Freedom of speech, not disruption

Before you start feeling sorry for Bashir Mohamed and the alleged infringement of his free-speech rights, consider this: If an anti-abortion protester stood up during a speech being given by Thomas Mulcair at an NDP fundraiser and unfurled a banner denouncing the NDP’s support for abortion-on-demand, would you have the same sympathy for the pro-lifer’s freedom of expression?

What if the protester – even after Mulcair offered to meet with him or her afterwards – continued to read loudly from a prepared text and refused to sit down and let Mulcair finish? Would you still sympathize if security rushed him out of the room so the planned event – the event hundreds of people paid to attend – could resume?

That’s pretty much what Mohamed, a 17-year-old Edmontonian, did Saturday during a speech given by federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney at a barbecue for Edmonton Tories.   Mohamed, who opposes the federal government’s recent decision to end supplemental health benefits for refugee claimants while they await a decision on their claims to stay in Canada, stood up in the middle of Kenney’s speech, unraveled a banner that read “My Canada Cares About Refugee Health Care,” then began reading loudly from his own speech in an effort to drown out the minister.

Even after Kenney offered to meet with Mohamed after the event to listen to his concerns, Mohamed refused to be quiet.   Finally, police and security had to remove the young demonstrator. While he was “arrested,” it is unlikely he will be charged with anything.

That’s hardly censorship or an assault of Mohamed’s freedom of speech. No one is stopping the young man from expressing his opinions. He is welcome to organize his own barbecue and have Kenney escorted out if the minister shows up and attempts to disturb Mohamed’s speech.   The right to free expression does not include the right to express yourself wherever and however you wish, even to the exclusion of others’ right to speak. Nor are you being repressed if your disruptive conduct in defence of your views gets you the bum’s rush.

Mohamed is free to object to that change, but nothing gives him the right to force 400 other Canadians to sit and listen to his views.

News reports claimed Mohamed and two of his friends with video cameras bought tickets to the Kenney wingding so they could “question Kenney about the recent government cuts to premium health care coverage for refugees arriving in Canada.”   Really? They were just there to ask questions?

Then why did they bring video equipment? Clearly they planned to be disruptive and hoped their actions would get them tossed out so they could use the videos to embarrass a government they dislike.

And why, if their intent was merely to ask questions, didn’t Mohamed ask the minister about the policy during the meet-and-greet before his speech? Kenney met Mohamed during the pre-speech reception and chatted with him, but Mohamed never once raised his objections. Could it be that it was never Mohamed’s intent to question the minister and his intent always was to pull off a little stunt? Hmm.

And if asking simple questions was the goal of Mohamed and his friends, why the banner and the prepared text and the refusal to sit down even after Mohamed was offered a one-on-one with Kenney?

As of July 1, Ottawa will no longer pay for prescription drugs, dental care, eye exams and glasses or “mobility devices” such as canes, walkers or prosthetics for refugee claimants because those benefits are not given to Canadian citizens by their provincial health plans.

Mohamed is free to object to that change, but nothing gives him the right to force 400 other Canadians to sit and listen to his views.

– Lorne Gunter, QMI Agency –