The lawyers for an anti-gay activist who infiltrated the Toronto Pride parade say the lawsuit their client is now facing is meant to intimidate him, chill free speech and financially ruin his supporters.
Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott filed the lawsuit on behalf of longtime gay activist Christopher Hudspeth and former Ontario Liberal MPP George Smitherman in August 2016, after Bill Whatcott and a group of his friends disguised themselves as “marijuana-loving gay zombies” and infiltrated the parade in order to distribute more than 3,000 anti-gay leaflets.
In a 53-page factum filed Nov 1, 2016, with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Whatcott’s lawyers argue that their client was exercising his constitutional freedom to express an alternative political opinion at a publicly-funded event.
“His leaflets warn others of the dangers of a gay lifestyle that jeopardizes health and strains the healthcare system of Canada. He expresses his political opposition to moral debauchery by exposing the private immoral behaviour of those individuals that have been entrusted with public office and who were scandalized by deviant sexual behaviour that resulted in criminal convictions. His goal is to speak the truth,” the factum says.
None of the statements made in the leaflets were false or defamatory, the factum continues.
Whatcott should not have to “adhere to politically correct thought” in order to participate in Pride, his lawyers argue.
“Individuals who wish to participate at political events in a public forum should not have to be constrained by rules to adhere to politically correct thought in line with the political partner of the Parade or the political goals of the Parade,” the factum states.
“These limitations are unacceptable in a free and democratic society,” it says. “Whatcott’s ability to exercise his freedom of expression at the right time and place to make an impact on the target audience must not be conditional upon forcing him to either resort to subterfuge or to ally himself with a political opponent.”
Whatcott’s lawyers also object to the lawsuit’s attempt to reveal the identities of Whatcott’s anonymous supporters. That would violate their constitutional right to privacy, the factum argues.
The Pride parade presented a “golden opportunity” for politicians to demonstrate their solidarity with the political objectives of the gay community — and equally for Whatcott to demonstrate his opposition, the factum contends.
“This ‘golden opportunity’ was there for both the Zombies and the Liberals to make either supporting or opposing political statements about political issues, as each saw fit,” reads the factum.
“In fact,” the factum states, “some honoured guests, Black Lives Matters, ‘hijacked’ the same Parade and remarkably was not sued, even though they successfully used this ‘golden opportunity’ to ‘blackmail’ the Pride executives for the police marchers to be expelled from the Parade to accomplish their political goals.”
Whatcott’s lawyer, Charles Lugosi, declined Daily Xtra’s request for comment, saying the factum “clearly advances Mr Whatcott's position.”
The next hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled to take place in Toronto on Feb 8 and 9, 2017.