Editorial: Cancellations must be justified

City councillors showed leadership, but were overzealous in doing so when they cancelled a leadership teleconference in Nanaimo.

The Vancouver Island Conference Centre was slated to host Leadercast two weeks ago, a broadcast of a live event in Atlanta. The conference would have featured speakers including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist and best-selling author. The city decided not to allow this event at the conference centre, though, because councillors raised objections.

Leadercast is controversial primarily because it is sponsored by Chick-fil-A. The fast food chain’s chief operating officer Dan Cathy has spoken out against same-sex marriage and the company has donated money to organizations that persecute gay people and consider homosexuality treatable.

Nanaimo is not a place where we want to hear this sort of bigotry. We must strive to be an inclusive community without homophobia, racism, bullying or prejudice.

This conference, though, wasn’t about hate – it was about leadership, and we imagine the speakers stayed on topic.

If any proceeds from the $60 tickets would have filtered down to anti-gay crusaders in the Southern U.S., then maybe city council saved us from ourselves. On the other hand, council might have only prevented a peaceful assembly of professionals genuinely interested in leadership themes.

Council has the final say and should continue to have the final say over programming at our public buildings. We never want to hear hate speech echoing within the walls of the conference centre, but we’ll advocate for free speech right up until it conflicts with other rights and freedoms.

We think the city overreached with its altruism in this instance, but we do think its heart was in the right place.

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