Canadian Customs

Taking a particular interest in banning gay material

25th April

Update: A Change on the Books...

Little Sisters to pass on the fight with Canadian Customs

They've been bombed three times, received death threats and stood before the red-robed justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.

No, Jim Deva and Bruce Smyth are not killers or terrorists. The soft-spoken Vancouver men sell books. And in some peoples' eyes, Deva says, that made the gay owners of Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium dangerous.

Only two years after the store opened in 1983, the owners took on a fight that bolstered and exhausted them, lasting until just last year and challenging Canada's censorship laws.

After 23 years of fighting Canada Customs' seizures of books bound for the gay and lesbian bookshop, the partners have put Little Sister's up for sale.

It's time to do something else, Deva says as he plans to get a choir booked for the store's 25th anniversary celebrations: It's probably time to pass on the torch hopefully to some younger, energetic people who are willing to work with our store. I'm not in a rush. We're going to take our time.

The fight against Customs put the store at the forefront of the battle against censorship in Canada. Among books seized were Jean Genet's Querelle , Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant , Joe Orton's Prick Up Your Ears , The Joy of Gay Sex and The Joy of Lesbian Sex .

I think it's our tenacity. We just wouldn't give up and came back again and again at them from every angle we could figure out.

But after all the court battles, Deva believes Canada Customs has developed a respect for the gay community's literature and imagery: They know that . . . when they make a sort of pronouncement on a book that they may well have to defend that. We still disagree with the process but it's certainly fairer than it was 20 years ago.


20th March

Update: Manga is Not a Crime...

Man arrested by Canadian Customs re Manga comics has been cleared of criminal charges

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund are pleased to announce that the Crown has withdrawn all criminal charges in R. v. Matheson, the case previously described as the Brandon X case, which involved a comic book reader who faced criminal charges in Canada relating to comic books on his computer. The defendant, Ryan Matheson, a 27-year-old comic book reader, amateur artist, and computer programmer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

After a search of his laptop in 2010, Matheson was wrongfully accused of possessing and importing child pornography because of constitutionally protected comic book images on that device. He was subjected to abusive treatment by police and a disruption in his life that included a two-year period during which he was unable to use computers or the internet outside of his job, severely limiting opportunities to advance his employment and education.

Matheson has agreed to plead to a non-criminal code regulatory offense under the Customs Act of Canada. As a result of the agreement, Matheson will not stand trial.

Although the outcome of this case is ultimately positive, comic book readers should be aware that there are still dangers for traveling with comics in Canada. Michael Edelson, who managed the defense said:

Aside from the very positive outcome to this story, your members should be cautioned concerning the search and seizure regime here in Canada exercised by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Moreover, they should also be aware that although anime and manga is legal in many areas of the United States and Japan, etc., to possess and utilize, the Canadian authorities may take a different view if this material is found on any laptops or mobile devices when you enter the country.

Edelson’s firm has created a new advisory on traveling with comics and manga in Canada that is available here: CBLDF – Legal Memorandum – Canada Issues . The CBLDF’s previous advisory, which addresses the issues of traveling with comics through international borders is located here: CBLDF Advisory – Comic Book Art at Intl Borders

Please visit today to make a donation in support of paying off Ryan's legal defense and creating new tools to combat abuses like this from happening in the future. You can also support this effort by becoming a member of the CBLDF. Every contribution helps CBLDF get Ryan back on his feet, and furthers our efforts to protect the First Amendment rights of comics and manga.


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