Going to Canada? Leave Your Comic Books at Home.


Last week the Canadian government dropped all criminal charges against Ryan Matheson, a 27-year-old American computer programmer who was arrested two years ago on his way to see a friend in Ottawa and charged with various child pornography offenses because he had Japanese comic book images on his laptop. Matheson was jailed for five days, during which police treated him as if he were child molester, and released with bail conditions that severely restricted his Internet use and his employment. He says the case against him "ultimately came down to two images: one was drawings depicting hand-drawn, manga-style fictional characters and the other was an image of an actual page from a manga." Rather than risk a mandatory minimum sentence and registration as a sex offender, Matheson accepted a plea deal shortly before his trial was scheduled to begin last month, under which he admitted to "a non-criminal regulatory offense that is part of the Customs Act of Canada, which was also subsequently discharged by the judge."

The Common Book Legal Defense Fund, which helped cover Matheson's legal expenses (kicking in $20,000 toward the $70,000 total), warns travelers that Canada has "an extremely broad definition of 'child pornography.'" It includes, for example, any "visual representation" that "shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity" or "the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years." As illustrated by Matheson's case, there need be no real children involved.

Under U.S. law, by contrast, child pornography has to include images of actual minors, since the rationale for prohibiting that particular category of material is to suppress the market for it and thereby prevent sexual abuse of children. Federal law does, however, include a constitutionally questionable provision that criminalizes not just production but mere possession of "obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children." That provision can be used to charge people for possession of pornographic cartoons (featuring characters from The Simpsons, for example), provided the images feature children and qualify as "obscene" (whatever that might mean).

[Thanks to Franklin Carter for the tip.]

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  1. God damn computer pervert shut ins.

  2. No superlative for Franklin?

    1. It ain’t easy being white!

  3. shows a person who is or is depicted as

    How can a “depicted” cartoon be a “person”? Get a grip, Canada.

    1. Too late

      1. This article would have been better written if descriptive terminology like assholes, tyrants, fucking idiots, and persecutors were used to describe the authorities. But, this isn’t the scholarly libertarian way.

    2. Canada? Are you familiar with David Cobb? Also known as the Pumpkin Man? One of the charges against him that he was convicted in includes the possession of child pornography. The “child pornography” was children’s heads cut out of magazines, and such, and glued to adult bodies. This is child pornography? Watch out – the thought police will be kicking down your door if you’re not vigilant!

  4. All power to the Soviets

  5. I just heard that George Zimmerman has been asked by his community college to not attend classes until the Sanford controversy goes away.

    Stay tuned for more American justice.

    1. A statement from the police chief describes things a little differently than has been reported:

      Zimmerman told police he was attacked by 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after he had given up chasing the boy and he was returning to his truck.

      1. The fucking coon went crazy and clubbed me with skittles!

        I had to defend myself!

        1. All of this could have been avoided if only Jorge had known that defending yourself from being attacked by someone with a pack of Skittles was the same as defending yourself from Fresh Fruit!

          Just release the Tiger!

  6. Is the Romney campaign like an Etch A Sketch?

    1. The campaign is not up anywhere near 212%

  7. I haven’t read all the back story… how did the Canucks find the image on his laptop?

    Because the subtext here is if you travel into Canadia with your electronics, they’re going to spend 45 minutes going through your “\temporary internet files” looking for questionable images?

    1. Yes, literally. See my post post below. They maintain and constantly expand the banned titles list this way.

  8. How ’bout if you have books, or even have a generally positive opinion of them, you don’t go to Canada, because it’s not a civilized country.

    America’s dunce cap has a decades-strong reputation for impounding (and never returning) just about any small press book that traverses its border, especially comic books (because they can read those), on grounds of obscenity.

    When I was a young border-crosser, circa the Butler ruling, they were on the hunt for woman-dehumanizing rape-porn…like, you know, Marguerite Duras. And now it’s “child pornography”…like school-drama comics. Later it’ll be something else.

    Because the reason doesn’t matter. Canada’s gonna burn some damn books. The nation is fundamentally offended by their existence.


    1. From Space. Or Mexico, that’ll teach them to be shitty neighbors.

      1. I got raged at violently by a very progressive Canadian who railed about how we rich Ameritards, born and raised in gated communities, really love guns and hate poor people.

        I probably should have told him I was Russian-born, and that the workers’ paradise didn’t work out so well for my family, but he was deconstructing space-time with his asinine horseshit so exceptionally well that I couldn’t bear to ruin the fun.

        We’re fucked up, but not as fucked up as the rest of the world.

        1. I got raged at violently by a very progressive Canadian who railed about how we rich Ameritards, born and raised in gated communities, really love guns and hate poor people.

          That’s fucking bullshit! We don’t hate poor people!

          1. Speak for yourself. I, on the other hand, simply LOVE sneering at the plebs and talking shit about then while I polish my golden monocle with my handkerchief of purest silk, mother-fuckers.

            Also, considering how many AMERICANS are shitty on guns, it really doesn’t surprise me that a Canadian would find that the most important point of contention in an argument.

            1. I would come right over to your house and teach you a thing or two about respect, Mr. R.P.A.

              …if I could find my way out of my gated community, that is.

            2. 20 years ago or so, some Brit import to Canada tried the “well, at least we don’t have to sleep with a gun under our pillows” meme.

              My response was two parted:
              1) “Well, neither do I, so I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
              2) “Also, this is really about us kicking your FUCKING ass a couple hundred years ago, isn’t it? You really need to get over that, King George…”

              The sputtering speechlessness was fun.

              1. Didn’t King George believe he was a small village in Lincolnshire, commanding spectacular views of the Nene valley?

                1. I thought that was Joe Biden?

  9. Also, annexation of Canada.

    1) If it were proposed on, say, a referendum, what percentage of the Canadian population would vote yeah?

    2) Forceful annexation of Canuckistan, dudes?

    1. They couldn’t become more American, but we could sure get more Canadian.

      1. Like how I once pointed out to a Canadian that he was spelling “color” without the U, and he almost blew up.

        So American, they might as well join the Union, eh?

        1. Canada, a country that was supposed to be a nation with American know-how, French culture, and British law-and-order.

          Instead, they ended up being a country of British know-how, American culture, and French law-and-order.

          1. I’m going to steal that.

          2. Paul, you need to post that in French for the Quebecois.

            It’s teh LAWZ, y’know…

    2. Everyone west of Ontario would jump at the chance. We would have 4 or 5 more Montanas.

      Solves the whole keystone problem too.

      1. Yeah, I’d stick with just annexing the western states. Fuck the eastern states, especially Quebec.

        Besides, we really only need the western states; that way, we don’t have to cross the border if we want to drive to Alaska.

  10. Fucked up though the US is, the Canucks (meaning primarily “border guards and some moms”) go full retard on some weird shit (see “any reference to guns, including toy guns”, “you have ivory on your bagpipes??!! ZOMFG!!!1!!” and “teh pron”).

    Which is one of the reasons I just stopped going there a couple years ago. Just too much bullshit any more.

    1. Their border nazis are way friendlier than our border nazis.

      1. Not in my experience.

        1. Epi is also “Shorter Almanian” on this one

        2. Agreed, they once detained and questioned me at Dorval airport in Montreal. They were concerned I was going to Canada to work,…I believe?

        3. That’s exactly the kind of partisan stuff I would expect from you.

          TEAM USA! RAH! RAH!

      2. Actually, my experience has been quite the opposite, but maybe that’s just the Michigan borders. I always get treated like a terrorist when I come back into the US, but I know it’s just 50 questions by some asshole who hates his/her miserable life, and then they wave me on my way home.

        Usually the Canadians are WAY polite, esp when they found out I was playing with police bagpipe bands…but when they went non-linear – rare though it was – it was just short of “full body cavity search” stupid. And almost always bitch women Border Fucksticks (go figure).

        I got tired of it when I thought they were going to take my bagpipes one time – not gonna happen. Just quit the band and never went back. Fuck you, Canada.

        1. I’ve found jerks on both sides of the Michigan-Ontario border. My favorite story, however, was when I went in accidentally carrying my wife’s passport, which the Canadian guard didn’t notice (and neither, incidentally, did I).
          But the American guard did on the way back, and sent me to the ‘secondary inspection hut’ just out of the tunnel. They were actually rather understanding, except she has a different last name, so it took some tunneling in the databases to see that we had indeed crossed the border together a couple of times and therefore indeed were married.

          1. i’ve never had a problem at the canada border (either direction) and i’ve crossed a couple of dozen times

            coming back from central america – different story.

      3. I’ve only crossed a few times, all though the Peace Bridge crossing, and I’ve had bad experiences in both directions. The worst time by far was when I crossed into Canada once, but I could easily imagine the same thing happening at the US border that happened there.

        And I imagine they are nicer to Americans coming back from Canada than they are Canadians coming to America.

        1. I’m not sure what you mean there. The only border control you go through coming from Canada to the USA is American Customs and ICE.

          You only deal with officials from the country you are entering. Neither country has exit controls.

          If you mean that American officials tend to be nicer to Americans returning (with all the right papers), then yes, that has been my experience too.

          1. The only time I visited Canada (circa 1975, road trip with buddies, saw Quebec City and parts of Montreal) we had no problem going north but were thoroughly searched by US Customs coming back. By thorough, I mean our IDs were checked, we were asked lots of questions about where we’d been and when, and our car and all the contents were riffled through. I guess when you’re about twenty, have long hair, look like you haven’t slept in a while, and cross into Detroit at about 1am (the halfway point of what turned out to be a 33-hour, stop-only-to- onload-and-offload caffeine drive home) you’re asking to get searched.

            I still resent the implication that we were stupid enough to try to smuggle drugs like that; we left all that stuff at home.

  11. Also, see, this is ANOTHER reason why – as an adult – I don’t read comic books any more.

    Comic books are for kids, mmm’kay? I just ceased being interested in comic books once I hit…gee…13, 14?

    1. I still have a hard-on from looking at the children kissing.

    2. Grow up and get a sense of secure identity about you. Comic books are just a means to tell a story.

      1. u mad bro?

        1. Hey, that’s racist!

  12. Off Topic: Crystal McCrary is apparently a fucking idiot

  13. I wonder if the Canucks use rapeseed oil as lube?

  14. Don’t mind me

    Just rolling in my grave

  15. As a CBLDF supporter, I was also cheering for his victory.

    It’s fortunate he was a traveler and had been caught at the border. There would’ve been less chance had he been caught inside Canada and a definite conviction if he were a citizen, as had happened before.

    Canada has become infamous among those who know:
    She got searched twice in two weeks for manga…..xperience/

    Last weekend artist Tom Neely and publisher Dylan Williams were stopped and searched by Canada Customs on their way to the Toronto Comics Art Festival. Customs officers seized copies of two items they were bringing to the festival, Black Eye, an anthology of comics Neely contributed to, and Young Lions, a graphic novel by Blaise Larmee.

    1. They maintain a list of what’s (nationally) banned/known prosecutable items, many live action titles, animated titles, computer files, drawn images, comics, etc:…..iew-986512

  16. good article, and it’s hardly a novel concept that one area where are freedoms are vastly better than any nation (or at least any i am aware of) on earth- is when it comes to speech

    whether it’s holocaust denial, racial “hate speech”, criticism of gays, “vilifying religion”, (my personal favorite) “insulting a police officer” etc. – it’s illegal in lots of countries, but not the US (cue the reasonoid bigotz with the “yea, but if you insult a cop here they just beat you then get suspended with pay and then nothing happens derp derp derp”)

    guns and speech are the two areas where we are simply BETTER

    1. Yeah, here in Tokyo we have something called the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths. If that doesn’t sound ominous, what does?

      The best part was regulation on the depiction of “nonexistent youths.” As in, they straight-up admitted these weren’t real people, and still wanted to ban the speech in a bill literally titled “for the children.”

    2. I’d agree for the most BUT the problem is that our freedoms are split piecemeal, and that includes freedom of speech.

      We still have obscenity laws that is a felony with up to 20 years. Notice Sullum’s last paragraph. It’s something that many other countries do NOT have.

      Even with regards to guns, Switzerland is more liberal (free):

    3. Not true. I know of websites that are hosted outside the U.S. precisely because freedom of speech is not guaranteed for controversial topics in the United States.

      It is fairer to say that laws regarding freedom of speech are different between nations. In the U.S., for example, cartoons are generally protected (though possession of cartoons has been successfully prosecuted in some circumstances), but photographs of fully clothed children have been successfully prosecuted as child pornography on multiple occasions, whereas other nations may criminalize cartoons or even written descriptions of child sexuality, but are less likely to put someone in jail for possessing a Sears catalog with impure intent.

      1. (continued)

        Of course, those websites I am familiar with which choose to locate outside the U.S.A. are actually fully compliant with U.S. law, but do not trust U.S. law enforcement to obey the law. Past experience has shown that the U.S. government and law enforcement ignore the law whenever they like (as in the case of Phillip Greaves), and in the current climate it would simply be reckless to host such resources (support groups and sites engaging in political speech) inside the U.S.A.

  17. Errm, I know this is a day late and a dollar short, but the ‘CB’ in CBLDF stands for ‘Comic Book‘, not ‘Common Book’.

    At least you got the link right.

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