Should someone be excluded from entering a country not because of what they’ve done, but because of what they think?
There is a furor in Canada and on social media right now about the possibility of a “pick up artist” with unsavoury views coming into the country to conduct some seminars. The Canadian Minister of Immigration has also weighed in. The key word in the following paragraph is might:
Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Monday he might follow the lead of his Australian counterpart and block controversial “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc. Blanc, who gives seminars for men that include tips on using physical force to land women, has been the target of a social media campaign in Canada since Sunday — only days after he was kicked out of Australia. Twitter has been flooded with messages that include the #KeepJulienBlancOutOfCanada hashtag.
At some stage in the life of a lot of males there comes a time when he wants to be attractive to girls and envies those who are able to attract them easily. I remember in my case when I was in university a friend of mine named Richard could literally go into any bar on a busy evening and pick up a girl. They clung to him like lint on a black suit. To those watching, this was a talent we all marvelled. At that time in our lives, nothing beyond physical attraction meant very much. This is simply a right of passage that a lot of boys pass through en route to manhood. But even then the key was willing, open and honest consent.
What Julien Blanc reportedly is offering doesn’t fit in that category. His approach is mostly juvenile and directed at carnal interests. He operates from the view that men like him are intellectual superiors whose primitive needs must be fulfilled by women whose role in life is to subordinate themselves to the likes of Blanc and his followers.
Offensive as this already may be, what is important is that he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to preach the morally repugnant view that, in at least some instances, it is necessary to dupe women into sexual relationships. Then he goes even further suggesting that it is appropriate to use force on the supposition that some women like being forced into submission.
The key to these sexist views is that deception and even the use of force is justified in pursuit of intimacy with a female – that the end of such intimacy justifies the means, although we are uncertain just how far Blanc would take that. In short, Blanc doesn’t see women as human beings worthy of respect.
It is not surprising that some people are calling on the Canadian government to prevent Blanc from coming to Canada to present his seminars. Arguing that this man advocates trickery, sexual assault and harassment, these activists contend that Blanc has no business coming here. The question is on what legal basis could such a person be prevented from entering Canada?
In Canada, Section 36(2)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the most salient provision I could find on point states:
A foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality for … committing an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament.
This section enables border officials to block would-be visitors from coming to Canada even in those circumstances where the individual has not yet been convicted of a crime if there is evidence that, weighed on a balance of probabilities, would lead the border official to conclude that the individual would be convicted of the crime abroad and in Canada. But simply put, there is no such evidence in Blanc’s case. Blanc’s views are repugnant and vile, his motivations are barbaric, but in our democracy nobody should be denied entry to Canada simply based on their views. The government is not and should not be the moral arbiter of people’s thoughts and opinions.
I spoke with Gerry Weiner, the former Canadian Minister of Immigration, who told me, “I know of no provisions that allow a minister to deny someone entry just because of their views. We may disagree with someone’s views, and sometimes even find them abhorrent. But this is a country that values free expression.”
The United States takes a similar view. Section 212 (a)(2)(A)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that “any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime) is inadmissible.”
Moral turpitude means conduct that is inherently base, vile or depraved and is contrary to the accepted rules of morality in general. This provision is more likely to be usable to block the entry of proponents of Blanc’s views from entering America, but even here there are insufficient grounds for an exclusion since no crime has been committed. Simply holding obnoxious views is insufficient to deny entry. The United States put its money where its mouth was in this regard in 2007 when it allowed former Iranian President Ahmadinejad – a noted holocaust denier and not exactly a good friend of the Bush administration – to enter the country so he could give a speech at Columbia University.
Canada has been down this road before. In 2009, the Canadian government did not allow British MP George Galloway into Canada, under accusations that he supported terrorism. A year later, however, the Canadian government changed its tune and allowed Galloway in. Something similar happened in Great Britain, where Dutch politician Geert Wilders was initially barred from entering the UK before being granted entry after an appeal. To my mind, these were positive developments.
The basic principles of free speech are at stake here. To paraphrase a famous quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Let us greet Blanc with the derision and condemnation he deserves. In our desire to condemn his views, we must beware that we do not condemn our democracy or imperil our freedom in the process.