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Goodbye Gag Law

Protest ad by National Union of Public and Government Employees

Protest ad by National Union of Public and Government Employees

Good riddance to Campbell’s clamp down on free speech

On Friday the Supreme Court shot down the Campbell government’s “gag law” amendment to the B.C. Elections Act.

That’s great news. But it’s not clear the judgment comes in time to salvage free speech during this provincial election.

And for me, an important question remains.

Where has the news media been? It’s been months since the BC Liberals passed their law and tried to get away with muffling democracy. But most of our journalists didn’t seem to care much. By their lack of outrage, the media risked becoming an accessory to the crime of censorship.

Here’s what the Bill 42 “gag law” has meant as I’ve attempted to exercise my right to express opposition to government policies in this province.

In my capacity as official spokesperson for the Save Our Rivers Society, I’ve been warned not to address the meetings of just one party or I will have lost my appearance of being independent. Think on that a moment — my right to say what I damn well want is taken away unless I am, by someone else’s opinion, “independent”. Apparently I’m not appearing to be independent if I speak my own mind — it’s where I speak it that matters!

Implicit in this is that you people out there in voter land are so bluddy dumb that Rafe Mair, like some latter-day Pied Piper, can mesmerize you and take you to the polls where you’ll vote as I wish you to.

The ‘gag law’s’ targets

This “gag law” is an atrocious piece of legislation and it’s aimed at people like me who take on one main issue, in my case the environment. It’s trained on unions who may well wish to fight the war on education issues. Presumably, if a war was in the offing, no anti-war group, or pro war group for that matter, could fight an election on that issue except by paying a fine or going to jail!

In the case of the “gag law,” the insidious part is that no one really knows what it means. That’s because the Campbell government snuck it in and somehow it passed without debate. Not only was this not given appropriate debate in the legislature, more importantly, the public were shut out. And here’s where the media should have been, and should be now, screaming bloody murder at this gross assault on our liberties. I ask, where are they?

If the government of which I was a part had passed this fascist law, there would be a dozen or more top-notch journalists speaking out for your rights and, like dogs with a bone, not giving up until our feet were crispy toasted and you, the citizens, were fully informed.

Yes, there’s been an editorial here, a news story there, and once in awhile a columnist tenderly tips his/her pinky into the waters of dissent. That’s not good enough.

Let me give you a few names of those my government would have had to face if we passed this sort of free speech squelching injunction. If you are too young to remember them, ask your parents for they will tell you that I’m bang on. Jack Webster, the most feared journalist of the day and, not far behind him, Pat Burns, Gary Bannerman and Ed Murphy, Marjorie Nichols (far and away the most feared print journalist), Allan Fotheringham, Jim Hume (whose sharp fangs were only blunted because he toiled for the Victoria Times Colonist and not the Vancouver Sun), Jack Wasserman, Denny Boyd, Dave Todd, Allan Garr. Some I’ve missed, I’m sure. These courageous men and women would have blown the gag law issue out of the water.

Different standards today

When I talk about the output of working journalists, I always must make it clear that I’m not criticizing them because it wouldn’t be fair. I never had the slightest fear of being censored when I worked for CKNW. Nor did I ever feel the need to self censor. As long as Frank Griffiths owned the station, nothing was out of bounds. That included all political parties and even the Vancouver Canucks, owned by Mr. Griffiths and a huge revenue producer for CKNW. I was hired to call ’em as I saw ’em.

But under the gag law, I’ve been under considerable pressure to self-censor. The fact that I’ve been told, in writing, that I must be “independent” tells me that if I’m not, by standards of God only knows who, I can be charged, assessed a huge fine and go to jail!

Wrong side of the law?

I, and a small but happily growing number of us, am blowing the whistle on the Campbell government’s energy policy, tied to privatizing electricity production from our rivers, risking their ecologies and shipping the profits out of province.

To speak out against this was made, under the gag law, a crime. Did you see that my friends? If I speak out about the issue of the environment, and do it too often in the wrong places, I would be fined and would go to jail.

I will be speaking probably 30 or more times between now and election day. I will be addressing at least five NDP nominating meetings. I would be pleased to appear at similar Liberal functions but I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed with offers. And I will be carrying the same message, namely that Gordon Campbell is giving away our rivers, our environment, our income from energy, and will bankrupt BC Hydro. Because his giveaways bring NAFTA into play, our sovereignty will also be seriously eroded.

What Campbell is deathly afraid of is that you, the public, will catch on. Until Friday, he was also able to count on the fact that I can’t afford a fine and I don’t want to go to jail. Still, I was determined to risk both before I’d self-censor to please the enforcer of Campbell’s wicked legislation.

And you can imagine that in the days to come, I will be closely watching to see what the overturning of Bill 42 means for those like me, who for the remainder of this critical election period, wish to speak truth to power.


4 Responses to “Goodbye Gag Law”

  1. Out of control Govt. says:

    Wow … check out this video of the BC Legislature in action, the Govt. opposition cant even get answers.


  2. Out of control Govt. says:

    If you check the BC Liberals You Tube channel;
    you’ll notice the “comments section” on a number of videos (if not all of them all) has been disabled – more censorship.

  3. Ted Giesbrecht says:

    Mr Rafe. Thankyou for bringing these issues to the fore.We the citizens of British Columbia and Canada must take back our democracy ,if one can still call it that. Our decendants deserve as much, to enjoy freedom, clean air and water, where all species can live well in harmony. We must stand up to the multinational corporations and take back our land. To all who may see this blurb, vote for those who would respect the liberty and freedom of all life.

  4. Ronnie Two Chews says:

    Thank you Out of control Govt. for pointing out that the comments sections on YouTube have been disabled for the BC Screw the People Party. Ties in rather nicely with theme of the above article. They may not be able to shut us up in BC, but they will censor us everywhere they can. There is a word for people like that, it’s right on the tip of my tongue… Ah… Ass… AssH… Damn! The first part of it rhythms with fascist and the last part of it rhythms with holes. FassHoles? Oh well, you know what I mean.

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