Acting on a complaint against Capital Xtra from a single citizen, Ottawa city hall is considering restrictions on what you can read and where.
The law is clear: municipal governments do not have authority to censor. They have to treat all community newspapers equally. They cannot restrict publications that are not, under Canadian law, adult in nature.
This ought to be an easy move for Ottawa administrators and councillors. The fact is, Capital Xtra does not come anywhere near the legal definitions of an adult publication — we are not in the same category as Playboy, let alone Hustler. We are, however, a community newspaper like the Ottawa Citizen, The Sun, Xpress and the suburban papers. We are chock full of local and national news and views, listings and arts coverage.
We also, like the Sun and Xpress, for example, have advertising that caters to our readers’ needs, including phone and Internet dating services and escorts. It seems, though, that when these ads are in a homosexual publication, they elicit a different response from some people than they get in the straight rags. Of course, we all know what that’s really about, don’t we?
We’ve also learned that city staff, as part of this policy, are looking at the availability of pro-choice information in community health centres in response to complaints.
We at Capital Xtra are tired of being labelled obscene, or adult material, or even pornography just because we serve the needs of our readers. We’ve been here since 1993 and believe that it’s time that Ottawa dealt with our existence and our way of life and moved on. We also believe it’s time city hall acknowledged that queer individuals, couples and families live throughout the city, use the full range of city services, and have the same rights to access their community newspaper of choice as is enjoyed by straight families.
Other cities across Canada follow the law and do not attempt to restrict the content of publications or the availability of gay papers. We think that the fact that Ottawa has not simply adopted that approach after receiving a complaint is an indication of something sinister in the works. We invite you to join us in writing a letter to the editor of local publications and lobbying your ward councillor and the mayor. You can be sure that those who oppose your rights are doing the same.