Don’t Charge Moore

A fourth-year Queen’s student wants Elections Canada to charge American filmmaker Michael Moore with violating the Canada Elections Act.

Kasra Nejatian, Comm ’05, claims Moore violated section 331 of the Act, which states that no one who is not a Canadian citizen or resident may “during an election period, in any way, induce electors to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.” On June 19, while Moore was in Toronto promoting his new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, he publicly encouraged Canadians not to vote for the Conservative Party because of their positions on social issues and the war in Iraq.

While Nejatian has every right to pursue this matter in court, it seems that his efforts amount to little more than a publicity stunt. Moore should have the right to publicly express his political views and should not be charged by Elections Canada.

It seems hypocritical of Nejatian that he is attempting to charge Moore under a law that Nejatian himself openly says is unjust and should never have been established in the first place.

Further, it is unfortunate that Nejatian has chosen to use such juvenile language in his characterization of Moore; on his website—chargemoore.com—Nejatian calls Moore a “jackass.” This kind of language does not advance Nejatian’s cause and serves only to undermine his credibility.

More importantly, the election law is simply unjust. It is dangerously vague and possibly inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The law was created in 2000 and Nejatian’s challenge represents the first time anyone has attempted to have charges laid under this particular clause. Thus, any court ruling on the matter—if it should come to that—will be beneficial because it would at least establish a legal precedent clarifying exactly what the law permits.

Hopefully, if the courts are brought into the matter, they will rule in favour of free speech. Healthy democracy requires open political debate and the free exchange of ideas. Democracy in Canada will not be made stronger by restricting the fundamental right to free speech.

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