'I hate gays for real': Shirt's offensive slogan prompts police probe
Warning: This story has content that some may find disturbing
A Quebec man has sparked a wave of condemnation after a picture of him, in public, wearing a shirt with a slogan that may border on hate speech was posted online.
Julien Clement is clear about how he feels about people who are gay and he isn’t afraid to share that view with the public.
“I hate gays for real,” the 18-year-old said in a French-language interview with CTV Ottawa.
On Saturday, at Saunders Farm, an outdoor attraction located in Munster, Ont. that features kid-friendly events and festivals, Clement wore a shirt with a slogan that read: “If you are gay don’t approch me. I’ll kill you (sic).”
“Approach” is misspelled on the shirt.
Whitney Martin, who was also at Saunders Farm that day, was sitting near Clement in the farm’s tavern when she saw the shirt. Appalled, she immediately notified staff at the farm.
“The moment we got wind of it, we absolutely tried to take action,” Saunders Farm owner Angela Grant Sanders.
By the time Sanders got to the tavern, Clement was gone. She said the farm has never had to deal with an incident like this.
“To have something like that come up at the end of the 25th season was disgusting, really,” Sanders said. “If somebody’s going to be that blatant about a statement like that, we will stand up strong and say ‘no.’”
Martin also snapped a photo of Clement’s shirt, and posted it to social media, where it has caused a firestorm online.
Since Monday, Martin’s post has received more than 1,000 shares and hundreds of comments.
“We all have the right to free speech and to express our opinion, but that right doesn’t allow us, or protect us, from threatening a group of people or from promoting hatred against this specific group of people,” Martin said.
Some Facebook commenters have come out in defence of Clement, saying those opposed to his shirt are being “politically correct,” and that it was “a joke.”
Ottawa police confirm they’re investigating the incident as well as some of the Facebook comments about it.
Clement says he’s received threats, but isn’t worried about facing charges.
But criminal defence lawyer Paul Lewandowski says charges could be possible, as the shirt’s message relates to an identifiable group, in this case people who are homosexual.
“It could constitute Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada and could be prosecuted,” Lewandowski said. Section 319 of the Criminal Code refers to hate speech offences in Canada.
Clement's friend, Yan Miller, also wears the shirt and says there is nothing wrong with it.
“We’re not allowed to have whatever we want, and they can have a gay flag or they can have a parade but we can’t have a shirt?” Miller said.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Matt Skube