Catholic Civil Rights League comments on Whatcott decision

“…In today’s ruling, the court stated subsection (b) must be amended to remove “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of” while the prohibition on exposing or tending to expose to hatred will remain.

The Supreme Court’s ruling may not solve the League’s concerns. In its effort to maintain the underlying provision, by excising eight words, the Court allows a provision which is acknowledged to restrain speech or religious freedoms, in circumstances where the words of the following section expressly intend to disallow. The Court has effectively invited a new interpretation of section 14 (2), where it reads “Nothing in subsection (1) restricts the right to freedom of expression…” The new interpretation can only be understood to mean “Sometimes subsection (1) restricts the right to freedom of expression…”

The problem of individuals having to face such applications when engaging in public debate is shown by the process faced by Mr. Whatcott. The original human rights tribunal ordered Whatcott to pay $17,500 in compensation to four people who had complained his flyers exposed them to hatred. A Queen’s Bench judge upheld the ruling. In 2010, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found that while the pamphlets attacking teaching schoolchildren about homosexuality used crude and offensive language, they were protected by the right to freedom of expression.

Such hate speech provisions have been used in the prosecution of others, including Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, Rev. Stephen Boissoin, an Evangelical minister in Red Deer, and Father Alphone DeValk, former editor of Catholic Insight, for criticizing same sex behaviour. Mr. Whatcott has faced at least nine human rights tribunal or court charges for his pamphleteering.”

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