We need a statute of limitations on the postings of young people. Two ridiculous examples this week are the outing of Noel Semple, an Etobicoke Liberal candidate who wrote an article 18 years ago while a U of T student protesting a special student fee levy which would go specifically to a campus club called LGBTOUT. In the article he made it clear he supported the gay community and same-sex marriage. His objection was to one campus group receiving special treatment. In an apology released today Semple nonetheless wrote, “as a young and naïve student, I never intended to hurt people, but wrote provocatively, with flippant language. Looking back on it, I understand how this column was hurtful and apologize unreservedly to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
This came on the heels of the firing of Chatham-Kent-Leamington Liberal hopeful Alec Mazurek who tweeted a homophobic slur when he was 15-years-old. After his removal from the race Mazurek wrote (my remarks) “were unacceptable then and unacceptable now, and are not reflective of the values that I hold and champion today … I apologize unequivocally,” but adding, “We’re holding a child to the same standards as the adult writing this today.” He is right about that.
In neither case are we making any excuse for the language used—in the case of Semple, his minimization of the prejudice experienced by members of the LGBTQ community, for Mazurek his use of a homophobic slur. What we are suggesting is that we are holding a whole generation of younger people to a standard that will be impossible to meet, and a standard that was not applied to generations who preceded them. It would be better to let them run with the knowledge out there and allow reasonable voters to make their own judgments.
The third-place NDP seems to have enough resources to put a data-mining squad to work digging this stuff up, apparently in the belief that people don’t change, don’t evolve in their thinking. It’s a rather bleak world view. I guess the question is, whose the wiser person—the one who made mistakes and learned from them, or some mindless conformist who never had the courage to explore a dangerous idea.