6/6/2008 9:15:00 PM
While matters in BC are garnering the attention at the moment, a case here in Alberta deserves to be noted. The Calgary Herald
sounds the alarm:
During the recent provincial election campaign, Premier Ed Stelmach said he was open to reviewing the censorship powers of Alberta's Human Rights Commission.
One of its tribunal judgments, for instance -- concerning Stephen Boissoin -- is a textbook example of why he should review them right out of Alberta's human rights code. Not only did the tribunal showcase virtually every deficiency of rights commissions, some remedies it now demands cannot be supported from the legislation.
In 2002, gay marriage was earnestly debated in newspapers across the country, and Parliament. Boissoin -- then a Red Deer youth pastor with an active street ministry -- opposed it on religious grounds and wrote strongly worded letters to his local paper, the Red Deer Advocate. Darren Lund, a University of Calgary professor, complained to Alberta's Human Rights Commission, which appointed a tribunal chaired by Lethbridge lawyer Lori Andreachuk.
Nor does Andreachuk understand the limits of her mandate. Announcing the punishment last Friday, she awarded $5,000 "damages" to Lund -- "although not a direct victim, (he) did expend considerable time and energy."
The act contains no such permission and in any case, Lund was no victim of discrimination. The payment amounts to a bounty for volunteer human-rights vigilantism.
She also ordered Boissoin never to communicate disparagingly of homosexuals again, or of Lund. Again, she stretches her mandate: Lund was not discriminated against -- actually, no person was -- and the mere fact he chose to engage Boissoin in debate before a tribunal hardly empowers Andreachuk to bind Boissoin's speech. Presumably, if Boissoin wishes to be rash, Lund has the law of defamation and the Court of Queen's Bench at his disposal.
Is that not sufficient?
Finally, Boissoin is to provide Lund with a written apology for the sincerely held opinion he published in the Advocate.
Premier Stelmach, do something for liberty, now. Repeal Section 3(1)(b) from Alberta's human rights act.
To stand up for our hard-won freedoms and western way of life, write to:
Office of the Premier Room 307, Legislature Building
10800 97th Ave.
(No stamp is necessary.)
Or phone: 1-780-427-2251
To call toll free call: 310-0000
has more on the case - including this link
(PDF) to the order itself - and also highlights some of the more disturbing aspects of this decision, such as this:
In this case, there is no specific individual who can be compensated as there is no direct victim who has come forward...
And yet, the panel mandates this:
Mr. Boissoin and [his organization] The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.
Ever? Are Mr. Boissoin's e-mails to forever be monitored, lest he accidentally let slip that he agrees with a interlocutor's disapproval of gay marriage?
You can read the letter in question here
. To me, it is over-the-top in its rhetoric and diagnosis, and to call the label ignorant and intolerant would probably be a fair assessment. It is not something that warranted state intervention, yet here we are. As EGALE itself warned
While it is difficult to support Boissoin’s right to spew his misguided and vitriolic thoughts, support his right, we must.
If Boissoin was no longer able to share his views, then who might be next in also having their freedom of expression limited. Traditionally, the LGBT community’s freedom has been repressed by society and its laws.
Plus, it is far better that Boissoin expose his views than have them pushed underground. Under the glaring light of public scrutiny, his ideas will most likely wither and die.
In fact, his words may serve to increase public education. By more clearly seeing the ugly face of bigotry and prejudice, the need for teaching tolerance in schools becomes obvious.
As others have pointed out, it's easier to pay attention to the case against Maclean's, and probably easier to be sympathetic to the plight of a mainstream national newsmagazine. But we can't overlook cases like this, even if the subject is less sympathetic. Rev. Boissoin has suffered a terrible injustice - there's no other way to put it.