U.S. antigay activist Peter LaBarbera and a Canadian colleague were arrested while distributing literature with homophobic messages at a Canadian university Monday.
LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Canadian right-wing activist Bill Whatcott were charged with mischief after they refused to leave the campus of the University of Regina, in the province of Saskatchewan, reports The Leader-Post of Regina. Campus security and the Regina police asked the men to leave multiple times before their arrest.
Their literature dealt with what they called the dangers of same-sex relationships. A university official described the materials as “graphic” and “disturbing,” The Leader-Post reports.
“The materials, we felt, could harm members of this campus community who we have a duty to protect and support,” added that official, vice president and provost-academic Thomas Chase. He said the literature violated university policy against the distribution of material that attacks anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
The antigay activists, who are scheduled to appear in court in May, denounced their arrest as an attempt at silencing them.
“They’re not open to any message that disagrees with homosexuality,” said Whatcott, who was involved in a major court case last year regarding Saskatchewan’s law against hate speech. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld key provisions of the law and ruled that Whatcott’s literature violated them.
Added LaBarbera: “The idea that you can’t have an open debate on homosexuality at a college campus and that some speech code is brought in to kick people off because they have a viewpoint that most students probably haven’t heard — it seems to me it’s pretty undemocratic.”
LaBarbera’s other activities in Canada included speaking at an anti-abortion conference last weekend. Canadian authorities initially denied him entry into the country because of concerns that he would promote hate speech, and he was detained briefly at the Regina airport Thursday. After an appeal, LaBarbera was ultimately allowed into the country on Friday, with the agreement that he would leave by this Thursday.
Watch the campus confrontation below in video from Canadian broadcaster CJME.