Christian leader wants Ottawa to bar visiting U.S. prof, claiming he advocates pedophilia

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
Christian leader wants Ottawa to bar visiting U.S. prof, claiming he advocates pedophilia

Right-wing Christian leader Charles McVety is demanding Ottawa bar a respected but controversial American academic from coming to Canada to speak, alleging he advocates sex with children.

The Toronto Sun reports McVet, has written Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, urging them to prevent Prof. James R. Kincaid from coming to the University of Toronto to give a lecture later this month.

Kincaid, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Southern California, studies pedophilia and deviant sexuality, focusing especially on literature and culture of the Victorian era. He's scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an Oct. 19 symposium called "Bodies at Play, sexuality, Children and the Classroom," organized by the U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Kincaid's academic honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards at USC as an outstanding teacher and scholar. His books include Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture, and Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting, which American critics condemned as an attempt to rationalize sex between adults and children.

The blog Eye on a Crazy Planet last month flagged Kincaid's scheduled Toronto appearance. The blog cited an excerpt from one review of Kincaid's 1992 book Child Loving, which connects Victorian attitudes towards childhood with modern concerns around child molestation, calling the work "brave, provocative and ultimately very puzzling."

"His most obvious and most laudable goal is to make us rethink our own cultural assumptions about the erotics that may enter into child loving and about our own complicity in the kind of sexual hysteria he investigates in his closing chapters on the dismissed charges of sexual molestation at a modern California nursery school," the review writes.

"But at another level he is also engaged in a more daring and for me at least a much more dubious mission; he wants to persuade us that erotic child-loving is after all okay, as long as it involves other people's children and is never consummated."

[ Related: Muslim leaders worried U.S. speakers will spread 'hate' about Islam ]

In a followup post, blogger Richard Klagsbrun rejected Kincaid's view that grownups suppress their attraction to children.

"Children need comfort and assurance and sometimes that can be in the form of a hug or an arm around a shoulder," he wrote. "For a normal, sane person, there is no more of an erotic aspect to that than there is when in patting a dog or cat."

When word reached McVety, president of Canada Christian College and the Institute for Canadian Values, he fired off his letter to Ottawa.

“Dr. Kincaid is a well-known advocate for pedophilia," McVety alleged. "He has authored several books on the topic including ‘Child Loving’ in which he states, 'If the child is desirable, then to desire it can hardly be freakish. To maintain otherwise is to put into operation pretty hefty engines of denial and self-deception.' ”

McVety also claimed Kincaid referred to himself as a "theoretical pedophile."

“He plans to offer his material and lecture at the Bodies at Play Symposium at OISE in Toronto with the expressed intent of instructing educators on what to teach children," McVety said in his letter, according to the Sun.

But one of the symposium's organizers defended Kincaid and the decision to invite him to speak.

“I am not surprised Charles McVety does not like him, but Kincaid is a really serious academic who has had a long career, who has won two Guggenheims and they don’t just hand them out to pedophiles,” Prof. Brenda Cossman of the U of T's Bonham Cengtre for Sexual Diversity Studies told the Sun.

“His work is how society sexualized children. It’s not a 'Yahoo, let’s celebrate pedophilia event.' It is a controversial subject but it is a serious look at his work.”

[ Related: U of T prof suspended following child pornography charges ]

McVety linked Kincaid's appearance with news one of the institute's professors faces child porn-related charges. The Globe and Mail reported in July that Benjamin Levin was charged with making and distributing child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable offence and an arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child under 16.

“It is appalling that Canada’s most respected university would invite a well-known pedophilia apologist,” McVety said.

“It is especially repugnant that U of T would attempt to educate Ontario teachers with this material after their key professor, Dr. Ben Levin, was recently charged with numerous counts of making child pornography.”

There's no question Kincaid specializes in a taboo subject area and his views may scandalize a lot of people. But no one's suggesting he's a pedophile or child pornographer.

McVety has his own controversial past. Christian broadcaster CTS pulled his program Word TV off the air in 2010 after the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council received complaints about comments he made about homosexuality, Islam, Haiti and euthanasia, CTV News reported.

Ironically, McVety railed against the decision to yank the show as an attack on free speech rights guaranteed by the Charter.

Even blogger Richard Klagsbrun thought trying to bar Kincaid from the country went too far.

"While I share your concerns about the symposium and the OISE's attempt to proliferate Kincaid's appalling theories, I think your approach is not only wrong but is counterproductive," he wrote in a weekend post.

Klagsbrun said he hoped the publicity would push the organizer to cancel Kincaid's appearance.

"But I also believe that the force of the state should not be used against someone who, though promoting disgusting ideas, has neither broken nor advocated the breaking of our laws."