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Friday, March 17, 2000

Pornography integral to gay culture, Supreme Court advised
Argument over ability, duty of Customs guards
Janice Tibbetts
Southam News

OTTAWA - Pornography is so integral to gay and lesbian culture that homosexual books and magazines shouldn't be subject to the same obscenity test as heterosexual material at the Canadian border, the Supreme Court of Canada was told yesterday.

But lawyers for the federal government countered that the court should deny an appeal from the gay and lesbian community for a two-tiered censorship standard, saying that all obscenity harms society and threatens human dignity.

The competing arguments were advanced as the nine judges considered an epic censorship saga between Canada Customs and Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium, which is challenging the seizure of hundreds of books and magazines destined for the Vancouver bookshop that caters to gays and lesbians.

The court reserved judgment and a decision is not expected for months.

Little Sisters wants the court to strip Canada Customs of its ability to confiscate obscene material at the border, arguing that censorship should be a matter for the courts to decide, a prospect received skeptically by several justices.

The federal government contends that if Customs officials lose the power to regulate what material can cross the border, the country will be flooded with obscenity, including heterosexual pornography that degrades women and children.

Yesterday, lawyers for the civil libertarians and the gay community sat opposite the legal team from the federal and British Columbia government as the two sides disputed whether federal bureaucrats at the Canada-U.S. border should have the power to determine which books and magazines fit the Criminal Code definition of obscene.


(Each link opens a new window)

  • Little Sisters Books

    The Vancouver bookstore that is challenging the right of Canada Customs to seize gay books and magazines. Contains an internal page on the case.

  • Canada Customs and Revenue Agency

    The unholy alliance of Canada Customs and Revenue Canada.

  • The Supreme Court of Canada

    Canada's top court on the Web.

  • Jurist Canada

    The leading judicial website.

  • Supreme Court decisions (updated)

    Link to the decisions once they're handed down.

  • The Women's Legal Education and Action Fund

    A supporter of Little Sisters and frequent intercessor in cases involving women's rights.

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