By Colby Cosh - Friday, October 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Alberta Court of Appeal tumbled another grenade into the thicket of Alberta human-rights law Wednesday, delivering its two cents’ worth on the case of Stephen Boissoin [PDF]. Boissoin, you may recall, was a Red Deer preacher who made use of the letters column of the local Advocate back in 2002 to declare his opposition to the “homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s”.
As a piece of comedy, Boissoin’s letter has held up surprisingly well, with its asides to “Mr. and Mrs. Heterosexual” and its defiant warning that your child may be “the next victim that tests homosexuality-positive”. The epistle takes a disconcertingly militant tone, but it is also careful not to show contempt for homosexuals as a class, directing its fire instead at pro-gay “educators” and “activists” who “spread their psychological disease into every area of our lives”. After a decade, it’s still not quite clear whether the disease in question is tolerance, or homosexuality itself, or even just a civilized indifference to the domestic arrangements of one’s neighbour.
Anyway, in 2007 the Alberta Human Rights Commission ordered Boissoin to “cease publishing disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals” and to pay $7,000 in damages and costs. In 2009 I wrote about a Queen’s Bench review of the finding that went about as badly for the Commission as can be imagined. Interestingly, the Court of Appeal has now reversed the reviewing judge, E.C. Wilson, on a few points.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Five years, two tribunals, secret hearings, a court challenge and a turning point
For all the passion it stirred, you’d think it would get a noisier send-off. An ovation, maybe. Or tears. Instead, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act slipped quietly beneath the waves last week during a night-time sitting of the House of Commons—victim of a private member’s bill and a trailer load of toxic publicity. Brian Storseth, Conservative MP for Westlock-St. Paul, had glanced anxiously around the chamber as his kill bill went through its third reading. “The benches weren’t full,” he recalls. “That always makes for a bit of extra heart pumping.”
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson had voiced support for the legislation. So had the Prime Minister. The result, then, was never in doubt: at 9:35 p.m. on June 6, by a vote of 153-136, Parliament got Canada’s human rights bureaucrats out of the business of policing speech on the Internet. There was a scattering of applause, and handshakes for Storseth (the bill requires the rubber stamp of Senate approval). “To be honest, it’s all a blur,” says the three-term MP, laughing. But if the passage of Bill C-304 represents a fundamental shift in Canadian culture, you’d never have known it that night. Members dealt with a few housekeeping matters, then waded through a supply bill. Finally, one by one, they trickled out into the cool Ottawa night.
The effect of killing Section 13 will be debated for years among anti-racist groups and civil libertarians. But it is undoubtedly a turning point. Since 1999, Canadians who felt aggrieved by material transmitted online have been encouraged to seek redress under federal human rights law, which targeted material “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” based on grounds of discrimination like race, religion or sexual orientation. Storseth’s bill repeals the provision outright, leaving the Criminal Code as the primary bulwark against the dissemination of hate propaganda by electronic means.