LETTER: The right of every voice to speak must be vigorously protected

The power to decide which views may be expressed and those that must be silenced is too great for anyone person, group, or organization.

To the Editor:

The Reginal District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) has been led to review their booking rules after the Mighty Men’s Conference held at Pass Creek Exhibition Grounds. Their reasons for the review, as quoted in John Boivin’s article “RDCK examines booking policy after backlash over religious event” printed in the July 11 edition of the Creston Valley Advance, were “in response to concerns expressed by the public about a controversial speaker.” I argue that this statement is misleading. For in using the word public, the regional government paints a picture of consensus among members of the community, unity among the people as a whole, which is undoubtedly not the case. With regard to the Mighty Men’s Conference expressing religious views on government land, a united public opinion is a fallacy. The government surely means that certain members of the public were concerned and distressed at the conference’s content. They have a right to be. But this must not come as a surprise. What is surprising, is that it has led the RDCK to question their existing agreement and process.

The government claims that members of the community were concerned based on the grounds that the views expressed at the conference were controversial. I disagree. I believe that the objectors were compelled to vocalize their concern because the views expressed were so far removed from their own, that they excited an emotional response akin to outrage. Buchan’s views accosted the objector’s own views on these subjects, likely causing offence. This, not mere controversy, is what led the opposition to express concern to the RDCK. For let us be clear—if the event held on government land had expressed (controversial) views in conformity with their own, no such concern would have been raised. That Buchan’s views are controversial is obvious and indisputable. It is also irrelevant. For I challenge the regional government to find a social, political, or religious group, event, or movement that is not—at least to some members of the public—viewed as controversial.

The RDCK has held the position that all organizations, regardless of their political, social, or religious opinion, have use of the space. They are now questioning their position. I caution the RDCK from wandering away from the safety of “all.” For any attempt to silence those views that stray from our own must be strictly abandoned. And the right of every voice to speak must be vigorously protected. The power to decide which views may be expressed and those that must be silenced is too great for anyone person, group, or organization.

To the RDCK: your position is fair; do not abandon it.

Victoria Tilling | Creston

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