R v Glad Day Bookshops Inc

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R v Glad Day Bookshops Inc, (2004) is a leading Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision on pornography and homosexuality. The court found that a statutory scheme requiring the approval of the Ontario Film Review Board before films can be distributed or shown in Ontario violated the guarantee of freedom of expression in section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Bad Attitude is a lesbian magazine featuring stories of mild sado-masochism; it is published in the United States. In 1993 the magazine was the first publication to fall foul of feminist-inspired pornography laws in Canada.

According to the court's description, the magazine

consists of a series of articles where the writers fantasize about lesbian sexual encounters with a sadomasochistic theme. Photographs loosely complement some of the articles.

A story in the magazine featuring a lesbian stalking, ambushing and pleasuring another woman was found to be obscene, and the Glad Day Bookshop, which sold the investigating officer her copy, was fined C$200.

Opinion of the Court


The case was symbolic for pornography advocates, who at the time were trying to demonstrate that the arguments of anti-porn feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin were antithetical to women's interests. They have claimed that MacKinnon had provided some of the arguments for new obscenity law in Canada - but the law disproportionately limited the voices of gay and lesbian writers, and even led to the impounding of two titles written by Dworkin. MacKinnon and Dworkin have denied these claims and stated that the new interpretation of the law, introduced by the Butler decision (R. v. Butler, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452 (Supreme Court of Canada)), actually declares that the obscenity law was unconstitutional if used to restrict materials on a moral basis, but constitutional if used to promote sex equality. Thus, the decision makes it illegal to censor material on basis of explicit homosexual content, but such material could be censored if it could be shown to harm women. As for the impounding of Dworkin's books, two titles were in fact held temporalily for inspection in 1993, but this was done according to Canadian custom's pre-Butler procedures as the new procedures introduced by Butler were not implemented by the customs yet.

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