Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium & BCCLA continue fight for free speech and equality

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Little Sister’s gay and lesbian bookstore and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have committed to carry their longstanding battle with Canada Customs to the Supreme Court of Canada. Their commitment is the result of a split decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal today.

A 2-1 majority of the appeal court panel ruled that the legislation that empowers Customs officials to prohibit books, magazines, videos and other materials is justified despite violating Canadians’ free expression rights.

However, the plaintiff bookstore and the civil rights organization were immensely encouraged by the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Finch, who found that the legislation was unconstitutionally vague and not demonstrably justified in Canada’s free and democratic society.

Janine Fuller, manager of the bookstore said, “I believe that Justice Finch understood the profound impact of Customs’ censorship on the gay and lesbian community, bookstores and writers. His decision was a clear move towards the intellectual freedoms that all Canadians should have.”

Though disappointed by the majority decision, Andrew Irvine, president of the BCCLA notes that “Like Mr. Justice Finch, we believe there is no basis for a reasonable apprehension of harm in this case that would justify a system of prior restraint. We are optimistic that we can convince the Supreme Court of Canada that we are right.”

In his dissenting reasons, Mr. Justice Finch said, “Free expression is a fundamental right in any democratic society. A statutory scheme that imperils the free distribution of morally unimpeachable material cannot be justified by the lame explanation that obscenity was the real target.”