Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rev. Stephen Boissoin Has His Day in Court

The National Post today reports that the Rev. Stephen Boissoin's appeal is underway in the Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary. Fundraising efforts have allowed him to hire a lawyer and mount an appeal to the Alberta Human Rights Commission's attempt to punish and silence him for his politically incorrect views on homosexuality in a letter published in The Red Deer Advocate in 2002.

Ezra Levant, a Jewish, conservative advocate of free speech, who himself endured 900 days of investigation by the same Alberta Human Rights Commission for daring to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons, has written a book Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (McClelland and Stewart, 2009) has led a crusade to restore basic democratic rights in Canada. He has championed Boissoin's cause and has accused the Human Rights Commission of an anti-Christian bias. He notes that the Human Rights Commission has a track record of singling out Christian pastors with few financial resources and a low public profile for persecution. This time, however, it might be different as a growing consensus is developing across the country that the Orwellian, mis-named Human Rights Commissions are out of control.

In a related, recent and most heartening development, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal chairman Athanasios Hadjis has declared the use of Section 13 Hate Speech clause to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The National Post reports:

"Finally, a human rights commission decision that makes sense. Yesterday, a
senior member of Canada's human rights apparatus declared that the power the
Canadian Human Rights Commission has taken on itself to monitor hate speech on
the Internet is unconstitutional.

Ruling in a case against Marc Lemire, webmaster of the extremist,Canadian Human Rights Tribunal chairman Athanasios Hadjis concluded Sec. 13(1) violates defendants' Charter right to freedom of expression because it gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) authority to impose penalties such as fines on those it finds guilty.

Mr. Hadjis, himself a human rights lawyer, argued that while the Supreme
Court had found the section legal in 1991-- when its strongest provisions merely
compelled the complainant and defendant to mediate their differences -- since
then the addition of monetary penalties and forced apologies has amended the act
to the point where it is no longer in harmony with the Charter.

The opinion does not "strike down" the hate-speech provisions of federal
human rights law, as has been widely reported. The offensive section of the
federal rights legislation is still on the books. But as Mr. Hadjis explained "a
formal declaration of invalidity was not a remedy available" to him. All he
could do under the existing law is "simply refuse to apply these provisions for
the purposes of the complaint against Mr. Lemire." Now it us up to Parliament to
do the right thing: Repeal Sec 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and stop
witch-hunt prosecutions by human rights investigators."

As a recent National Post editorial says:
"This is the second time in under a year that the CHRC (and by extension,
Parliament) has been told that 13(1) is inconsistent with free democratic
debate. Last year, University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon, acting as a
paid constitutional consultant, told the CHRC there was no way it could
investigate and adjudicate hate-speech complaints consistently. Therefore, they
were unable to assure the equal protection of everyone's Charter rights, so they
should stop trying."
Many members of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, many newspaper editorial boards accross Canada, PEN, and even the homosexual advocacy group Egale have joined the criticism of the attacks on free speech by the Human Rights Commission. The Provincial Conservative Party in Ontario is on record as wanting to reform the Ontario Human Rights Commission if they win the next election and it will undoubtedly be an issue in the next Federal election. No politician who does not promise to abolish the HRC, or at least repeal Section 13, will ever get my vote.

A group of over-paid, under-qualified, partisan, political appointees to these quasi-legal bodies is able to persecute anyone they wish based on any complaint they wish to accept (or generate themselves) at any time. This is a travesty and a disaster for a country that wishes to remain free. It is time that conservatives and liberals who believe in free speech stand up and demand change.

NOTE: Ezra Levant is speaking in Toronto on Sat. Sept. 26. See here for details.

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