I’m back home in the Land of the Free (well, at least we’re freer than Canada!) .Just a quick note here to let you know that I’m OK after being arrested in Saskatchewan, Canada, for standing up for free speech at a public university (U. of Regina) with Canadian pro-family/pro-life hero Bill Whatcott. Here are some key facts:
I arrived home in Chicago late Tuesday night after cutting my week-long visit to Canada short to avoid a second hearing with Canadian Border Service agents on whether I could stay in the country.
The “Pro-Gay Thought Police” seemed to follow me wherever I went in Canada. When I entered the country through Regina [Saskatchewan] Airport last Thursday around 10:00 PM, I was detained for more than three hours as Border Security agents rifled through my luggage, laptop–and even my cell phone–searching for material that would violate Canada’s “Hate Propaganda” law. I hope that most Americans would be as shocked as I was to see government bureaucrats searching through my personal items for evidence of ideas and advocacy it wants to ban (in this case Judeo-Christian morality opposed to homosexual sin).
After the long wait and further questions (including reviewing the AFTAH website), I was formally denied entry into Canada, but elected to appeal the decision with the help of a Canadian attorney. The next day, as Whatcott and I went to the Border Security office at the airport prepared to make our appeal, we quickly discovered that the decision to overturn my entry ban was a done deal. Later we learned that political pressure had been brought to bear on Customs by some conservative Members of Parliament.
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A huge THANK YOU to all who prayed for me and offered help to get me into Canada so I could honor my speaking commitment and thwart the arrogant political bullying of leftists who attempted to decide for EVERYONE who could speak at the pro-life event!
Once approved to enter Canada. I stood outside the airport before an array of Canadian reporters and showed them my passport allowing me to stay in Canada until Thursday, April 17, as long as I did not violate any Canadian laws.
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I gave my speech at the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association and it was well-received, except by a group of protesters outside with signs–who were graciously allowed to attend the conference by SPLA organizers despite their previous attempt to block me as a speaker.
Many attendees expressed their gratitude at being able to hear a presentation on the homosexual agenda, and I was thrilled to have the support of Canadian pro-life hero Linda Gibbons, who has spent many months in jail for refusing to honor “bubble zone” speech codes outside abortion mills. I stressed that Christians need to be as principled against the homosexual activist agenda–including homosexual “marriage”–as they are in defending unborn life.
Arrested at U. of Regina
On Monday, I ventured out with Bill Whatcott to be part of his peaceful pro-life and anti-homosexual-agenda protest at the University of Regina. I brought along an AFTAH flier titled,’ “Is All Love ‘Equal’?” to educate students on the disproportionate health risks of LGBT behaviors (e.g., “The incidence of anal cancer is approximately 80 times that of the general population.”–HIV Essentials).
Immediately upon entering the campus, we were informed by a U. Regina official that we were not welcome and ordered to leave. Bill responded that he had a right to be at the public campus under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that he would not leave. Whatcott’s right to protest at college campuses had already been affirmed twice by Canadian courts.
Two hours later, police arrived to inform Whatcott that if he did not vacate the premises, he would be arrested. Ten minutes after that, Bill and I were being led away by police in hand-cuffs. I felt someone needed to join Bill in standing up for the simple right to speak in defense of biblical truth at a publicly funded university. We were charged at first with trespassing but later it was changed to “mischief.”
U of R provost and vice-president Thomas Chase explained why the university felt the need to banish Whatcott’s protest: “The materials were graphic and the materials were disturbing,” he told the Regina Leader-Post. “The materials, we felt, could harm members of this campus community who we have a duty to protect and support.”
I was taken to the Regina Police Headquarters with my hands cuffed behind my back. There, the police took everything on my person except my socks, jeans, underwear and a T-shirt. As they would treat a common criminal, they took my eyeglasses, my wedding ring, my watch, etc.–apparently part of standard procedure to prevent inmates from harming themselves. It seemed a bit of overkill to me, but I suppose they were under orders to treat me the same as other inmates.
Inside the small, 5-and-a-half by 8-foot jail cell with nothing but a cement cot and a metal sink/toilet, I asked for a Bible to read, but they would not provide one. I’m still trying to figure out how a Bible could be used for suicide. Anyway, I had a lot of time to think and pray so that’s what I did. It was my first time in a prison and I wouldn’t recommend it!
Bill was released after a couple of hours, but I was kept in jail because now the Border Security agency wanted to take over my case. I was told that since I had been arrested by Canadian police, I had allegedly violated the sole condition of my entry into Canada. (I responded that neither Bill nor I believed we were violating Canadian law, as Bill’s right to protest at public universities–including U. Regina–had already been validated in the courts.)
Because of Customs’ involvement, I had to spend the night in the holding cell. Thank God Bill had graciously given me his cot cushion or I would have been sleeping on cement. The next day, I was informed that there would be another hearing about whether I could stay in the country. Since I had planned to leave Thursday morning anyway–and faced the prospect of at least another day in prison, I told the Border Security agent in charge (Joe) that I would be willing to leave right away since being expelled might be the verdict of the government anyway.
From that point it was all about finding the quickest way to get me out of Canada, and I was soon on a 2:30 PM flight to Denver. From the Canadian border authorities’ perspective, I suppose, it was problem solved! How sad that a major democracy like Canada expended such energy and resources in handling the case of a single Christian family advocate attempting to spend a week in their country!
I now face a preliminary hearing May 26 in Canada. Hopefully, Whatcott or our lawyer, Tom Schuck, will be able to plead “not guilty” for me so I won’t have to go to Canada for that. Then, if the “mischief” charges are not dropped–and Schuck says there is a good chance that they could be–I will face a trial on the Mischief charge in Canada.
Please pray that this will be resolved without either Bill or me being convicted of a crime simply for sharing the truth about sexual morality and abortion to college kids.
Here is an address to send gifts for our defense–led by Canadian attorney Tom Schuck (phone: 306-842-4654):
Bill Whatcott and Peter LaBarbera Defence Fund
NSWB Law Firm
319 Souris Ave.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.