Canada

Controversial blogger Roosh V could still be shut down by public pressure

Self-proclaimed U.S. pickup artist Roosh V has already made one of his two planned Canadian speeches. But his critics, who claim he does little more than spew hate against women, want him out of the country before his next lecture this weekend.

Denying the controversial pickup artist entry to Canada may not be the best solution: lawyer

Daryush Valizadeh, known as Roosh V, says 34 men came to his Montreal lecture held last weekend. His second and last Canadian stop is scheduled in Toronto this Saturday. (Youtube)

To some, the American author and blogger Roosh V — whose full name is Daryush Valizadeh — is a pickup artist who helps contemporary men reclaim their masculinity.

But to at least 43,000 Canadians, two big-city mayors and multiple other politicians, he's a man whose anti-feminist rants amount to hate speech and doesn't deserve to be in Canada to address his loyal following, no matter how small it may be.

That said, the online petition failed to get Canada Border Services Agency to bar Valizadeh from entering the country. Last weekend he lectured about contemporary male problems with "practical solutions for helping them improve their intimate relationships with women" to 34 attendees in Montreal, where his presence also caused a ruckus in a bar afterwards.

This weekend he is to speak in Toronto, and Toronto Mayor John Tory, among others, has been saying Valizadeh is not welcome in the city. 

But barring him from Canada seems a moot point at the moment. "That horse is already out to the barn," says David Butt, a Toronto criminal lawyer who feels that some of Valizadeh's stated views on women amount to hate speech. 

The government could still attempt to prosecute him, Butt says, but that would involve a police investigation and the provincial attorney general getting involved, and is unlikely to happen.

Sometimes, he says, the most effective way is for the public simply to turn its back on an unwanted personality, rather than relying on the government to take the bold step of banning someone from entering the country.

"We're not in favour of lynch mobs," he says. "But sometimes we are in favour of people standing up firmly for a cause they believe in."

'Clear' example of hate speech

Generally speaking, Canadian law considers anyone who is willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group in a public place to be disseminating hate speech, Butt says.

To suggest that it should be lawful to perpetrate that kind of a horrific crime on a woman ... is a very clear and easy example of hate speech- David Butt, criminal lawyer

"It's a form of equality protection," says David Matas, the honorary senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group, and author of Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech.

Valizadeh's target appears to be women, and both lawyers agree some of his comments seem to fit the bill for hate speech. His controversial beliefs include advocating to rescind women's right to vote and for the decriminalization of rape on private property.

"To suggest that it should be lawful to perpetrate that kind of a horrific crime on a woman simply because she finds herself on a piece of private property is a very clear and easy example of hate speech," says Butt.

Since Valizadeh entered Canada, some public figures have denounced his presence. Both Toronto's Tory and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre launched Twitter attacks criticizing Valizadeh's teachings.

Coderre called on the federal government to make it clear if Valizadeh's presence in Canada is acceptable and if any checks were conducted when he was allowed entry for his Montreal gathering.

Canada Border Services Agency does have the discretion to refuse entry to foreigners.

Border agents determine someone's admissibility based on several factors using information available to them at the time, wrote Antonella DiGirolamo, a communications adviser, in an email. These include involvement in criminal activity, human rights violations, organized crime, or for security, health or financial reasons.

CBSA did not answer questions about the process for refusing entry due to hate speech or why they permitted Valizadeh to cross the border.

Make him a martyr?

That lack of an official response could be chalked up to Valizadeh's commentary falling under some of the areas that are protected from hate speech legislation, such as to be engaged in an artistic endeavour or to be criticizing contemporary political norms.

Perhaps the CBSA determined he was not disseminating hate speech when border agents permitted him entry, Butt says.

Or officials simply didn't know who he was and weren't aware of his online teachings.

The only other option is they knew who he was, but felt they shouldn't ban him from Canada at the time.

The situation presents "one of the central paradoxes" of hate speech laws, Butt says.

"When you have, what to most contemporary sensibilities is a raving lunatic, do you give them a platform by making them a martyr?" he asks. "Or do you just let him speak to his little group ... and then have him slink away without a trace?"

The extra attention may be leaving Valizadeh with the last laugh.

He has been promoting the dissenting voices and news articles on his Twitter account.

"Please don't give me more exposure, I'm so scared!" he wrote on Monday.

Free speech puts onus on the public

Sometimes, social action is more powerful than what governments can do, Butt says.

That's the route Toronto's mayor seems to be taking. He's encouraging the hosts of this tour to cancel Valizadeh's upcoming show. The location is currently undisclosed to prevent protesters from picketing at the event.

Some of these non-legal actions have seen success in the past.

In May, North by Northeast cancelled a show by the controversial rapper Action Bronson at the centrally located Yonge-Dundas Square after "a significant number of Torontonians ... indicated their desire" not to have him perform there, the NXNE directors said in a statement.

In 2010, organizers of a speech by American right-wing commentator Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa cancelled the event after a 2,000-person protest raised security concerns.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said that a 2010 speech at the University of Ottawa by controversial U.S. author Ann Coulter was cancelled by the university. It was in fact cancelled by the organizers of the event, who had security concerns.
    Aug 12, 2015 11:18 AM ET

With files from the Canadian Press

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