4/28/2009 8:00:00 PM
We spoke last month with Lindsay Blackett - Alberta's Minister of Culture and Community Spirit - about forthcoming changes to Alberta's Human Rights legislation. You can listen to that conversation via the audio player at right. It certainly indicated to me that the minister was serious about changing to legislation so as to protect freedom of speech. You can also read similar thoughts from the minister here
"People have the right to say what they believe and Albertans strongly believe in that right," says Lindsay.
"We've got to try and find what was the purpose of the human rights commission to start with back in 1972."
"For me, it's back to the future and the simplicity of what the human rights commissions is supposed to be. It was originally just intended to provide protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, creed, religion and so on with respect to employment, accommodation and access to services. That's it."
"It wasn't about hurt feelings. The reason a lot of human rights commissions are disrespected across the country is because they've forgotten that."
(Via Ezra Levant
, who - as you would expect - has much to say
Despite all the rhetoric about the need to protect freedom of speech, the Alberta government is doing precisely nothing about it. In a profoundly disappointing decision, the Alberta government's legislation to amend the Act
has left in place the section dealing with matters of speech.
That decision is briefly explained here
- Section 3 of Alberta’s human rights legislation already states that “nothing shall be deemed to interfere with the free expression of opinion on any subject.”
- Government found that removing “publications” from the Act could have serious consequences. Ultimately, Albertans need a balance between freedom of speech and responsibility.
In other words: everything's wonderful - why is everyone so bent out of shape? But if the Alberta government believes there is nothing wrong with the legislation insofar as free speech is concerned, then why exactly was the minister running around talking about the need to better protect freedom of speech?
Anyway, as to the government's new belief that Section 3(2) is a sufficient protection of freedom of speech, let's recall the successful human rights complaint against Rev. Stephen Boissoin
over a letter he wrote to the Red Deer Advocate. Boissoin argued that Section 3(2) should provide some protection to it. But the panel chair was having none of it
(PDF - see page 75):
On an analysis of the case law, I disagree that s. 3(2) creates further protection for political speech.
I do agree that s. 3(2) is an admonition for Panels to balance the freedom of expression with the eradication of discrimination in the consideration of complaints under Section 3 of the Act, but I do not find that s. 3(2) is a complete defence, nor a justification, for a breech of s. 3(1). In this case I find, in balancing the two freedoms, that the eradication of hate speech, such as that promulgated by Mr. Boissoin and the CCC is paramount to the freedom Mr. Boissoin and the CCC should have to speak their views. I find, therefore, that s. 3(2) in this case is not a defence to the breach of s. 3(1).
So much for the government's argument. Look, if the government really believed that everything was fine as far as this was concerned, then they should have been willing to stand up and say so. Now, though, they have committed themselves to the position that nothing is wrong, and they'll have to defend it. A political gift, perhaps, to the fledgling Wildrose Alliance party, as they're poised to elect a new leader - if they're smart, they'll jump on this.