Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Rights Code should protect free speech – Catholic league
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The Catholic Civil Rights League has expressed disappointment that changes to the Alberta Human Rights Code do not address freedom of speech concerns.
“This reform was an opportunity to protect free speech, particularly speech based on religious belief, and it is unfortunate that this has not occurred,” said CCRL president Phil Horgan in an April 30 news release.
Horgan referred to a section of the code that had been used to investigate complaints against Calgary Bishop Fred Henry for a pastoral letter defending traditional marriage; against Pastor Stephen Boissoin for a letter to the editor protesting against homosexual activism; and against former publisher Ezra Levant for republishing the Mohammed cartoons.
The Alberta government introduced changes April 28 that would add sexual orientation to the enumerated grounds.
It also added a provision that would allow parents to opt their children out of classes that teach material opposed to their religious or moral beliefs. But it does not touch the controversial section that allows it to censor free expression.
The league has argued that this section and others similar to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be removed.
“This portion of the provincial code, like its cousin, Section 13 in the federal Human Rights Code, can be and has been used to stifle the expression of religious belief just because not everyone agrees with it, or with how it was expressed,” Horgan said.
“Human rights commissions were designed to prevent discrimination in everyday living, such as employment and the provision of services. They should not be adjudicating free speech cases.”
(Bishop Fred Henry gives the amendments a poor grade. See Page 21.)