Last week a nationwide criminal arrest warrant was put out on a 51-year-old Canadian named Bill Whatcott. Whatcott was in the Canadian oil sands at the time, driving a bus to support his family. It was a rough job—temporary work in remote, far-north Canada—but the only employment he could find just then to support his family of four.
Whatcott was wanted in Toronto to be charged with “Wilful Promotion of Hatred against an identifiable group, namely the gay community.” The basis for this charge? In 2016 Whatcott had distributed “safe sex” pamphlets at a gay pride parade.
These pamphlets stated homosexuality is associated with sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV of the rectum, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says is true. The pamphlets also made negative comments about the Liberal party, and stated accusations and facts about several left-wing politicians accused or convicted of various sexual crimes.
For instance, the pamphlets noted that Toronto’s former deputy education minister, who pled guilty to making and distributing child pornography in 2015, had a hand in designing Ontario’s “perverted sex education curriculum.” Government documents show he at the very least oversaw that curriculum’s design, although whether it is “perverted” may be open to debate.
The pamphlets also included Christian statements indicating that unrepentant support for homosexual acts will lead to “eternal peril” but repentance to “the free gift of eternal life.” The pamphlets were illustrated with graphic medical photos similar to those sometimes required on cigarette labels, which are, of course, shocking. They did not call on anyone to hate homosexuals, or advocate violence, or claim that all homosexuals are pedophiles.
Whatcott was arrested last week for distributing these pamphlets, and held until Monday afternoon of this week, when he was released on bail on the condition that he remove the offending fliers from his website immediately. Photocopies of the pamphlets could formerly be found here, but were taken down Tuesday. They have popped up (warning: graphic images) on American-based websites since then.
Handing Out Pamphlets Compares to Bank Robbery?
Whatcott has a long history of political activism, so is no stranger to Canadian hate speech laws. But the criminal charges, coming without warning nearly two full years after his alleged “hate speech” and enforced by a nationwide arrest warrant, left him “shocked.”
“When they’re looking for you in three provinces, you’re pretty much, you know, bank robbery or murder…. So I knew it was serious,” Whatcott said. Whatcott called “a Christian lawyer friend” from his job site in northern Alberta. “When Dr. Lugosi told me it was the parade, I was shocked. I thought, ‘This is insane.’ But I also figured the best thing to do was to turn myself in.”
Whatcott drove south to Calgary where he turned himself into the police last Friday. While he was in custody, he says, “It might have been on purpose, because it didn’t happen, like—some inmates did go half a day without food—but they actually made me go a full 24 hours” without eating.
Whatcott says he was also denied medical treatment during his stay. “I had a leg infection, and it was bad enough that I was brought to the hospital, but they simply refused to fill the prescriptions. So for four days I had no medications,” Whatcott stated Tuesday morning. “The infection was actually going up my leg. I was a little concerned it was gonna go systemic.”
Whatcott’s suspicions that he was singled out for rough treatment may have been unduly stoked by a Calgary police officer who Whatcott says took pains to inform his nurses that Whatcott was a dangerous “hate criminal” and that they ought to “be careful around [him].”
The circumstances of his arrest remain, on their face, somewhat baffling. The Toronto Star explains that the warrant was issued two years after the incidents because “police had to ‘liaise’ with the prosecution to approve the charge.” The Star does not elaborate on why 20-odd months of “liaising” was necessary to determine whether a well-known activist’s publically available pamphlets might constitute hate speech. It also quotes a gay activist approving of the hate speech arrest as “positive.”
Whatcott Has Already Been Brought to Court Over This
While the police and prosecution were busy “liaising,” Whatcott had already been taken to court for the pamphlets in question in a civil (not criminal) lawsuit. Back in August 2016, well-known Canadian homosexual activist and lawyer Douglas Elliott brought a civil class-action case for $104 million against Whatcott and all those who might have helped him in making or distributing his “safe sex” pamphlets at the 2016 Toronto gay pride parade. Elliott sought as a top priority “an injunction shutting down Mr. Whatcott’s evil website and any links on any other websites to that website.”
Elliott’s somewhat extraordinary class-based tort ended up floundering in court last spring, and Whatcott’s website, as well as the pamphlets on it, remained online. Thus, it is unclear why one year after the civil lawsuit lost momentum, and two years after the event, the Canadian attorney general felt a sudden need to issue a nationwide criminal warrant to catch a man who distributed 3,000 provocative fliers at an event where others were applauded for wearing a silhouette of Christ on their crotches.
Whatcott and some of those close to him claim the case is political. “He is a prisoner of conscience,” said Artur Pawlowski, Whatcott’s pastor and spokesman while Whatcott was in jail. Pawlowski claimed high-ranking Toronto officials had decided to “make an example” of Whatcott to “scare the Christians.”
Whatcott said his boss called him Tuesday afternoon to say, without explanation, that he had lost his employment as a bus driver. At about the same time, Whatcott’s wife, Jadranka Whatcott, was kicked off of a GoFundMe page she had set up, money was returned to donors, and the previously active link is now defunct. Early Wednesday, Jadranka Whatcott set up a fundraising campaign on a smaller platform, asking for help, and stating that her husband was the “only financial provider” for the family, with children age 6 and 8.
The law under which Whatcott has been charged is considered an “indictable offense” punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and forfeitures. Whatcott expects to return to Toronto court on July 23 to set a trial date.