Sunday, December 06, 2009

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal put in its Place

By Mark Steyn at the National Review Online.

HAT TIP: Blazing Cat Fur.
Further Background to the case can be found here.

Cartoon from the Toronto Sun.

Canadian Lifetime Speech Ban Lifted [Mark Steyn]

A couple of years back, the Reverend Stephen Boissoin committed the crime of writing a letter to a local newspaper objecting to various aspects of "the homosexual agenda". The Alberta "Human Rights" Tribunal convicted him of this crime and imposed a lifetime speech ban preventing him, in essence, from saying anything about homosexuality in public or private ever again anywhere for the rest of his life.

The Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta has now struck down this outrageous decision. Mr Justice Wilson's ruling could not be plainer. He rejects all the Tribunal's punishments as "illegal", not least the speech ban:

The direction to cease and desist the publishing of "disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals' is beyond the power of the Panel. "Disparaging remarks"were not defined by the Panel. But clearly, "disparaging remarks" are remarks much less serious than hateful and contemptuous remarks and are quite lawful to make. They are beyond the power of the Act to regulate and the power of the Province to restrain.

Quite so. And how sad that an appeals court should have to point out something so obvious. The Reverend Boissoin has won a belated and costly victory over the ideological control-freaks of the Canadian thought police. On the broader questions, Mr Justice Wilson is more reserved, pointing out correctly that these are matters for the legislature. Unfortunately, Canada's political class are in no hurry to take it up. Nonetheless, the Court of Queen's Bench decision (not to mention its reference to yours truly) would have been less likely before the campaign to restore freedom of speech up north. The cravenness of the politicians is depressing, but Ezra and I and a few others have helped to change the climate - and, for the moment, rendered these disgusting laws unenforceable.

As for America, you see in the recent push for "hate crimes" legislation how easily the same temptations apply here.

3 Opinion(s):

FishEagle said...

I love it!!

Steve said...

The good news.

The decision of Justice Earl Wilson of the Court of Queen's Bench in Boissoin v Lund will have a significant long term positive impact on religious freedom in Canada:

1. The decision established a very high threshold for the conclusion that a publication is in violation of the "hate" provisions of Alberta's human rights laws. The prosecutor, Dr. Lund, told the Canadian Press that "If the language contained in the letter does not meet the threshold of hateful, I am not certain what possibly would." If Dr. Lund is right, then there will be no further prosecutions. The decision of the Alberta Human Rights Commission to withdraw from the case suggests that the Commission learned from Dr. Lund's mistake. There is no place for thought control in a free and democratic society.

2. Dr. Lund told the Calgary Herald that the decision of Justice Wilson "takes away the tools at our disposal". He is correct. The tools of censorship should not be available to prohibit freedom of expression in Canada. There is no circumstance in a free society where limitations on political or religious debate can be justified.

3. While the decision did not strike down Alberta's "hate speech" laws, it significantly limited the application of such laws. Justice Wilson properly pointed out that a province may not duplicate the federal Criminal Code rules outlawing hate crime. Furthermore, Justice Wilson interpreted the provision in question as only prohibiting hateful words that lead to discriminatory activity under the provincial human rights legislation. Justice Wilson found that Stephen Boissoin's letter to the editor was not hateful and did not cause discriminatory behaviour. It is difficult to conceive of a political or religious debate that would meet the two part test established in the legislation. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that in the future no religious or political debate will be found to be in breach of the current text of Alberta's human rights laws.

Gerald Chipeur, QC

Anonymous said...

@Steve. Thanks for your comment. As a Canadian I am proud to see that we are starting to take our freedoms seriously, as entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"There is no place for thought control in a free and democratic society." Indeed.

Such a pity, though, that it takes defendents with deep pockets to have to fight for what is our right.