Letters to the Editors

Conservative outcry is hypocritical

Dear Editors,

Re: “Student takes on Michael Moore” (Journal, July 27, 2004)

How fitting that the president of the Ontario Campus Conservatives would call for Michael Moore to be charged under the Canada Elections Act for having the nerve to suggest that Canadians not support Stephen Harper’s recent election campaign. As conservatives in Canada and the U.S. have lurched to the right in recent years their in-your-face hypocrisy has become all the more appalling.

In one breath, they call for the stifling of Moore’s right to express his views while in the next they proclaim their support for the right to free speech.

Mr. Nejatian stated his unwillingness to “engage in a battle which the law is only upheld for one side.” Perhaps I have missed something, but I have not heard of anyone from the political right being muzzled by the Canada Elections Act.

Michael Moore, love him or hate him, is one of a very small number of American progressives (perhaps better known to conservatives as “multimillionaire socialists”) to receive any attention from the fair and balanced mass media since the Bush regime was appointed. That, apparently, is too much for neoconservatives to bear.

Tim Birt, Ph.D
Assistant Professor Adjunct
Faculty of Arts and Science

Nejatian selectively critical of Americans

Dear Editors,

Re: “Student takes on Michael Moore” (Journal, July 27, 2004)

Kasra Nejatian, a Queen’s commerce student and the president of the Ontario Campus Conservatives, wants Elections Canada to charge Michael Moore for stating that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will demolish Canada’s social safety net. Considering the American government has an extremely long list of meddling in other countries’ affairs, explicitly and clandestinely, Moore’s opinion hardly seems something to fret about.

If Nejatian wants to condemn Moore for his opinion, maybe he should also condemn past and present U.S. administrations for interfering with Chile and its coup d’etat, Venezuela and the aggravating of social unrest to destabilize the Chavez government, Guatemala and its coup d’etat, the invasion of Vietnam, Nicaragua and arming government opposition, the embargo in Cuba and the invasion of Grenada.

The list goes on and on. Oh, let’s not forget Iraq. Unlike Moore’s statement at a Toronto movie theatre, Americans actions have killed thousands in these countries. After all, who put Pinochet in power in Chile?

In terms of Canadian context, U.S. government officials often criticize Canada for issues such as gun control, same-sex marriage, marijuana and others.

I know Nejatian may have a conservative agenda, which in itself is his right to pursue, but his hypocrisy is troublesome.

John No
ArtSci ’04

More on Moore

Dear Editors,

Re: “Don’t charge Moore” (Journal, July 27, 2004)

In your recent editorial regarding Section 331 of the Canada Election Act, you made what I think is somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to the new “anti-foreign interference” clause and Kasra Nejatian’s petition. As devil’s advocate, I would like to say something in defense of the law. In your editorial, you call the provision “simply unjust ... it is dangerously vague and possibly inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” I disagree. This law is in no respect fundamentally unjust, and moreover, I think it is necessarily vague, and safer for it.

The clause states that a foreign citizen cannot “during an election period, in any way, induce electors to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.” Notice that this law applies only during an election period, that it pertains only with regard to a particular candidate’s name, that it specifically pertains to voting and that it refers to electors, indicating more than one.

In short, this is really a very shallow limit on one’s freedom of speech. It means that an American can say, “I hate Stephen Harper, I hate the Conservative Party,” or even “don’t vote for the Conservative Party,” but he cannot, during an election period, persuade voters to not vote for Stephen Harper. Moreover, the word “induce” is well-used in law, and is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as “prevailing upon or persuading (aggressively).” This law therefore does not affect your ability to express your opinion, it only prevents you from trying to forcibly cajole Canadians into voting for someone or against someone in particular. Is Michael Moore guilty of this? Well, maybe. He is definitely straddling a line, in my opinion. But as you point out, under Common Law, we rely on court decision precedents to refine the meaning of a law.

This is much, much easier than trying to account for every possible contingency in the legislation. Whenever you try to make a law more precise, you introduce technicalities that can tie back a judge’s hands in the face of a potential abuse or miscarriage of justice. I wouldn’t want to see Michael Moore charged on mere technicalities. By keeping the wording simple and vague, we empower the judges to interpret the law and to prevent potential abuses.

As for Nejatian's “juvenile wording” and political motives, I think his is a poorly presented—but very human—reaction.

If the Conservatives have been forced to respect this law they dislike, it must be very frustrating to see their rivals getting help from a leftist celebrity like Moore, breaking the very same Liberal legislation in the process.

Alex Davis
Sci ’04

Journal discretion reflects poor taste and quality

Dear Editors,

Re: “Student takes on Michael Moore,” “Don’t charge Moore,” (Journal, July 27, 2004)

I finished my MPA degree at the School of Policy Studies at the end of June, so let me suggest that searching out the Journal for something to read over the summer did not rate too highly on my preferred list of activities. Yet the Journal seems to have come to me, and so I have perused its pages. Perhaps you feel that you can get away with a shoddier publication during the summer term, but this particular July 27, 2004 issue was conducted in appallingly poor taste and quality, even by the often-low standards of campus newspapers, and I did my first degree at York University.

The latest issue of your publication suffers from idiocy and sloppiness. First up is your main editorial entitled “Don’t Charge Moore” about student Kasra Nejatian’s attempt to have Elections Canada charge Michael Moore for his alleged violations of the Canada Elections Act. The article was written in a cogent, assured manner and fairly reports on the story. The problem, however, lies with the accompanying editorial.

While I do not have legal authority to determine if Moore indeed broke the tenets of the Canada Elections Act, his remarks do speak for themselves and it would appear that he has violated the provisions of the Act. Your editorial states “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.” More glaringly, your editorial goes on to remark that 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.” And, finally, comes the peak of your absurdity with the following quotation: “More importantly, the election law is simply unjust ... 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.”

Does Nejatian’s campaign amount to publicity stunt? Unabashedly, the answer is yes. But what is the purpose of Nejatian’s campaign? If the editorial staff of the Journal were to apply even a small amount of critical thinking, they would have realized that their editorial position is in fact exactly what Nejatian seeks. Nejatian merely wants the law to be applied equally. If other 3rd parties—say, the National Citizens Coalition—are restricted in what they can say (and how much they can spend on saying it) during election campaigns, then people like Moore should not be allowed to effect the same purpose without sanction.

As for Nejatian being hypocritical for attempting to have Moore charged under a law that even Nejatian suggests is unjust and should never have been established, the very purpose of the challenge is to provoke a change to the law. Either it should be applied equally or it should not be applied at all. While Nejatian would certainly prefer the latter, he would settle at this point for the former.

Incredulously, your editorial then flips and states that the election law is unjust. While admonishing Nejatian’s attempt to bring the matter to court, you conclude by hoping that the courts will eventually rule in favour of free speech—which is, once again, Nejatian’s very cause for concern.

Lastly, it bears outlining how I have come to be in possession of this copy of the Journal. My sister, who has just finished high school in Ontario, is heading off to university in the fall.

Like many hundreds or thousands of others under the ridiculous early deadline Queen’s has chosen, my sister will not be attending Queen’s. But for some reason that appears beyond my comprehension, Queen’s seems intent on providing her with periodic mailings such as this last one that included this issue of the Journal. She was previously mailed a copy of the undergraduate calendar. As one might expect, such large mailings are costly, and if spread out over thousands of students, vastly more so in the collective. Perhaps now I know why Queen’s was only able to offer an exceptional student of my calibre with such a meagre scholarship.

Brian Studniberg
MPA ’04

University Avenue could reflect forward thinking

Dear Editors,

Re: “University Avenue to get facelift” (Journal, June 29, 2004)

The rebuilding of University Avenue presents a golden opportunity to integrate both a cultural display of Queen’s-based talent and artistry, with a community-based yearning for inclusivity, and Kingston’s willingness to be a part of a broad spectrum of the Queen’s milieu, in both cultural and entertainment areas, with a view to encouraging wellness through physical activity.

We believe it is necessary to use this opportunity to create an “Avenue for the Arts and Wellness,” with play areas for adults such as permanent checker and chess tables, basketball hoops and volleyball and tennis nets, and some activity centres for children, with sandboxes, slides and jungle gyms. Perhaps wood-shop students at KCVI could produce wooden chessmen or checkers.

A display area for Queen’s art students, sheltered for paintings, and less sheltered for sculpture, would be prominent.

A band shell, with tiers of rocks, and plantings of perennial plants would form a beautiful amphitheatre, and offer drama and film studies students, as well as music students and various choirs and musical associations, a venue for a great variety of presentations.

We envision an area with a reflecting pool in summer, adaptable as a skating area when winter temperatures allow, possibly fed by a windmill-powered waterfall, with windmill and pump constructed by engineering students, and let by solar-powered lamps designed by the electronics students. Biosciences students could care for goldfish in the pool.

Geology students could create a display of a variety of rocks from across Canada, discretely labeled, to amuse and educate persons of all ages.

University Avenue would have two of it’s current four lanes crossed off entirely, with the remaining area open only to emergency or service vehicles, making it a people place, rather than a car thoroughfare. Attention needs to be paid to popular choices of non-polluting transportation such as rollerblades, skateboards, scooters and bikes, and car access really ought to be ignored in at least one area of the University.

Since the City of Kingston wishes to block off the current waterfront in favour of a glass and concrete canyon, similar to Toronto, we feel it is up to the good people at Queen’s to provide the publicly accessible, people-friendly environment which the city council has proven it does not find desirable.

We feel that if a number of these concepts are implemented, it will promote Queen’s as a truly forward thinking, innovative and progressive institution which truly cares about its at-large community image.

Volker Busse and Peter Mautner
Kingston residents

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