Bagnall defends Singh

01.26.03

Janet Bagnall wrote an editorial in Friday’s Gazette defending Jaggi Singh. The thrust of her argument seems to be pretty much a parroting of what Singh himself loves to claim: that he’s an innocent victim being persecuted by the forces of evil.

Jaggi Singh is a test case for Canadian democracy. Can he exercise his right to freedom of assembly? Or his right to protest peacefully? Or speak freely? We’re not doing too well on the democratic front if Singh is anyone to go by. The answers to those three questions are no, no and no.

There are several problems with Bagnall’s argument, however. First of all, Singh’s right to “protest peacefully” is not in question. But as everyone knows, September 9th was anything but peaceful. All the people whining about the criminalization of dissent don’t seem to get that they can’t excuse criminal behaviour by calling it dissent. Protesting something doesn’t give you the right to beat people up, destroy property, or instigate violence.

Secondly, Singh is not a Concordia student, and the university is under no obligation to allow him to hang around campus. If every time he shows up there’s trouble, it’s perfectly reasonable to kick him out.

Thirdly, Bagnall is basing her opinion on the following claims:

I find it hard not to conclude that in some way university administrators and justice officials take Singh’s views, and his insistence on defending them in public, as a personal insult. This is genuinely worrisome. He has not physically attacked anyone. He has not damaged property. He has not led a riot or a protest. He has exercised his rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and here he is, once again, arrested. This comes a little too close to a police state.

However, the police had enough evidence to arrest him. So Janet Bagnall seems to be simply taking Jaggi Singh’s word for the fact that he didn’t lead a riot or a protest, or attack or destroy anyone or anything. Last I checked, his say-so wasn’t exactly credible evidence. He’s made so many ridiculously faulty claims in the past few months that anyone who chooses to take his word on anything ought to have their head examined. If the courts find enough evidence to convict him of a crime, then that is the true test – not Bagnall’s hero-worship of the man.

Singh was not arrested for the protest last Monday, which was mainly peaceful, but for his involvement in the disgusting riot of September 9th. This alone should prove an important point: Nobody’s trying to shut down protest, even when they disagree. They’re trying to shut down violence. And it is the rioters who are seemingly incapable of seeing the difference.

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