Own your opinion

I love living in Canada.

In Canada, we have the right to freedom of expression, as laid out in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, any of the rights in this section of the charter have been deemed fundamental freedoms.

The fundamental freedoms are freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

It is because of this section of the charter that Canadians can enjoy many of the things we do, such as gathering at a church or community event, having open conversations without fear of being sent to Siberia, or reading newspapers such as this one.

Of course, there are some limitations – hate speech, for one, is not tolerated. Nor is obscenity.

However, it is because of this freedom of expression that some of a newspaper’s most popular pages – the opinion pages – exist.

These pages go by different names in different publications, but quality opinion pages have much in common. There is usually a cartoon that tackles a hot topic in society; an editorial piece, written by one of the newspaper’s staffers that reflects the stance of the paper on an issue; opinion columns, where staff reporters or contributors weave a wonderful web of words to give their opinion on a local topic of interest, or tell a funny story; and letters to the editor, where you – the reader – present your thoughts on a local issue or a story that appeared in the paper.

Personally, I love receiving letters to the editor – both positive and negative – because it tells me that people are reading and paying attention. It also gives me an idea of what issues readers are engaged in.

Locally, the proposed deep geological repository in South Bruce is a bone of contention with many. We’ve published letters from both sides – those for and those against – as we believe that everyone has their right to their opinion.

Most recently, the flying of the Pride flag and other Pride decorations has rubbed some the wrong way.

In Minto, Pride decorations on Palmerston’s Main Street have been damaged or removed. In Wingham, at least one resident has called on North Huron council to not fly the Pride flag this month. In fact, the flag pole in front of town hall in Wingham was damaged prior to the Pride flag being raised, leading to some last minute MacGyvering by municipal staff to ensure the flag raising could take place.

Other communities, such as North Perth, are flying the Pride flag at the municipal office for the first time this year. And even that decision was not without opposition – not the flying of the flag, but rather flying it at the municipal office.

Personally, I think it’s great that our communities are flying the Pride flag for the month of June.

I also think it’s great that we fly the flag for the Terry Fox Run, Crime Stoppers, or any other local organization or special interest group that requests it. As long as the flag is not racist or associated with a hate crime, let it fly.

With that said, I know that not everyone agrees with me on this stance.

I received a letter to the editor the other day regarding the Pride flag flying in Wingham. The letter writer provided their reasoning as to why the flag should be removed, and proceeded to tell me to stop “shoving” Pride down their throat.

The writer proceeded to end their letter by saying, “I think you won’t print this in your paper.”

They are right. Not because I don’t agree with their viewpoint, but because they didn’t include their name and contact information as required by our letters to the editor policy.

People have points of view, and it is through these conversations the public may reach a conclusion or at least an understanding of a particular issue.

To quote Wellington Advertiser publisher Dave Adsett, “Positive outcomes from these interchanges emerge when someone suggests they didn’t think of that point or soften their stance once certain facts emerge. Dialogue is so critical to a healthy democracy.”

At Midwestern Newspapers, we welcome letters to the editor – as I said earlier, I love reading them – and encourage everyone reading to send one in when the mood strikes.

Just remember to include your name and contact information.


Mike Wilson is the editor of Midwestern Newspapers. Feedback, comments and letters to the editor may be sent to mwilson@midwesternnewspapers.com.