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Sex Party sues Canada Post

Political leaflet deemed too explicit for the mail

The Sex Party, a Vancouver-based political party committed to combating sex negativity, has filed a petition in the Federal Court Of Canada to compel Canada Post to deliver a political leaflet via its unaddressed admail program.

The leaflet, entitled The Sex Party: Politics For A Sex-Positive Future, outlines the Sex Party’s political platform and includes a sexual IQ test and pictures of three works of sex-positive artwork.

“Canada Post has said they don’t like the sexual intelligence test, content that they haven’t specified and the images,” says Sex Party leader John Ince.

Ince says the only way for political parties to reach most condominium dwellers is to send material through the unaddressed admail program. He says only Canada Post has access to most condo mailboxes and it’s the only way for him to get his message out.

It’s not fair that other political parties have access to mail services that his party is denied, he adds.

“Canada Post can’t have a one-size-fits-all regulation,” Ince continues. “Advertisements for pornographic material or prostitutes or something that is selling a sexual service have got to be evaluated differently than a political communication of a registered political party.”

“We don’t want it going out as it is for children and other people to see it who might not want to see it,” explains Bob Taylor, manager of Corporate Communications Pacific Region for Canada Post. “It’s not a question of being obscene or pornographic or any of those other terms. It’s just sexually explicit.”

Taylor says it’s usually up to the frontline sales rep to spot and filter out the sexually explicit mail from the sexually benign mail. But, he says, in this case Ince’s leaflet was passed around for other opinions just to be sure it was sexually explicit.

“It was sent all the way up to the president. Everyone had an opportunity to review the material and it was upheld all the way up the line that it was sexually explicit, so I don’t think there was any question,” he says. “If it’s sexually explicit, it’s not really a judgment call because it’s there.”

Jason Gratl, president of the BC Civil Liberties Association, says in some cases Canada Post should be responsible to filter out potentially harmful material that could reach children, but he’s seen Ince’s leaflet and calls it “tame if not downright pedestrian.”

Gratl doesn’t think Canada Post sales reps should be censoring what goes into the mail. “It looks like we might be running into the kind of problem similar to the one faced by Canada Customs when they took on Little Sister’s,” he says.

“The frontline worker has no appropriate training in what constitutes obscenity,” he continues. “They really should receive an appropriate level of guidance from senior management. Just devolving unmitigated discretion to frontline workers without providing any direction on policy guidelines seems irresponsible.”

Taylor says Canada Post doesn’t have any policy guidelines, or a definition to help decide what is sexually explicit and what isn’t.

“We don’t have [a definition of] what sexually explicit is,” he explains. “It’s, I guess, whatever the dictionary defines it. I don’t know what the background on the term is, but it’s quite clear to most people that sexually explicit implies that there’s sexual information that’s uh, not of a nature that they’d want, uh, people to be able to see that aren’t, uh….” stammers Taylor.

“See,” he resumes, “When you go into a brochure it’s something that’s open to anyone who wants to look at it that’s going by, or children in a home or something, particularly if it’s unaddressed because then it’s going out to a large group.”

Taylor says Canada Post suggested to Ince that his leaflets could go out if only they were sealed in envelopes. “It would cost him a little more because it would be in an envelope,” he concedes, “but yes, it could go out.”

Xtra West asked Taylor if children would be less likely to see Ince’s leaflets if they were distributed in envelopes. “It comes down to an issue of how you’re going to control mail as it comes into the household,” he replies.

When asked if the Canada Post sales rep would open a blank envelope that was submitted as unaddressed admail, Taylor is adamant. “No. We don’t open envelopes. We’re not allowed to. It’s against the Canada Post Act. It’s called censorship,” he says.

Ince says Canada Post’s reaction to his leaflet is evidence of what he calls sex negativity.

“A rule that stops us because something has sexual content, that’s like saying, in our minds, something that has gay content or Jewish content or Palestinian content is not allowed. That kind of blanket prohibition can only be evident as a generic negativity toward sex.”

Ince says he’s got the help of some law students at UBC. He says he expects the case to come before the court in June.