Fact Checkers Rush to Defend Speech-Curbing '2SLGBTQI+ Safety Zones' in Canada

April 11th, 2023 9:04 PM

In Canada, freedom of speech might be curtailed again to please the “marginalized.” You might think the journalists would be offended by free speech being banned in certain “zones,” but not when it’s a zone around a drag show.

Josh Kelety of Associated Press performed a fact check headlined:

Posts distort proposed LGBTQ ‘safety zone’ bill in Canada

Kelety explained the legislation, introduced by members of the opposition party in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, "is intended to protect drag performers and LGBTQ communities from intimidation.” But speaking out inside a football-field-size zone against anything on the LGBTQ agenda – or handing out anti-LGBTQ information – could be banned as “intimidation.”

The legislation, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on April 4, would permit the Ontario attorney general to temporarily designate a property as a “2SLGBTQI+ community safety zone” and prohibit an “act of intimidation” — such as threats, transphobic or homophobic demonstrations, and distributing “hate propaganda” — within 100 meters of that property, according to the bill text. Violators could face a fine of up to $25,000.

Kelety cried foul about this censorship bill being over-hyped:

“New bill in Canada would prosecute anyone that misgendered, criticised or protested against Transgenderism,” one Twitter user wrote Wednesday in a tweet that was shared more than 6,000 times. “Anyone deemed ‘transphobic, homophobic or offensive’ would face prosecution and a $25,000 fine.”

Similarly, one widely circulating video on Facebook features the text, “CANADA JUST MADE IT ILLEGAL TO PROTEST AGAINST THE LGBT!”

But the posts are misleading. The bill would not broadly criminalize misgendering others or engaging in anti-LGBTQ protests, nor do so nationwide, as the posts falsely suggest....

The online claims are “inaccurate and distorting,” Brenda Cossman, a [leftist] law professor at the University of Toronto, wrote in an email to The Associated Press, noting that the bill does not include a broad provision concerning misgendering, and the restrictions only apply to the designated zones.

“The bill would not prosecute anyone deemed homophobic etc,” Cossman wrote. “It would only apply to individuals who seek to intimidate within the designated safety zones.”

Are we supposed to be less alarmed that you might only be fined $25,000 if you show up anywhere near a gay "safety zone"? Would silent prayer in the zone be punished as "intimidation"?

Kelety explained the party sponsoring this bill is in the minority, so its chances aren't great. But Canada has shown censorious tendencies on anti-LGBTQ speech. He wasn't alone in this crusade at AP. Fact checker Melissa Goldin rushed to defend liberal Rep. Katie Porter of California. Conservatives said Porter suggested pedophilia is an identity, not a crime. Porter said more vaguely that online rhetoric against "groomers" amounts to falsely “alleging that a person is criminal somehow and engaged in criminal acts merely because of their identity — their sexual orientation, their gender identity.”

FactCheck.org also jumped to correct any hyperbolic reactions to Ontario speech crackdowns. 

UPDATE: PolitiFact also joined in on April 12, linking the overstated Facebook post came from Graham Allen. Sara Swann offered this bizarre summary: 

"Acts of intimidation," according to the bill text, include threats, homophobic or transphobic demonstrations or distribution of hate propaganda. The bill would not prevent peaceful protests.

So is a demonstration automatically 'Not Peaceful' if it's deemed 'transphobic'?