Osoyoos Times
Wednesday, January 21, 1997
vol 52, no 3, page 4

In our opinion . . .

Oliver wrongly labelled

Sol Littman of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre obviously wanted to attract attention to his latest human rights' crusade.

He did just that by naming Oliver the "hate crimes capital of Canada", a title which that fine community to the north of us does not deserve, in any way, shape, or form.

Littman used that term based on the fact that Fairview Technology Centre, a South Okanagan Internet provider, allows a number of white supremacist groups access to the Internet through its server. FTCnet owner Bernard Klatt maintains he is just the messenger and has no control over the content.

In the same way, the residents of Oliver have no control over what one business person does. It would be a different thing if there were Ku Klux Klan rallies on a weekly basis in Oliver, boot camps for Aryan Nation followers, or regular gatherings of groups that are not tolerant of others. But that is not happening.

MLA Bill Barisoff said in a letter to Littman that the issue has nothing to do with Oliver, other than the fact the business accused of providing Internet service happens to be located in the area. Barisoff said it was grossly unfair to identify a community with a negative label that is so potentially misleading to the public of Canada.

"This is a prime tourist destination", Barisoff wrote. "It is one of the friendliest areas you could wish to find anywhere in the country. It's a strong, family oriented community where people take care of their neighbours and, like other Okanagan communities, one where a great deal of work is done to hang out the welcome sign."

The MLA said unfairly labelling the people of Oliver does little to further the efforts of the Wiesenthal Centre in its legitimate attempt to remove hate literature from the Internet.

Littman's assertions garnered a great deal of attention and we know an apology extended (as was done on Monday in a letter to Mayor Linda Larsen) will not get the same coverage so the damage has been done.

The whole issue once again brings up the issue of censorship of the Internet and who is responsible for the content. Klatt's assertions that he has no control over content can be argued back and forth since he does have control over who his clients are. And he also raises the issue of freedom of speech, allowing people with certains beliefs to express them. Is it any different from Canada Post allowing the mail server to be used to send similar messages across the country?

Policing the Internet is difficult. There have been some cases dealing with child pornography where charges have been laid and perhaps there could be controls over what is viewed on the Internet. But what is wrong to some, is believed to be right by others. And that is something that is difficult to enforce.

Copyright © 1998 by The Osoyoos Times. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.