Tar­tar-ed and feath­ered

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

The adage that ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to an opin­ion is true in most cases — ex­cept when that opin­ion is mis­guided, ir­re­spon­si­ble and in­cites hate­ful rhetoric. On July 17, Summerside restau­rant owner Paul MacGre­gor crossed the line from in­sight to con­tro­versy when he made a Face­book com­ment on a CBC story about Char­lot­te­town cross­walks painted rain­bow colours in cel­e­bra­tion of the P.E.I. Pride Fes­ti­val.

“This is of­fen­sive to many tourists who come here to es­cape this left­ist agenda,” MacGre­gor wrote in his post. “You will never hear them say so, be­cause if they do, the bul­lies will take them to court.”

What fol­lowed was plenty of back-and-forth, both on that post and on the Face­book page of MacGre­gor’s busi­ness, Skip’s Fish ‘n’ Chips.

Many be­gan giv­ing the restau­rant neg­a­tive re­views on the page. Oth­ers — some from out­side the prov­ince who likely have never been to Skip’s, but agree with MacGre­gor’s sen­ti­ments — launched a cam­paign of five-star re­views in sup­port of the owner’s ac­tions.

The num­ber of stars in the re­views is in­con­se­quen­tial, though. It’s the ac­com­pa­ny­ing com­ments that are truly dis­turb­ing: big­oted, dis­crim­i­na­tory and hate­ful words against the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

MacGre­gor did not back down, telling the Journal Pioneer this week that paint­ing the cross­walks “doesn’t in­clude many groups who find it of­fen­sive, such as born-again be­liev­ers like my­self, as well as many U.S. tourists, not to men­tion our own Amish and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. Leav­ing the paint white shows neu­tral­ity and gen­uine in­clu­sive­ness.”

Sorry, Mr. MacGre­gor, but that’s ridicu­lous and wrong.

Cross­walks are painted and pride fes­ti­vals are held be­cause of opin­ions like yours. Leav­ing a cross­walk painted its usual white is not in­clu­sion­ary — in fact, it would be sym­bolic of the very dis­crim­i­na­tion and un­wel­com­ing at­ti­tude you’re pro­mot­ing.

You can’t deign to be in favour of “gen­uine in­clu­sive­ness” while writ­ing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the next sen­tence. That’s talk­ing out of both sides of your mouth and couch­ing ho­mo­pho­bia in a po­lit­i­cal opin­ion.

How must LGBTQ peo­ple in the Summerside area feel to­day, know­ing the owner of a restau­rant they may have fre­quented in the past doesn’t re­ally want them there?

MacGre­gor could eas­ily use the Face­book’s op­tion to turn off the re­views or hide them from the pub­lic as a way of dif­fus­ing the sit­u­a­tion. As of this writ­ing, though, it seems he’s more in­ter­ested in hav­ing oth­ers fan the fire he set, rather than help­ing to douse it.

Take a les­son from Summerside Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­i­dent Dan Kutcher, who also wrote a Face­book post de­cry­ing the com­ments on the Skip’s Fish ‘n’ Chips page while re­spect­ing MacGre­gor’s right to his own opin­ion.

Per­haps the cham­ber and the city can paint their own cross­walks, or show sup­port in some other way to en­sure LGBTQ peo­ple in their com­mu­nity are wel­come.

One restau­rant and one per­son can be an is­land in a storm of con­tro­versy, but they do not rep­re­sent our Is­land.

As a prov­ince, let’s be re­spect­ful and sup­port­ive and show our true colours.

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