It would be putting it mildly indeed if I were to say that Weyburn went through an “interesting” episode recently, with the Saskatchewan Pro-Life conference, held on Apr. 11-12 at McKenna Auditorium.
In years past, I had seen this event come to the city and it was held quietly at McKenna, and often organizer John Sidloski would ensure we had a ticket for the banquet.
Those were quiet affairs, and at none of them were there ever any protesters, in spite of the subject matter.
Thus, it was quite a surprise when the latest Pro-Life supper came up, and lo and behold there was much controversy and consternation, and the fun began, starting with the on-line petition asking for a particularly controversial speaker to be removed from the lineup of speakers for the conference.
Now, perhaps as a sign of its small-town roots, the protests that arose for the most part were not against the pro-life part of the conference, which comprises most of what was going on at the meeting. The protests were aimed at Peter LaBarbera, who is the president of the anti-gay group, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. In LaBarbera’s mind, there is a definite connection to the pro-life issue, and he put that argument before the crowd attending the conference.
I’m not going to argue one way or another about that, except to note his tie-in was to speak about both pro-life and pro-family issues as related issues, taking the side that same-sex marriage is wrong.
The whole reason this engendered such an outcry in the public, bringing in media from Regina who would never have come at all if LaBarbera had never been invited, is this is a highly emotional and incredibly contentious issue, on both sides of it, and that contention led to strong statements on both sides of the issue.
On the one hand, there was an attempt to have this speaker barred from entering Canada; as a Canadian member of the press, the right to the freedom of speech is far too valuable for our country to be starting to enact restrictions on it. People who are angered and disgusted by this speaker may well call for his rights to be curtailed — but who’s to say next time someone will demand the same treatment of them, for their views not to be allowed? This is what is euphemistically called the “slippery slope”; you can certainly make the first move and feel happy about it — but then you step onto that slippery slope and you’re headed downwards at a high speed and you can’t stop yourself. In other words, a whole lot of unintended bad can come of it. I would far rather have a dialogue, and hear all points of view, then decide on an opinion.