Sunday, 5 February 2012

Encouraging ridicule & contempt?

Recent developments surrounding the “case” of a Fredericton resident who MAY be charged with libel demonstrate clearly how only one side of the story is being told.

The klaxon alarm has been sounding to protect the right of “freedom of expression” with the latest entry from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (  

The CCLA jumped in with both feet to denounce the action of the Fredericton police in executing a search warrant at Charles LeBlanc’s room and seizing his computer equipment. It is common practice when police are investigating any incident related to the use of computers, such as child pornography, to seize the computer equipment for examination. Suddenly, in this instance, what is normal police operating procedure has acquired an evil tone. Puzzling.

The character of the CCLA letter is also puzzling. The organization has no more authority than the average citizen and yet their letter has a demanding tone in requesting information from the Fredericton Police Department as if the Department is required to answer their questions. They have no jurisdiction in this case other than what they self-assign.

While the CCLA offers criticism of the police action and pronouncements regarding Section 301 of the C.C.C., an important part of its argument can be found near the end of its letter to the Fredericton Chief of Police: “the use of police resources in this kind of investigation may place a chill on expression and discourage members of the community from speaking out on public issues that matter to them or criticizing the police even when such criticisms are valid and may ultimately benefit the public.”

The question is what exactly could be “chilled” by such an investigation? LeBlanc has consistently and repeatedly referred to members of the Fredericton Police Department and employees of the New Brunswick Legislature as racists and fascists. He has repeatedly used their pictures (one can only assume without permission) on his website and has defaced those pictures with Nazi swastikas and “gestapo” labels. He has repeatedly made disparaging comments about people of French heritage and those whom he believes to be connected to the province of Quebec. In short, he has subjected them to contempt and ridicule, one of the tests of the libel laws in this country.

And yet, very few are discussing LeBlanc’s actions. Mainstream media seems to ignore the content of his writing as if it has no bearing on the present situation. Never has any reporter challenged LeBlanc on his writing. If he was another identifiable public figure saying such things, the media would be all over him. One gets the impression the mainstream media is protecting LeBlanc and treating him with kid gloves while jumping all over those whom he chooses to criticize. It makes for a fascinating study of obvious media bias.

Rights do not supersede laws. I can enjoy my rights until such time as I cross the line. The present investigation is to determine (as I understand it) whether LeBlanc broke the law. Once that has been determined, the next step will be taken. No charges have been laid.

A right such as freedom of expression comes with responsibilities and one of the responsibilities is not to infringe on the rights of another. Libel laws were created for a very specific reason – to enable all of us to enjoy a good reputation without being held up to ridicule and contempt by another. Whether a libel has been committed is up to a court to decide but the investigation of a potential criminal libel is the jurisdiction of police work.

There has been too much talk on the part of the pseudo intelligentsia about this bringing a black mark onto Fredericton’s reputation; perhaps what they need to consider is how permitting and subtly encouraging the propagation of ridicule and contempt against very specific individuals including police officers, employees of the New Brunswick legislature and other public servants demonstrates their own particular biases towards those identifiable individuals and groups.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cyber-bullying is celebrated in Fredericton

It’s fascinating to watch how the story of Fredericton resident Charles LeBlanc is taking on elements of “folk hero”.

LeBlanc has apparently been charged by the Fredericton police under section 301 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits the publication of defamatory libel, “defined as matter published without lawful justification that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing that person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person to which the matter refers.”

Any number of blatantly amateur legal analysts have jumped on the bandwagon to claim such action violates the spirit of the Freedom of Expression provision contained in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. They are quick to point out that it has been successfully challenged in a couple of provincial courts (R. v. Gill, 29 O.R. (3d) 250 (Ont. Gen. Div.); SCC File No. 30103), 2003 SCCA. No. 555). It has become a bit of a cause célèbre with some of the pseudo intelligentsia in Fredericton who flit from one cause to another with the attention span of a ram in heat.

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t listened to the CBC over the last decade, LeBlanc is the fellow from Saint John who pitched a tent on the grounds of the New Brunswick Legislature to draw attention to ADHD (which he claims he has) and the use of the prescription drug Ritalin. LeBlanc calls himself a political activist. Some people think he has a great scam going where he gets welfare, doesn’t have to work and maintains a blog that has recently attracted a lot of attention. He has taken on the appearance of a unregistered charity.

For anyone who has taken the time to read through his blog, you will find it loaded with pictures of Fredericton and a nauseating number of entries detailing LeBlanc’s personal vendetta(s) against anyone who dares to question his beliefs. To the casual observer, seeing the words “racist”, “fascist” and now “gestapo” used endlessly and repeatedly to describe Fredericton police and officials at the New Brunswick Legislature becomes a bit much. There is little doubt but that his writing is designed to insult the people to whom he refers and expose and subject them to contempt and ridicule. LeBlanc doesn’t have the common sense to let up.

Instead, he relishes the attention. He will knowingly break the law, whether it’s riding his bicycle on the sidewalk or standing outside the police station with a bullhorn and disturbing the peace for everyone around him. Then, when the police take action against him, he draws the victim mantle tightly around him and the local press lap it up. Local newshounds take great glee in claiming that the law is not applied equally but never seem to acknowledge the fact that indeed LeBlanc did break the law.

It’s the same as the current situation with regard to his blog and it being wrapped in the Freedom of Expressions in the Charter. One juvenile city councillor in Fredericton has even suggested police action to charge LeBlanc under Section 301 is a violation of civil liberties and a potential conflict-of-interest since the alleged injured party in the defamatory libel scenario is a police officer. It might be helpful for the juvenile councillor to take a couple of Canadian law courses at UNB before he spouts off at length about something of which he has such little apparent command of the facts.

LeBlanc crossed the line when he began subjecting municipal and provincial officials in Fredericton to insult and ridicule. In this day and age of focus on “bully”, no one seems willing to acknowledge that LeBlanc is a cyber-bully in the worst sense of the word because they are afraid they will be seen as insensitive or politically incorrect. Maybe they need to rethink their perspective and support the decision of the Crown to proceed under Section 301. The authors of the Charter of Rights & Freedom did not intend it to be used as a justification for bullying.