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Friday, December 4, 2009

A Sad Day for Alberta:Alberta judge rules anti-gay letter not hate speech

The Canadian Press
Date: Friday Dec. 4, 2009 7:12 AM ET
EDMONTON — A Court of Queen's Bench judge has ruled an anti-gay letter written by a former Alberta pastor in 2002 was not a hate crime and is allowed under freedom of speech.
Justice E.C. Wilson overturned a 2008 ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission that the letter by Stephen Boissoin that was published in the Red Deer Advocate broke provincial law.
At the time, the commission said it may even have played a role in the beating of a gay teenager two weeks after it was published.
The commission had ordered Boissoin to refrain from making disparaging remarks about homosexuals and to pay the complainant, former Red Deer high school teacher Darren Lund, $5,000 in damages.
Neither order can now be enforced, as Wilson declared them "unlawful or unconstitutional."
The letter carried the headline "Homosexual agenda wicked" and suggested gays were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.
Boissoin had argued he was simply commenting on government policy by criticizing homosexuality being portrayed positively in the public school curriculum.
On Thursday, Boissoin said he was thrilled with the judge's ruling, calling it a victory for "freedom of speech and religious expression in Canada."
At the time he wrote the letter, Boissoin was a pastor with the Concerned Christian Coalition. He now works in the housing industry.

Lund, who is now a professor at the University of Calgary, said he was disappointed.
"I really think this is a step backwards for our province," he said in an email to The Canadian Press.
"In my view, the judge's ruling sets such strict standards for hate speech that this section is rendered all but unenforceable.

This blog owner agrees with Professor Lund!! Professor Lund goes on to state:

"I'm hopeful that Albertans hope to keep our communities inclusive and respectful for all people, but this ruling certainly offers no assistance in this regard. If the language contained in the letter does not meet the threshold of hateful, I am not certain what possibly would."
The Canadian Constitution Foundation, a free-speech advocacy group, issued a news release saying it was pleased with Thursday's ruling.
"Unfortunately, the law that was used against Reverend Boissoin to subject him to a expensive and stressful legal proceedings for more than seven years is still on the books," said executive director John Carpay.
That law, the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act, says no one shall publish a statement that is likely "to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt" because of their sexual orientation.
"In spite of today's court ruling, Albertans need to continue to exercise extreme caution when speaking about public policy issues, lest they offend someone who then files a human rights complaint," said Carpay.
"No citizen is safe from being subjected to a taxpayer-funded prosecution for having spoken or written something that a fellow citizen finds offensive."

What is this blog owner's response to this decision?

First I suggest that you read the ex-Reverend  Boissoin's letter at the following link:

Secondly, I suggest you read what a journalist has written about Darren Lund:

Now that you have read perspectives on both sides of this issue, one fact about  this letter has to be emphasized to my way of thinking. What fact is that?

The Red Deer Advocate published an article on July 4, 2002, entitled “Gay Teenager Beaten.” This beating took place less than two weeks following the publication of Mr. Boissoin’s letter. Dr. Lund viewed Mr. Boissoin’s letter as a “call to arms letter.”

You  should now read all of the following material which is a direct copy of the actual court documents pertaining to the case between Darren Lund and Stephen Boissoin



.Darren E. Lund

Stephen Boissoin and
The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Attorney General of Alberta

"The 17 year old victim was attacked by a man who asked him “you are a faggot, right?” before shattering his cheek bone. As published in this article, the victim stated that he “doesn’t feel safe reading the anti-gay statements like the ones in the Red Deer Advocate June 17th letter to the editor from Stephen Boissoin.”

Dr. Lund reported that the Red Deer Advocate, in settlement of a separate human rights complaint regarding publication of Mr. Boissoin’s letter, took an unprecedented step of changing and expanding its letter policy. The policy now states that:
The Red Deer Advocate will not publish statements that indicate unlawful discrimination or intent to discriminate against a person or class of persons, or are likely to expose people to hatred because of... sexual orientation.

Ms. Dodd reported that she was personally aware that one of the youths who beat the 17 year old youth was a person who frequented the youth center quite often. Ms. Dodd further reported that Mr. Boissoin was aware of this and did nothing in response to the beating.

Ms. Dodd reported that as a rule if there was any violence within the center, those involved were asked to leave for an extended period of time depending on how violent the situation was. Ms. Dodd reported that the youth who perpetrated this assault was never subjected to any repercussions at the center.
 Ms. Dodd reported that Mr. Boissoin made the following statement:
“God called him to be active with his beliefs.”

Next ,in this legal document is the Testimony of Mr. Douglas Robert Jones (who is an expert witness. Mr. Jones served with the Calgary City Police Service for just under 25 years. He worked within the Diversity Resources Unit and served as the hate/bias crime coordinator as well as the liaison to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, tri-sexual, trans-gender communities. He has extensive first hand experience with hate crimes.)

Mr. Jones’ experience as an investigating police officer over the last seven years was that gays are routinely targeted for hate and discrimination in Alberta. The most targeted group for hate crimes were those in the Jewish community and gays are typically the second most targeted group for hate crimes in Calgary.

Mr. Jones reported that gay people are members of a vulnerable population in society and gays are likely more vulnerable in smaller settings like Red Deer.

Mr. Jones reported having great concern with Mr. Boissoin’s letter.

As stated by Mr. Jones,

"Initially the first comment, the letter includes the paragraph:

“Come on people, wake up! It is time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn. Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds.”

What was Mr. Jones reaction to this paragraph?

Mr. Jones stated:

"This article and especially the paragraph above encourages action against those perceived to be homosexual."

Mr Jones continues to speak and states the following:

"In schools, 4 out of 5 youth targeted by hate incident are in fact heterosexual. My experience has shown that the majority of gay bashings that occur in Calgary are perpetrated by small groups of two to four young people acting out. Reverend Boissoin’s letter encourages this kind of action by arguing there is a homosexual machine and that “every professing heterosexual is having their future aggressively chopped at the roots.”

"Secondly, the article is a call to action. There is no information explaining what legal steps should be taken by a person who has concerns about the issue of homosexuality. Nothing is suggested around legal steps such as letter writing or whom to speak to in Government or any other reasonable steps towards political actions. Boissoin’s phrase, “Take whatever steps are necessary”, incites hatred and encourages hate incident at the very least. More importantly, it may also encourage some individuals who might read this article to commit hate crimes motivated against those perceived to be homosexual. So, in other words, heterosexual people."

"People who are in a position of trust need to choose their words very carefully. This article is signed by a Reverend Stephen Boissoin, Central Alberta Chairman, Concerned Christian Coalition Red Deer. The official sounding source of an article such as this, can have significantly greater negative impact, especially when written by someone who is attached to an organized church or religion. This article comes from someone whom you would expect to hear words such a love thy neighbor. This article was written by someone who would not reasonably be viewed as too young and uneducated or without the opportunity to have read and learned about sexual identity. The fact that this letter was written by someone representing a religious group and a coalition gives a far greater potential impact.
And last, I would suggest that we substitute another marginalized community into this article wherever it says “homosexual” and see if we would agree if it promotes hatred and tolerance. If we imagine this article was written depicting heterosexuals and their supporters in such a negative light, would heterosexuals feel targeted? I believe they are very impressionable to articles like this."

Mr Jones concluded his testimony by stating the  following:

"I believe they would reasonably feel this article encourages others to act out against them through verbal abuse, hate messages and hate motivated assault.
For these reason, I sincerely believe this letter has violated Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
54. Mr. Jones reported that he is concerned that young people are very impressionable to articles like this."

The next event which occurred in this legal case was that the testimony of Dr. Kevin Alderson was heard.  Dr. Alderson was qualified as an expert witness as a psychologist with an expertise in gay and lesbian psychology.  Dr. Alderson has been a licensed psychologist for 21 years and currently is a professor at the University of Calgary.  Dr. Alderson reports that a majority of gays and lesbians have experienced some form or prejudice and discrimination to the extent of about 90% of gay men and a slightly lower percentage of lesbian women. He further reports that approximately 25% of gay men and 10% of lesbian women have been physically assaulted directly due to their identity as gay or lesbian.  Dr. Alderson reports that gays and lesbians have been targeted for hate and discrimination for centuries.

 Dr. Alderson reports that the research is clear that rural communities are known for more homophobic environments compared to larger centers.
 Dr. Alderson reports that young gay people living in a smaller community such as Red Deer would be more vulnerable to discrimination and hate.
 Dr. Alderson reports that gays and lesbians are reluctant to report hate crimes.

Dr. Alderson reported that reading Mr. Boissoin’s letter caused a surge of personal fear in himself. Furthermore, he reports that he has talked to hundreds of people in the gay community about Mr. Boissoin’s letter and all were horrified and fearful.

Dr. Alderson reports that Mr. Boissoin’s letter is full of hate speech.

Dr. Alderson reports that Mr. Boissoin’s letter is likely to expose gay persons to more hatred and contempt in the community

Dr. Alderson wrote a letter dated November 22, 2006 in support of Dr. Lund’s complaint to the Commission. Dr. Alderson’s opinion is that the contents of Mr. Boissoin’s letter fit every definition of hate speech. Further, it is his opinion the written word is more harmful that spoken word as it creates a permanent record.

Dr. Alderson points to the many statements in Mr. Boissoin’s letter which reflect hateful descriptions of homosexuals including the following:
That gays are sick (suggesting their enslavement to homosexuality can be remedied), that they have caused far too much damage, that they are pedophiles, they recruit, they have done horrendous atrocities, they are wicked, perverse, self centered, morally deprived, they are compared to pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps and furthermore that they are “the enemy.”

 Dr. Alderson says the effect of hate literature is to increase the threat level to the physical safety of gays.

 Dr. Alderson also reports that sexual minorities are among the most frequently targeted victims of hate motivated violence in Canada

The next event which happened in this case was the Testimony of Mr. Stephen Douglas Boissoin.

He stated for the record the following:

Mr. Boissoin reports that it was a combination of things that caused him to write the letter. One factor was working with teens and having a passion for teens and caring that what they are told is the truth. Another factor was that he was becoming educated about the advances of homosexual rights and how they affect children.

 Mr. Boissoin reports that he wrote the letter to the editor as a “wake up” call to people to “sound the alarm” as voters in Canada.

 Mr. Boissoin reports that prior to writing this letter, he became aware that an organization called PFLAG Faith Society had received government funding for their initiative to teach that homosexuality was normal, necessary, acceptable and productive and had been for thousands of years.

Mr. Boissoin reports that he did not intend his letter to discriminate or encourage other individuals to discriminate against homosexuals.

 Mr. Boissoin reports that he does not believe that his letter had the effect of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

 Mr. Boissoin reports he has a right to write the letter to the editor and that he should be protected in terms of his views.

 Mr. Boissoin on cross-examination admitted he knew by submitting this letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate, that it may be published.

Mr. Boissoin on cross-examination admitted that he was not aware of any writings published in the Red Deer Advocate regarding the “political debate” surrounding homosexuality, prior to the publication of his letter to the editor.

Mr. Boissoin believes that a person who characterizes themselves as gay can, through counseling, realize that this is not correct and choose to make an alternate lifestyle choice.
94. Mr. Boissoin on cross-examination reports that he ministered to many youths who had issues around being gay and lesbian. Further, he would affirm to these youths that they are loved by God and that their choice to be homosexual is a harmful one

Mr. Boissoin stated on cross-examination that:
When homosexuals or pro-homosexual activists are teaching children that homosexuality is normal, necessary, acceptable, and productive, and as far as I understand, using my tax dollars as well to do so, I not only have a right to speak up about it, but I felt that I had an obligation.
97. Mr. Boissoin on cross-examination reports that homosexuality is a sin and that it is wrong.
98. Mr. Boissoin stated on cross-examination that:
Any time you deem something acceptable to a young person, you increase the likelihood that they are going to participate and think it is okay and participate in that lifestyle.

Mr. Boissoin under cross-examination admitted that he chose a war metaphor to start his letter with the statement: “war has been declared.” Mr. Boissoin further reports that the warfare he was speaking of was clearly a war of ideologies. Mr. Boissoin believed that readers of this article clearly understood that he was speaking of a political battle.

(A question this blog owner has:If this is the case Mr. Boissoin why then did this assault against this 17 year old male in your community?)

Mr. Boissoin admitted under cross-examination that:
I believe the propagation of homosexuality as being normal, necessary, acceptable and productive to a young person is just as immoral under God, according to scripture, as pedophilia, common as drug dealing or any other sin.

Mr. Boissoin reported under cross-examination that he was motivated to write this letter because of his love for homosexuals.

Mr. Boissoin under cross-examination states:
“I do not hate the homosexual. I hate the practice and what it propagates and the damage that it causes in our society.”

The next aspect of  this case was the testimony of a Political scientist named Dr. Barry Cooper.

Dr. Cooper was qualified as an expert witness entitled to give opinion evidence in the field of political science as it relates to constitutional and human rights law. Further, he was qualified to give opinion evidence on the issues of equality rights, freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

 In October of 2005, Dr. Cooper wrote an opinion for Mr. Boissoin in regards to this complaint. On a broad level, he was to analyze the theory of human rights legislation and how human rights legislation interacts with freedom of expression, political debate and how the debate impacts on government. Further, his analysis provided an opinion on whether Mr. Boissoin’s letter was best described as political debate from a political scientist’s perspective.

 Dr. Cooper reports through an historical analysis the question of limiting or destroying other people’s rights is extremely important in liberal democracy. Dr. Cooper analysis involved the UK, Canada and the United States in this respect.

 Dr. Cooper points out that the premise of liberal government is that there is a difference between government protecting a right and the exercise of a right by individuals, and that in his expert opinion, the point of the right of free speech is the right to debate not to ensure agreement.

 Dr. Cooper points out that freedom of speech is found in the United States and the Canadian Constitution, in Section 2(b) of the Charter and in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In his opinion the pragmatic rationale for both is the protection of free speech and the security that the government affords for individuals to make their opinions known, are necessary for democratic government. Dr. Cooper reports that Mr. Boissoin was engaging in exercising his right of free speech in conducting a public debate through his letter to the Red Deer Advocate. Dr. Cooper reports further that Dr. Lund is attempting to silence him rather than engaging directly in further debate, by alleging the promotion of hatred as a ground for silencing him.

Dr. Cooper reports that the letters that appeared in the Red Deer Advocate surrounding the commentary about Mr. Boissoin’s letter demonstrate evidence of democratic health.
 Dr. Cooper reports that Mr. Boissoin’s rhetoric was certainly strong but in his expert opinion he does not believe there is any evidence of hatred.
 Dr. Cooper reports that a large portion of Mr. Boissoin’s letter focused on the gay rights movement although it was not identified as such and this, by its very nature, is political commentary.

 Dr. Cooper reports in his expert opinion that the letter of Mr. Boissoin when read in its entirety, amounts to political criticism with moral exhortation.
Dr. Cooper reports that in his opinion Mr. Boissoin was only peripherally concerned with homosexuality in writing his letter. Dr. Cooper reports that Mr. Boissoin was far more concerned with establishing the scriptural basis for his views on homosexual practices.
 Dr. Cooper reports that what is critical is that the letter lead to a very spirited debate in the letters column of the Red Deer Advocate that concerned not homosexuality per se, but Mr. Boissoin’s views and his consideration of what is moral conduct.
 Dr. Cooper reports that Mr. Boissoin is clearly engaged in political debate. Further, in Dr. Cooper’s opinion it is clear that Mr. Boissoin was not expressing hatred of homosexuals and that he further shows compassion with respect to people who are suffering from an unwanted sexual identity crisis and are further enslaved to this desire.

Dr. Cooper reports that although some people may find Mr. Boissoin’s letter offensive, that does not amount to hate or discrimination.

Dr. Cooper reports that Mr. Boissoin’s letter sparked a vigorous political debate. Mr. Boissoin pointed out that there were certain practices that he regards as immoral and that his beliefs are grounded on and founded in the Bible. Dr. Cooper points out that reasonable people can disagree about whether homosexual practices are immoral and they can further disagree about whether the Bible is authoritative. Dr. Cooper reports that this is the essence of what debate is all about.
Dr. Cooper states that if activists use tax payer dollars to promote homosexuality in public schools then Christians have a right to stand up and say they do not think it is okay.
Dr. Cooper admits under cross-examination his belief that the Commission would be misguided in agreeing that this debate is hateful.
 Dr. Cooper admits in cross-examination that laws have been changed in our liberal democracy in one direction supporting the gay rights movement and that they in fact can be repealed. It is his expert opinion that Mr. Boissoin wants to repeal some of the human rights legislation that has advanced in this regard. Further, he states under cross-examination that Mr. Boissoin’s rhetoric in this letter is to prompt political action.
 Dr. Cooper admits under cross-examination that he does not have a degree in psychology.

Dr. Cooper admitted under cross-examination that he was not asked to comment upon the psychology involved in the letter writing, or in the fall-out resulting in this assault on the 17 year old boy that followed Mr. Boissoin’s letter.
128. Dr. Cooper admitted upon cross-examination that he was not asked to make a psychological analysis in his report. In his comments upon the psychological estate of the young assault victim, Dr. Cooper reported that if this young 17 year old victim does not feel safe reading the letter, then he should not read the letter.

Dr. Cooper under cross-examination reports that any connection between reading a letter and not feeling safe does not make sense to him.

The following facts are also important to know about this case:

Mr. Boissoin admits that his rhetoric was highly inflammatory but did not rise to the level of discrimination and hatred that the Act was intended to prohibit.

Mr. Boissoin argues that there must be a place within society notwithstanding the language found in the human rights legislation in Alberta for individuals to take strong positions with respect to moral questions and talk about hatred, talk about wickedness, and talk about their opinions about the activities and actions of others without finding that those comments, notwithstanding that they may be offensive, are hateful and therefore prohibited by the legislation in this case.

Mr. Boissoin asserts his letter did not speak for or against homosexuality.

Mr. Boissoin asserts his letter neither spoke for nor against public policy as it relates to the promotion of homosexuality or of homosexual practices. Further, this is a political debate about public policy.

 Mr. Boissoin asserts his letter enjoys the constitutional protection found in Section 2(b) of the Charter and therefore falls outside of the jurisdiction of the province of Alberta.

Mr. Boissoin asserts that this case is distinguishable from R v Keegstra, [1990] S.C.R. 697 where the Supreme Court of Canada found actual harm.

It is Mr. Boissoin’s position that there is no direct evidence of harm to any person or persons because of his letter.

(This blog owner asks this question:  If no actual harm was done,then why was this gay person beaten up after Mr. Boissoin's letter was published in Red Deer?)

Mr. Boissoin asserts that the only consequence of his letter has been unrestricted political debate.

The next part of this case involved  the Attorney General of Alberta.He stated in regards to this case:

The Attorney General submits that Mr. Boissoin’s position is fundamentally flawed insofar as Mr. Boissoin did not bring a constitutional challenge against Section 3 of the Act, yet Mr. Boissoin is seeking a constitutional remedy of the reading down of Section 3 to exclude political and religious speech but he has done so without actually challenging the constitutionality of the legislation. It is the Attorney General’s position that absent a constitutional challenge Mr. Boissoin cannot receive a constitutional remedy.

It is the position of the Attorney General that Section 3 of the Act limits all forms of discriminatory expression.
220. The Attorney General points out that pursuant to Schedule I of the Designation of the Constitutional Decision Makers Regulation, A.R. 69-2000 this Panel does not have jurisdiction to decide Charter issues.

The Attorney General argues that freedom of expression is subject to a limitation. Further, that if people were allowed to simply hide behind the rubric of political and religious opinion, they would defeat the entire purpose of the human rights legislation.

The Attorney General argues that it is important to note that consideration should be given to the insidious harm created by discriminatory expression at the local level. Further it is asserted that federal criminal power may never attach to the harm created on a local level.

The Attorney General points out that this Supreme Court of Canada in Keegstra that Justice McLachlin (as she then was) forcefully argued for the preferential use of human rights legislation over the criminal law power in dealing with discriminatory expression stating at paragraph 341 through 344 as follows:
The very fact of criminalization itself may be argued to represent an excessive response to the problem of hate propagation...Moreover, the chilling effect of prohibitions on expression is at its most severe when they are effected by means of the criminal law...The additional sanction of the criminal law may pose little deterrent to a convinced hate-monger who may welcome the publicity it brings; it may, however, deter the ordinary individual.
It is arguable whether criminalization of expression calculated to promote racial hatred is necessary. Other remedies or perhaps more appropriate and more effective. Discrimination on grounds of race and religion is worthy of suppression. Human Rights legislation focusing on reparation rather than punishment, has had considerable success in discouraging such conduct.

It is the Attorney General’s submission that the case of Canada Jewish Congress v. North Shore Free Press Ltd. (No. 7), 1997 Carswell B.C. 3175 as the case which is exactly on point with the one at hand. The Attorney General asserts that the fundamental issue with respect to the division of power’s analysis is whether the letter is discriminatory not whether it is political. In the Canadian Jewish Congress case the respondent argued that an impugned editorial which made various anti-semantic comments constituted political expression and so was beyond the purview of the provincial jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia. In that case, the Human Rights Tribunal upheld the validity of the Act which is similar to our Alberta Act. The Court pointed out at paragraphs 76 through 77:

It is the Attorney General’s submission that the case of Canada Jewish Congress v. North Shore Free Press Ltd. (No. 7), 1997 Carswell B.C. 3175 as the case which is exactly on point with the one at hand. The Attorney General asserts that the fundamental issue with respect to the division of power’s analysis is whether the letter is discriminatory not whether it is political. In the Canadian Jewish Congress case the respondent argued that an impugned editorial which made various anti-semantic comments constituted political expression and so was beyond the purview of the provincial jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia. In that case, the Human Rights Tribunal upheld the validity of the Act which is similar to our Alberta Act. The Court pointed out at paragraphs 76 through 77:
If hate speech is only tenuously related to the democratic rationale underlying s. 2(b) of the Charter, as described in Keegstra, cannot be maintained that it falls within the category of speech removed from provincial jurisdiction by the implied bill of rights doctrine because it is so essential to the functioning of Parliamentary institutions that restricting it would substantially interfere with the workings of those institutions. Even if s. 7(1)(b) did affect some speech that could be so described, it is well-established that provincial legislation may validly impinge on matters outside provincial jurisdiction as long as it is intra vires the provincial in its pith and substance: for example, see the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in G.M. v. City National Leasing, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 641 at 669-70.
Therefore, I conclude that, to the extent that s. 7(1)(b) prohibits “political” speech by restricting expression that is likely to expose a person or group to hatred or contempt, it does not exceed provincial legislation jurisdiction either by trenching on federal jurisdiction in s. 91(27) or under the implied bill of rights doctrine. Since the argument that s. 7(1)(b) creates a criminal law within the meaning of s. 91(27) also fails, I conclude that the enactment of the provision is a constitutionally valid exercise of provincial legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution Act, 1867. [emphasis added]

 It is the Attorney General’s position that Mr. Boissoin’s letter is discriminatory and it clearly falls within in the purview of Section 3 of the Act. The Attorney General’s position is that the Intervener C.C.L.A. agrees on the point that the province of Alberta has jurisdiction to legislate with regard to discriminatory expression that is directly linked to areas of prohibited discriminatory practices. It is the position of the Attorney General that the discriminatory messages in Mr. Boissoin’s letter need only likely cause others to engage in prohibited practices. Furthermore, it is the position of the Attorney General that no link to actual discriminatory acts need be established in this regard.

It is the Attorney General’s position that evidence is before the Panel in regards to a beating of a 17 year old boy on the basis of his sexual identity insofar as that victim actually mentioned Mr. Boissoin’s letter. The Attorney General asserts that the province has jurisdiction over discriminatory practices and the evidence of this assault is the linkage to violence against homosexual persons as urged by Mr. Boissoin in his letter being a “call to arms for people to take action” against the homosexual machine.

The Attorney General argues that Mr. Boissoin, through his letter, is sending a message that is likely to cause others to engage in further discriminatory practices. The Attorney General asserts that the province intended that Section 3 of the Act apply to all forms of discriminatory expression including political and religious speech. Furthermore, the Act does not endorse the right of religious groups to engage in discriminatory expression

The Attorney General submits that evidence before this Panel of Mr. Doug Jones and Dr. Kevin Alderson have established that Mr. Boissoin’s letter contains messages that have the effect of enhancing discrimination against homosexuals living in central Alberta. The messages as asserted by Mr. Boissoin add to the misperception of gay people as being inherently evil. Further, Mr. Boissoin condones the mistreatment of gay people through his message creating an atmosphere that is conducive to discrimination.

The Attorney General asserts that on a plain reading of Mr. Boissoin’s letter he is seeking that readers do whatever they can within their own sphere of influence to stop the homosexual machine. Furthermore, Mr. Boissoin is encouraging discrimination in employment tenancy and in goods and services.

The next phase of  this process was to hear  from a member of  the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who stated:

The CCLA does not defend Mr. Boissoin’s views. They reject the opinion he expressed in his letter."

The CCLA is of the view that the effective way to respond to Mr. Boissoin’s offensive speech is by further counter speech.

The CCLA reports that Mr. Boissoin’s views may be jarring, extreme, polemical, offensive and confrontational. However, it is the position of the CCLA that when offensive speech is subject to legal prohibition, serious dangers arise. First, expression that is fundamental to the rigorous debate and individual decision making that underlines a functioning democracy may be prohibited. Second, such prohibition casts a chill over all future speakers leading to self-censorship.

It is the CCLA’s position that the Panel has to dismiss this complaint against Mr. Boissoin simply on the basis of federalism and the division of powers argument

The CCLA asserts that the Taylor reasoning was applied by Justice Rooke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Re Kane, 2001 A.B.Q.B. 570 where Justice Rooke held at paragraph 85:
What is required to properly balance the two competing interests is an examination of the nature of the statement in a full, contextual manner which recognizes the objectives and goals of the legislation and is Charter sensitive. It will also be necessary for the Panel to apply other principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada in relation to Section 2(b). In particular, it is essential that the Panel consider the nature and context of the expression and the degree of protection with which this type of expression is afforded (Keegstra at 766; and Taylor at 922).

In the case of Edmonton Journal v. Alberta (Attorney General), [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326. Justice Cory stated for the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada at paragraph 3:
It is difficult to imagine a guaranteed right more important to a democratic society than freedom of expression. Indeed a democracy cannot exist without that freedom to express new ideas and to put forward opinions about the functioning of public institutions. The concept of free and uninhibited speech permeates all truly democratic societies and institutions. The vital importance of the concept cannot be over-emphasized. No doubt, that was the reason why the framers of the Charter set forth Section 2(b) in absolute terms which distinguishes it, for example, from Section 8 of the Charter which guarantees the qualified right to be secure from unreasonable search. It seems that the rights enshrined in Section 2(b) should therefore only be restricted in the clearest of circumstances.

The CCLA agrees with the Attorney General that freedom of religion may be subject to reasonable limits. The CCLA submits that a restriction on Mr. Boissoin’s freedom of religion contemplated in this hearing would be unreasonable as Mr. Boissoin publically expressed his deeply held religious beliefs. The CCLA asserts that Mr. Boissoin is entitled to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Further, Mr. Boissoin has the right to spread his opinions, his religious beliefs, and his convictions and to participate in public debate through his letter to the editor. A letter to the editor is one of the most effective means to communicate ones’ ideas and opinions to the community at large.

The CCLA submits that people who oppose equality for gays and lesbians are absolutely wrong and further condemn discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and affirm the complete equality of gays and lesbians. However, the CCLA also submits the question surrounding sexual orientation and equality have attracted significant social and political debate in the past number of years and further this debate has been vigorous and confrontational. The CCLA confirms that the right to debate issues like the one at hand is fundamental to our notion of democracy. CCLA supports that Mr. Boissoin is entitled to the freedom of expression and that Mr. Boissoin has the right to disseminate his opinions, his religious beliefs and convictions, and to participate in public debate

The CCLA submits that Mr. Boissoin’s messages while undeniably jarring, may be regarded fundamentally as expression of opinion on matters of morality, religion and politics. The CCLA submits that on moral issues, emotions often run high. Further, to a person who is convinced that homosexuality is a mortal sin, and who feels a religious and moral duty to persuade others of that fact, putting opinions in polemical terms may be a natural response and from a Charter perspective Courts should display a high degree of tolerance for such expression and only uphold its limitation where there is a compelling case of justification for doing so.

The CCLA submits that this complaint against Mr. Boissoin should be dismissed.

This was the final judgment of the case:

Also, I am of the view that the effect of the communication (Mr. Boissoin's letter)  would make it more acceptable to others to manifest hatred against homosexuals. I would also conclude that a reasonable person would consider it more likely than not that this letter exposes members of the target group being homosexuals, to hatred or contempt. I agree with Dr. Lund’s examples which leave homosexuals vulnerable to hatred, contempt and active dislike in his reference to the following portions of the letter:
1. “Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds.”
2. “My banner has now been raised and war has been declared, so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume.”
3. “Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage you have caused.”
4. “It is time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness...”
5. “...Horrendous atrocities, such as the aggressive propagation of homo and bisexuality.”
6. “From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed...”
7. “Our children are being victimized by repugnant and pre-mediated strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young into their camps.”
8. “Your children are being warped.”
9. “Will your child be the next victim that tests homosexuality positive.”
I agree with Dr. Lund that statements such as these in the letter serve to develop mistrust and fear of homosexuality by making erroneous connections between homosexuality and disease. I further agree with Dr. Lund’s comments that the tone in the letter is militaristic and the letter serves to dehumanize people who are homosexuals by referring to them in degrading, insulting and offensive manners. I also agree with Dr. Lund that the letter draws false analogies between homosexuality and pedophilia. In this context, the letter does indeed express hatred and contempt for homosexuality and no one could help but understand the letter in such context. Further, this type of fear mongering, in my view, may make it more acceptable for some others to manifest hatred or contempt against homosexuals and any reasonable person would consider it more likely than not to expose homosexuals to hatred and contempt.

The content of the communication, in my view, exposes homosexuals to contempt. The themes in the correspondence are themes of hatred against homosexuals, as pointed out by Dr. Lund.

The tone of the communication. The tone is militaristic in nature. It uses words such as:
a. War has been declared.
b. My banner has now been raised.
c. The greatest weapons you have encountered to date. We will defeat you.
d. Stand together and take whatever steps are necessary.
The effect of the tone of the communication may convey that violence against homosexuals of a physical nature is acceptable.

The evidence is clear that the target group is vulnerable. As Constable Jones pointed out, homosexuals are more vulnerable in rural areas, especially in regards to hate crimes. He reported that homosexual victims have a reluctance to come forward and report discrimination and that homosexuals are a vulnerable, marginalized group who have historically experienced extreme discrimination, especially in small communities.

The stereotypes used ( in Mr. Boissoin's letter) as pointed out by Dr. Lund, are that homosexuals are morally bankrupt and disease ridden enemies, and further, that homosexuals seek out children with erroneous analogies to pedophilia. The letter evokes fear of an identifiable homosexual group as a dangerous threat to Christian institutions.

While Mr. Boissoin gave evidence that his statement was a political one, in the context of a political discussion going on in the community at the time, there was absolutely no evidence of any pre-existing debate on the subject in the letters of the editor to the Red Deer Advocate prior to Mr. Boissoin’s letter. There appeared to be no independent circumstances prompting a response of the nature of the one Mr. Boissoin gave. In fact he was not responding to anything. Mr. Boissoin testified in cross examination that the CCC was having a political meeting in the week that followed publication, yet he made no mention of it or reference to it.

Once again, there appeared to be no raging debate in the community on the issue, at the time the letter was published. I agree with Dr. Lund’s position that Mr. Boissoin’s letter was not political in nature, but rather was a moral criticism of homosexuality. I agree with Dr. Lund that Mr. Boissoin did not mention any specific political avenue or action in his letter, nor did he even advise the public in his letter about a political group meeting, which was to be held one week after he published his letter, even though he had the opportunity to do so. If Mr. Boissoin was writing a political piece, he would have publicized the meeting.

Having considered all of these issues, the evidence before me and the case law, I find that the publication of Mr. Boissoin and the CCC was, on the balance of probabilities, likely to expose homosexuals to hatred and/or contempt.

The definition of “hatred” and “contempt” for purposes of human rights legislation is well established in Canada by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Taylor [1990] 3 S.C.R. (Supreme Court of Canada) paragraph 60, wherein the following was stated by the Supreme Court of Canada:
In my view, there is no conflict between providing a meaningful interpretation of s. 13(1) and protecting the s. 2(b) freedom of expression so long as the interpretation of the words ‘hatred’ and ‘contempt’ is fully informed by an awareness that Parliament’s objective is to protect the equality and dignity of all individuals by reducing the incidence of harm-causing expression. Such a perspective was employed by the Human Rights Tribunal in Nealy v. Johnston (1989), 10 C.H.R.R. D/6450, the most recent decision regarding s. 13(1), where it was noted, at p. D/6469, that:
In defining ‘hatred’ the Tribunal [in Tyalor] applied the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 ed.) Which reads:
“Active dislike, detestation, enmity, ill-will, malevolence.”
The Tribunal drew on the same source for their definition of ‘contempt’. It was characterized as
“the condition of being condemned or despised; dishonour or disgrace.”
As there is no definition of ‘hatred’ or ‘contempt’ within the [Canadian Human Rights Act] it is necessary to rely on what might be described as common understandings of the meaning of these terms. Clearly these are terms which have a potentially emotive content and how they are related to particular factual contexts by different individuals will vary. There is nevertheless an important core of meaning in both, which the dictionary definitions capture. With ‘hatred’ the focus is a set of emotions and feelings which involve extreme ill will towards another person or group of persons. To say that one ‘hates’ another means in effect that one finds no redeeming qualities in the latter. It is a term, however, which does not necessarily involve the mental process of ‘looking down’ on another or others. It is quite possible to ‘hate’ someone who one feels is
superior to one in intelligence, wealth or power. None of the synonyms used in the dictionary definition for ‘hatred’ give any clues to the motivation for the ill will. ‘Contempt’ is by contrast a term which suggests a mental process of ‘looking down’ upon or treating as inferior the object of one’s feelings. Ths is captured by the dictionary definition relied on in the use of the terms ‘despised’, ‘dishonour’ or ‘disgrace’. Although the person can be ‘hated’ (i.e. actively disliked) and treated with ‘contempt’ (i.e. looked down upon), the terms are not fully coextensive, because ‘hatred’ is in some instances the product of envy of superior qualities, which ‘contempt’ by definition cannot be.
329. It is further stated at paragraph 61 of the R. v. Taylor decision:
The approach taken in Nealy gives full force and recognition to the purpose of the Canadian Human Rights Act while remaining consistent with the Charter. The reference to ‘hatred’ in the above quotation speaks of ‘extreme’ ill-will and an emotion which allows for ‘no redeeming qualities’ in the person at whom it is directed. ‘Contempt’ appears to be viewed as similarly extreme, though is felt by the Tribunal to describe more appropriately circumstances where the object of one’s feelings is looked down upon. According to the reading of the Tribunal, s. 13(1) thus refers to unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification, and I do not find this interpretation to be particularly expansive. To the extent that the section may impose a slightly broader limit upon freedom of expression than does s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code, however, I am of the view that the conciliatory bent of a human rights statute renders such a limit more acceptable than would be the case with a criminal provision.
330. There is no doubt in my mind that the Mr. Boissoin’s letter speaks of extreme ill-will and emotions which allow for no redeeming qualities to be found in the persons to whom the statements are directed, i.e. homosexuals. The letter refers to unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny, and vilification. I also find that homosexuals are being referred to in a contemptuous manner, that their condition of being condemned and despised, dishonoured or disgraced, is clear from the tone of the letter. The themes of hatred rampant in the letter have already been referred to in this decision.
331. Having considered the matter in its entirety, the evidence and the case law, I find that the statements made by Mr. Boissoin and the CCC are likely to expose homosexuals to hatred and contempt due to their sexual preference.
332. The purpose of human rights legislation is to protect the dignity and equality of all individuals by preventing exposure to hatred and contempt and, in this case, by

protecting homosexuals from exposure to hatred and contempt because of their sexual preference.
333. I find that in all regards, Mr. Boissoin and the CCC are in breach of s. 3(1) of the Act by causing to be published before the public, statements which are likely to expose homosexuals to hatred and contempt due to their sexual preference.

It is my view that the views of individuals expressing their opinions or expressing political statements must be made in a responsible manner. I am not prepared to afford Mr. Boissoin and the CCC an absolute defence to their responsibility for statements they made, simply because they are attempting to express their statements under the guise of political speech or opinion

In conclusion, I find that the respondents, Mr. Boissoin and the CCC, have contravened s. 3 of the Act by causing to be published in the Red Deer Advocate, before the public, a publication which is likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their sexual preference.

Panel Chair
Decision Rendered:
November 29, 2007

What do I as a blog writer conclude about this entire situation?  All I know is that I will no longer be talking with people who call themselves Christians ever again. If a Christian named  Stephen Boissoin is permitted to write documents which are published in a local newspaper, which some expert conclude are "hateful",and which incite others to commit criminal acts against certain members of our country,and when the person who wrote these comments is found to have contravened   existing legislation designed to  prevent hatred within our province, this is enough for me,to avoid any persons who ascribe to the same religion and its doctrine as Stephen Boissoin.  This is of course not the first time in history that believers in the Christian faith have been found  guilty of committing hate by one branch of a  judicial system of the country , and not guilty of committing hate  by another branch of the same judical system!

I write this as a survivor of hate crimes, I am appalled by the decision of 
Justice E.C. Wilson. What do people in the province now do, when we are are subject  to the hateful actions   of hate mongers in this province?  Please tell me E.C Wilson? Apparently E.C Wilson is willing to accept more criminal actions against  gays and everyone else who can be hated in this province (I belong to the latter group:  I was subject to severe hate because of a visable physical deformity which I had on my head when the hate crimes were committed against me).  He may be willing to be of this persuasion, but there are many of us in the province who are unwilling to be of his persuasion Thank goodness for that! We can hope that this decision is overturned by a higher level of the judiciary in this country!

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.