get this: the bylaw is discriminatory and limited to “protests that object to or disapprove of any race, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age, place of origin, marital or family status, sexual orientation or income source.”

Not satisfied with curating what manner of protests are targeted (anti-Jordan Peterson and Rex Murphy event demos would, for instance, be fine), Gondek also had her righteous colleagues update their public behaviour bylaw to include “intimidation.” Never mind that, as Smith pointed out, intimidation is already against the law. The maximum penalty for breeching this bylaw has been increased to a $10,000 fine or a year in prison.

I don’t know if all the protesters’ views are “rooted in hatred” as Gondek suggested. If some are, for the record, I don’t like that. But I rather doubt most of the people involved have a regular role in the society salons where Gondek hangs out, so I don’t think she knows any better than I do what the thoughts of protesters are rooted in. For all I or she or anyone else knows, they are founded in a desire to avoid confusing their children with sexual discussions for as long as possible, however mis- or otherwise guided that may be.

At the end of the day, what people think is none of Gondek’s business,

Nor mine. What they do publicly is different, and if protesters of any ilk—not just those specified by Gondek and her speech-sifting colleagues—engage in intimidation or hate speech, call 911.

But if you hold public office and you simply can’t tolerate free speech, or if  your instincts are to presume the motivations of others and muzzle their constitutional rights, you are a far, far greater threat to the safety and security of democratic society than any citizen standing outside a pool with a placard.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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