Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

August 02, 2006

"" is Hate Speech

Following is an e-mail to Jim Watson, Ontario Minister of Health Promotion. Copies were sent to the Deputy Minister, Assistant Deputy Minister, two Parliamentary Assistants, and all nine Toronto Transit Commissioners. My comments pertain to an advertisement that appears on the exterior of Toronto's buses, streetcars, and subway trains.

I'm quite convinced the recipients will view it as the ravings of a madman, and frankly, that's fine. I really wanted to convey what a kick in the balls this is without being overly respectful, careful, or politically correct. I think I've accomplished that aim.

Should you wish to take action on this issue, please consider writing your own letter and/or refusing to board any TTC vehicle until these eyesores have been removed.

Dear Minister Watson,

I am writing to let you know how deeply offended I am by the "" advertisements that have lately appeared on Toronto's subways, streetcars, and buses. Implying that all members of a minority group (smokers) are "stupid" is hate speech.

So far, the anti-smoking lobby's junk science has not eliminated tobacco use; neither has your government's draconian legislation (the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2006). Evidently, when all else fails, your Ministry wholeheartedly endorses name-calling and bullying in pursuit of its zealous aims.

The humiliation and outrage I felt when I first saw this ad is akin to that of a Jew at the dawn of Nazi Germany. My government has labelled me and 20% of my fellow Ontarians "stupid." If state-sanctioned hate speech is now deemed acceptable, tell me: what comes next?

I urge you to remove this detestable advertising from all TTC vehicles at once. Until you do, I—a lifelong transit user—will boycott the TTC. Should these billboards persist, I will file formal complaints with Ombudsman Ontario and the Toronto Transit Commission.