Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 16, 2008
Tribunal quashes ex-pastor's right to free speech
Rights ruling has totalitarian overtones – lawyer
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"Each judgment emanating out of our various human rights commissions seems to be more brazen and bizarre than the one that preceded it,"
Bishop Fred Henry
Henry noted that people are forgetting to talk in terms of virtue, or doing God's will, or duty, or natural law or keeping the commandments. "Instead we must follow the lead of a narrow bunch of politically-appointed commissioners."
Don Hutchinson, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called the Boissoin decision "ridiculous," especially the lifetime ban, and said the ruling is "begging for a court to overrule the adjudicator."
Boissoin stands by every word he wrote, even though he has been branded a hatemonger on the front pages of his local paper and said he has been refused the opportunity to effectively rebut accusations against him.
"I will never apologize," Boissoin said. "The only way I will pay the money is if it prevents me from appealing."
But Boissoin has been left penniless by the six-year legal battle.
While the mainstream media has been focused on the high profile freedom of the press cases involving Maclean's Magazine and Mark Steyn and the former Western Standard and Ezra Levant, the Boissoin ruling is one of many HRC decisions adversely affecting religious freedom.
Even though courts have overturned some previous rulings, the winner is left with hundreds of thousands in legal fees. In most jurisdictions, the commissions pay the complainants' costs.
Horgan said the process "acts as a chill on engaging robust discussion of ideas."
"Each judgment emanating out of our various human rights commissions seems to be more brazen and bizarre than the one that preceded it," said Bishop Henry.
Henry also criticized a recent Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal decision against marriage commissioner Orville Nichols, who was recently fined $2,500 for refusing to officiate at a same-sex wedding.
Boissoin had to resign his job ministering to at-risk youth because of the adverse publicity his case brought to the Christian charity that employed him.
"What human rights commissions are doing in their lack of understanding of basic religious concepts is failing to accommodate religious belief on matters of public policy and in the public square," said Hutchinson.
"There is a need for reasonableness and understanding of legal precedent at the basic human rights commission level. These are things that seem to be lacking in a number of recent decisions."
For example, Hutchinson pointed to the Supreme Court of Canada's (SCOC) Trinity Western decision that "a faith-based university with a code of conduct had every right to provide an education to people who were going to be licensed to practise (teaching) in the public area."
Despite that ruling, a recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision struck down Christian Horizon's morality code as discriminatory against an employee who discovered she was lesbian five years after agreeing to the charity's Christian behaviour standards.
Hutchinson said that in the 2004 Amselem decision, the SCOC ruled "there's a duty to accommodate religious practices that have a strong connection with an individual's strong religious belief." However, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned a human rights commission ruling that Hugh Owen's ads in a newspaper citing anti-homosexual Bible verses constituted hate speech.
Hutchinson said the court ruled "Bible passages in and of themselves do not violate any human rights legislation, so there is not going to be any editing of the Bible in Canada."
Andreachuk's Boissoin decision last November ruled "the publication's exposure of homosexuals to hatred and contempt trumps the freedom of speech afforded in the Charter." In other words, provincial human rights legislation, in her view, trumps the rights listed in the Canadian constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Not all news from the human rights commission front is bad, however. Some pro-life groups have been successful through filing complaints. A pro-life group at Capilano College in British Columbia forced the student union to grant it recognition in an agreement reached after it filed the complaint.
Hamilton Right to Life filed a human rights complaint against the City of Hamilton, Ont., for taking down Life Canada billboard and transit ads. The city has since revised its rules against religious and advocacy ads.
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