Credit: Neil McKinnon
Credit: Neil McKinnon
Update Oct 12 — Police say they are not sure whether criminal charges will be laid against Bill Whatcott for distributing homophobic flyers to homes in Centretown’s Golden Triangle on Oct 10.
According to Ottawa Police Service (OPS) media spokesperson Constable Henri Lanctôt, patrol officers who responded to residents’ complaints said there was nothing to suggest Whatcott and Darcy Grey committed a criminal offence.
“[Whatcott] belongs to a religious group that opposes homosexuality,” says Lanctôt. “In this case a criminal act was not committed, so as a result they were asked to leave. A report was sent to our hate-crime section for follow up.”
Lanctôt says the Hate Crime Unit will now decide if charges should be filed.
Oct 11 —
An Edmonton man accused of anti-gay activism was distributing homophobic leaflets in Ottawa a day before the Supreme Court of Canada begins hearing his case.
The court’s decision could limit religious groups from similar public activism.
Ottawa police responded to a call from Centretown on Oct 11, where Bill Whatcott, 44, and Darcy Grey, 41, were passing out anti-gay pamphlets.
In 2001 and 2002, Whatcott distributed anti-gay flyers in Regina and Saskatoon on behalf of the Christian Truth Activists group.
Whatcott originally lost a discrimination case brought against him before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission but later convinced a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal he was exercising his right to freedom of expression and religious practice.
Xtra observed Whatcott and Grey, also of Edmonton, distributing the flyers in Ottawa’s Britannia, Vanier and Centretown neighbourhoods, as well as on the Carleton University campus. At one point Grey wore a T-shirt with the words “Homosexuality is a sin.”
Four police cruisers approached Whatcott and Grey as they distributed leaflets in Centretown’s Golden Triangle neighbourhood. Police said they’d received a complaint about two men using hateful material to target Ottawa’s gay community.
An officer at the scene said, “We investigated this incident because we take hate-related matters seriously.” The two men were later released and continued distributing the flyers.
Whatcott’s latest pamphlet, titled “The Sodomite Agenda,” depicts two men kissing along with a photo of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau placed on the naked butt of one of the men.
Another photo criticizes trans people and depicts a trans woman with the caption “Born a dude, is a dude. Not a credible parent.”
“It’s very disturbing,” says Kevin, a gay man who preferred not to use his last name. “It is homophobic; it is downright garbage.”
He says the flyer was slipped under the door of his Manor Park apartment. He later learned they were distributed to every apartment in his building.
“It certainly takes religion and twists it, that’s for sure,” he says.
A Waverly St resident tore up a flyer as he watched police speak with Whatcott and Grey.
Carleton University security later ordered Whatcott and Grey off campus property while some students tore up the pamphlets and shouted “Stop spreading hate” and “Religious or not, homophobia is hate.”
Whatcott responded, “I put up posters and they tear them down. Which shows they don’t respect different viewpoints.”
Political science student Jason Gowler, 25, says he was infuriated by the messages.
“They pick parts of the Bible and twist it the way they want to,” says Gowler.
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Whatcott’s case tomorrow, Oct 12.
Whatcott has asked the Supreme Court to strike down laws limiting freedom of speech and religious expression. More than 20 groups have backed him, including the Catholic Civil Rights League.