Friday, March 7, 2008

CATHOLIC INSIGHT: Governments must reform human rights commissions

The Canadian Human Rights Commission are out of control.

Support Freedom of Speech and Marc Lemire’s Constitutional Challenge of the CHRC






Governments must reform human rights commissions


By Editor  | Catholic Insight Magazine
Issue: February, 2008


Over the last two months some media have exposed the nefarious role of Human Rights Commissions (HRC's) in suppressing freedom of speech in Canada and threatening freedom of religion. Originally established to sort out practical problems of racial or gender discrimination in daily labour conflicts, they have now grown into Canada’s new thought police, all too willing to step in where angels fear to tread. For a quick overview, see the article “Catholic Insight in the News,” page 24. It covers the complaints against Catholic Insight, Maclean’s and publisher Ezra Levant in Calgary.

If readers have not seen anything in the news about this issue, perhaps they should change national newspapers. While there has not been a peep about this in the Globe & Mail, the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen have not shied away from the topic, helped by writers who are deeply concerned about the role of HRC’s and its impact. So are some columnists of the Sun newspapers. Western Standard’s last edition (Sept 16) exposed the HRC’s while the quarterly magazine Reality published by REAL Women has opposed them for years, as C.I. has done. See, for example, our 16-page historical chart of the interplay between HRC’s, the courts, and legislative activity during the years 1965-2005 in undermining traditional law and order (C.I., July-August 2006, and also on our website).

What Canadians need now are citizens who will demand from our governments – provincial and national – that HRC’s, as presently constituted, be reformed. They must stop their role as censors of what may or may not be printed or said in Canada, as they are doing today without regard to the normal role of the press in society, or to the rights to freedom of speech and religion, and without the legal safeguards of the courts. HRC’s are extra-judiciary instruments whose officials rule and levy fines on the skimpiest of evidence, or sometimes in its complete absence, as in the recent case of Baptist Pastor Stephen Boissoin in Calgary.

Their personnel seem driven by an agnostic mentality opposed to traditional standards of behaviour. One example is the badgering and bullying of at least a dozen mayors of Canadian cities over the last 15 years or so, to allow Gay Pride days. They fined those who refused, until they complied. Toronto’s Gay Pride displays vulgarity and public nudity. The mayor gives his blessing, the police look the other way or actively take part, and the newspapers treat it as a great cultural event which brings in “tourists” and supposedly millions of dollars, while taxpayers must subsidize the lewd carnival to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars via a city which is deeply in debt.

Alas, many Canadians, including Catholics, have been indifferent to the progress of the “gay” agenda. They use standard replies: “You don’t have to attend Gay Pride days if you don’t want to.” “Their agenda does not concern us.” “Legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ does not affect me.” “You’ll get used to it.” These, and other expressions like it, are based on the false notion that agnostic secularism is neutral. Well, it is not.

Today its adherents demand that all school children must be taught the equality of same-sex "marriage" to marriage between a man and a woman; that all public opposition must stop and be designated as “hatred” and prosecuted under the “Hate Crimes” section of the Criminal Code; that all adverse comments about the homosexual lifestyle and its social, family and medical consequences be stricken off the record and publicly denied as untrue.

Quite a few individuals, including us, will not do this. So we must face the HRC’s.

“It is right for us to give glory in every way to Jesus Christ,” wrote St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (died AD 107). “Since love will not allow me to be silent about you, I am taking the opportunity to be united in conformity with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ.”

The Catholic Church, for one, cannot and will not change her teaching, not even in the face of false legislation in Canada, or Holland, or Spain, or anywhere else. We suggest we all do the same.

Please write your MP’s or MLA’s demanding reform of the HRC’s.






Religious freedom, gay rights and human rights legislation
By Gwen Landolt

Hardcopy Issue Date: March 2008
Online Publication Date: Mar 3, 2008, 15:15

This article provides the legal-political background to the current attacks in Canada on freedom of speech and religion. For a specific attack on freedom of religion in the province of Quebec, see Douglas Farrow, “Rebuilding Babel in Quebec City?” in the March 2008 print edition, pages 23-25 (Editor).


The Charter of Rights has brought confusion and chaos to Canadians because of its conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable provisions.  As the Charter provides for the protection of religious freedom, in S.2 and S.15, one might assume that this double protection strengthens religious freedoms in Canada.  This, however, has not been the case.  The guarantees for religious freedom have, in fact, most often been used to restrict or narrow religious freedom rather than expand it, especially when it has come in conflict with the “equality” rights of homosexuals.  The latter’s rights were written into the Charter by the courts and, in contrast to religious rights, have increased and been strengthened step by step by the courts, so much so that, for the most part, homosexual rights now trump religious rights.


This development is extraordinary, considering that homosexual rights were deliberately excluded from the Charter in 1980-81 in a 22 to 2 vote by the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons, which reviewed the Charter.  However, the Supreme Court of Canada clearly believed this was a grievous error and, to correct this omission, “read-in” protection for homosexuals in S.15 of the Charter in Egan v Canada [1995][i].  The court did so on the grounds that “sexual orientation” was analogous to the other protected groups set out in S.15 of the Charter.   Once this provision was written into the Charter by the courts, the latter steadily increased the rights of homosexuals so that their relationships are now regarded, in law, as equivalent in every way to those of heterosexuals.


No proof of discrimination against homosexuals

It is significant that actual proof of discrimination against homosexuals has never been introduced at any time in evidence in any court in Canada.  The courts have, instead, based their decisions for the advancement of the homosexual agenda solely on the assertion by the homosexual litigants themselves that they experienced discrimination in Canadian society.  That is, evidence, such as credible data or documentation, has never been introduced to support their claim of discrimination.  Instead, the Canadian courts have accepted, as fact, that homosexuals experience disadvantages in Canadian society because of supposed stereotyping and prejudice against them.  This unproven presumption by the courts is an indication of their lack of impartiality on the homosexual issue. 


Law v Canada: providing equality for homosexuals

However, any requirement for proof of discrimination against homosexuals was made unnecessary by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Law v Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration) [1999],[ii] in which the court cast “human dignity” as the key concept for understanding equality.  According to Law, the purpose of the equality guarantee in S.15 of the Charter was “to prevent the violation of essential human dignity and freedom from the imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping or political or social prejudice, and to promote a society in which all persons enjoy equal recognition at law as human beings or as members of Canadian society, equally capable and equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration”.[iii]


This broad, all-encompassing definition of equality, written in such high-sounding language, in reality meant that human dignity was undermined if an individual or group felt that its self-respect and self-worth were not being respected.  That is, according to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Law case, an individual or group’s human dignity is undermined if they feel marginalized, ignored or devalued.   In short, equality rights under S.15 of the Charter now rest on the claims of a person’s feelings.  This is an extraordinary criterion for courts to use in order to determine “equality”.  It should not escape notice that this broad interpretation of “equality” provides a sweeping opportunity for the courts to protect any of their favourite groups, regardless of the intent of Parliament, the plain wording of the legislation, or the views of the public, since all that is required is that the individual or group maintains that they feel demeaned or marginalized.


The concept of equality in S. 15 of the Charter determined in the Law decision was a follow-up to the Supreme Court of Canada decision the previous year in Vriend v Alberta [1998][iv].  In that case, a Christian College had dismissed an employee who was a homosexual activist.  The Court held that human dignity and equality depended on individuals being permitted to live “in dignity”.  Mr. Justice Cory stated in Vriend, in paragraph 67 and paragraph 68:


In order to achieve equality, the intrinsic worthiness and importance of every individual must be recognized, regardless of the age, sex, colour, origins, or other characteristics of the person.  

… It is only when equality is a reality that fraternity and harmony will be achieved.  It is then that all individuals will truly live in dignity.


On the basis of this broad definition of equality, the Supreme Court of Canada in Vriend ordered the Alberta government to include sexual orientation in that province’s human rights legislation, even though that legislature had previously voted against such an inclusion.  It is noteworthy that the purpose of the Charter was supposed to be to protect individuals from government legislation and policies that discriminated against them; it was not to provide new rights to individuals to be written into legislation.  The Vriend decision, therefore, was a twist in judicial activism which strengthened judicial power.


The Supreme Court of Canada next moved onto M. v H [1999][v] where it concluded that “spouse” under the Ontario Family Law Act (FLA) was a violation of S. 15 of the Charter since it did not include same-sex partners.  This was a surprising conclusion since the FLA specifically referred only to legally married and common-law heterosexual couples.  Mr. Justice Gonthier, in his dissent, made the salient point that the purpose of the FLA was to address  “the dynamic of dependence …particularly acute for women in opposite-sex relationships, who suffer from pre-existing economic disadvantage as compared with men…” (paragraph 166).  He went on to say that this disadvantage was not a part of same-sex relationships which are characterized by “a more even distribution of labour, a rejection of stereotypical gender roles, and a lower degree of financial interdependence than is prevalent in opposite-sex relationships …” (paragraph 241 and 242).


Clearly, neither the intent nor purpose of legislation, nor the legislative debate leading to the passage of the FLA bill and its amendments were relevant to the Court, which was intent on providing rights for homosexuals.  According to the majority of the Court in M v H, a homosexual loss would imply that their relationships were “less worthy of recognition and protection and implies that they are judged to be incapable of forming intimate relationships of economic interdependence, as compared to opposite-sex couples. …”  The court concluded, based on Law, that the exclusion of homosexual partners from the Act “would perpetuate the disadvantages suffered by individuals in same-sex relationships and contribute to the erasure of their existence[vi]”.  This, by the way, was the exact wording, taken directly from the factum of the homosexual interveners, EGALE, in that case.


The M v H decision was a groundbreaking decision since it recognized the legitimacy and equality of same-sex relationships in regard to heterosexual relationships.  M v H also set the stage for the court decisions in favour of same-sex marriage, which was to be the culmination  of the Canadian courts’ step-by-step support, protection, promotion and legitimization of homosexual relationships in Canada.


Religious freedom, although written precisely and clearly into two sections of the Charter, was then squared off against homosexual rights, which were devised, promoted and written into the Charter by the courts. 


Religious freedoms curtailed

While Canadian Courts were busy providing protection and legal recognition to homosexual relationships by way of the equality provisions in S.15 of the Charter, they were chipping away at religious rights in S.2 of the Charter.   


Diminished religious freedoms

The chipping away of religious freedom began almost immediately after S.15 of the Charter came into effect in 1985 in the R v Big M Drug Mart Ltd. [1985][vii].  In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the Lord’s Day Act, which required the closing of businesses on Sunday, infringed on religious freedom because religious freedom meant not only freedom of worship, practice, and teaching, but also included freedom from coercion, e.g., that the government could not coerce individuals to affirm specific religious belief, such as, in this case, coercing non-believers to observe the Christian Sabbath.  That is, the Court held that non-religious individuals have a right to be free from religious observance.


This interpretation departed considerably from the long established interpretation of freedom of religion, which, heretofore, had meant that one was free to practice one’s religion without interference from the state.  In short, the court emphasized the individual conscience and the rights of non-Christians at the expense of the religious rights of communities of believers.  It is obvious that Sunday shop closing legislation simply respected the Sabbath observed by the majority of people in society, and protected both shop owners and retail workers from being compelled to work on their day of rest.  It did not require anyone to observe the Christian Sabbath as a holy day or adapt to Christian precepts, but merely restricted retail activity on that day.  Non-adherents to the Christian faith were still free to pursue other commercial activities on that day, if they chose.  This obvious conclusion, however, was lost on a court intent on exercising its newly acquired powers under the Charter to change the traditional understanding of human rights.


Based on the Big M Drug Mart decision, the Courts then proceeded to eliminate Christian religious exercises and the Lord’s Prayer from the public school system in Zylberberg v Sudbury Board of Education[viii] [1988] and Canadian Civil Liberties v Ontario (Elgin County)[ix]  [1990].  The Zylberberg case was concerned with school prayer, i.e., Christian opening exercises in schools, which included the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  The Court concluded in that case that, since only a Christian approach was used, this infringed on the religious freedom of religious minorities, and was, therefore, not acceptable.


The Elgin County case dealt with education in the schools, which included books, exercises and songs that emphasized the Christian faith.  The Court found that this religious instruction offended the freedom of religion section of the Charter on the grounds that religious instruction was not educational, but for the purpose of indoctrination.  In effect, these two cases, Zylberberg and Elgin County, eliminated the Christian character of education in public schools in Canada


Courts to determine religious belief

The Brockie case

What has been particularly alarming, in regard to religious freedoms, is the tendency of the courts to decide themselves the validity of a given religious belief, i.e., whether it is legitimate. In Brillinger v. Brockie [x][2002] the Ontario Divisional Court held that although Mr. Brockie, a Christian printer, had a right to refuse to print homosexual material if it infringed on his basic religious beliefs, this religious belief was to be determined by a subjective test applied by the court.  That is, the court stated it would decide and be the final arbiter of what was a “reasonable” religious belief.  The effrontery of the court to undertake this determination was matched only by its lack of expertise to do so.


The Marc Hall case

In the Marc Hall [2002] [xi] case, Mr. Justice McKinnon of the Ontario Superior Court displayed a remarkable insousiance in regard to faith matters. In this case, a student with same-sex tendencies in a Catholic high school was refused permission by the Catholic School Board to bring a male date to the school prom.  S.93 of the Constitution Act of 1867 and S. 29 of the Charter guarantees Catholic school boards the right to establish their own beliefs and practices in their schools.


Despite this constitutional protection, Mr. Justice McKinnon placed an interlocutory injunction restraining the Catholic School Board from preventing this student from attending the prom with his male date.  He based his decision on the fact that, since the Catholic school was fully funded by the province, it was, therefore, subject to the provisions of the Charter to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.   Further, Mr. Justice McKinnon decided there was a diversity of opinion within the Catholic Church on the issue of homosexual activity.  In effect, the judge had the chutzpah to determine what Catholic belief was regarding this issue.


As a further insult to the Catholic Church, Mr. Justice McKinnon said that all the rights of Catholic schools that existed in 1867 and S.29 of the 1982 Charter must be looked at from the perspective of “2002 common sense”.  In short, he believed that the Church should change with the times for the good of society!  To say that Justice McKinnon, in the Marc Hall case, had overstepped the bounds of his judicial role would be a major understatement. 


Trinity Western

In Trinity Western University (TWU) v British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) [2001] [xii] the BCCT took offence with TWU’s requirement that students sign a “community standards” document in which they must agree to refrain from certain activities, including pre-marital sexual relationships and homosexuality.  BCCT refused to admit TWU’s graduates to its teacher program, claiming this community standards document discriminated against and was intolerant of homosexuals.  In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there was no evidence of discrimination by any of the TWU students.  The Court also allowed that the University had a right to hold its own religious beliefs and that this belief must be tolerated, even though it might discriminate against homosexuals attending the university.


However, the Supreme Court went on to state that there was a line to be drawn between religious belief and equality rights.  It concluded that although there was a freedom to believe, it was broader than the freedom to act on this belief (as in a classroom) and that the freedom to exercise genuine religious belief did not include the right to interfere with the rights of others (i.e., homosexuals).  This conclusion is similar to that in the Brockie decision (see above), where the latter was free to believe, but he was compelled to refrain from acting on his beliefs in the public square.



In December 2004, in Syndicat Northcrest v Amselem[xiii] [2004] the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that it should refrain from determining what constitutes religious belief.  In that case, in a luxurious condominium unit in Montreal, some of the condominium owners erected on their balconies, a “succah”, which is a temporary hut, open to the sky, required during the nine days of the Jewish festival of Succot.   Some of the other condominium owners objected to these succahs being erected on the condominium balconies.


The Supreme Court of Canada held that religious practice must be accommodated, and that religious practice cannot be easily trumped by matters of taste or personal preference.  The Court also stated, however, that judges must not inquire into the validity of an individual’s beliefs or practices.  That is, the Court held that it should limit its review to assessing the sincerity of the claimant’s belief and refrain from adjudicating on questions of religious doctrine or practice itself.


This would appear to contradict the Brockie case, where the Court decided that Mr. Brockie’s refusal to print letterhead for a homosexual organization could not be construed as contrary to his religious beliefs, even though Mr. Brockie stated that this was the case. This ruling also differed from the Trinity Western University case in which the court held that Christian teachers could not put their Christian beliefs into practice in the classroom.


Chamberlain v. Surrey

Another decision on the question of religious rights and homosexuality was Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board [xiv] [2002].  The School Board refused to approve books featuring same-sex parents, for classroom use for kindergarten and grade 1, because of the concerns expressed by the religious parents who feared their children would be indoctrinated contrary to their religious teachings.


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that religious parents have a right to participate in public decision making, providing those concerns are not used to exclude homosexual views from the public schools. In order to do this, the court “read-in” to the British Columbia School Act the words “tolerance” and “diversity,” (which were not mentioned there at all), and claimed that this meant that the pro-homosexual material in the school curriculum was necessary to create “tolerance” and “diversity” in the B.C. school system.  This conclusion, which was “creative” and ideological, rather than based on any law, resulted in the overriding of the views of parents who held religious beliefs on the issue.


Brucker case

Finally, in December 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada handed down yet another decision on freedom of religion.  Although this case did not deal specifically with the tension between religious rights and homosexual rights, its conclusions are nonetheless relevant. In that case, Brucker v. Marcovitz[xv] the Supreme Court of Canada held that a Jewish man must pay damages to his ex-wife for reneging on his civil undertaking when they were divorced in 1980 to provide her with a “get” or a Jewish religious divorce.  In order for a “get” to be valid, it must be uncoerced and freely given.  The husband, Marcovitz, claimed that enforcing the civil undertaking would interfere with his religious freedom.


The majority on the court, however, cited the principle that freedom of religion must give way when it disproportionately harms countervailing rights, including the parallel right of others to their own beliefs and opinion.  The court then rejected the husband’s freedom of religion when measured against the “fundamental” Canadian value of gender equality.  As stated by Madame Justice Rosalie Abella, the public interest in protecting equality rights, the dignity of Jewish women in their independent ability to divorce and remarry … were among the values that outweighed Mr. Marcovitz’s freedom of religion.


Clearly, religious freedom enshrined in the Charter is not an absolute right.  Instead, it is subject to whether, in the court’s opinion, it is fairly balanced against the interests of other protected groups.


Human Rights Commissions

As in the Charter, both federal and provincial human rights legislation also provide for freedom of religion and the protection on the grounds of sexual orientation.  There is a difference, however, between the way in which the courts deal with the tension between these two provisions and the way the Human Rights Commissions deal with them.  The difference is that the Commissions do not even pretend to balance these two rights, but, instead, happily come down in favour of homosexual rights in nearly all instances.


An example of the Commissions’ mode of operation is the Knights of Columbus case [2005][xvi] in Coquitlam B.C., where a lesbian couple laid a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Commission (HRC) claiming that the Knights of Columbus had discriminated against them when this group refused to rent them its hall for their wedding reception.  The Commission did acknowledge that the Knights of Columbus had the right to exercise their freedom of religion by refusing the couple the use of their hall.  Despite this, however, the HRC ordered the Knights of Columbus to pay a fine of $2,000 for “hurting the feelings” of the couple.  This is a decision incomprehensible both in logic and common sense.


Large Volume of Human Rights Decisions on Religious Freedom

There is a large volume of human rights decisions supporting homosexual rights over religious rights which are far too extensive to discuss here.  These cases deal with a variety of situations, such as a mayor refusing to declare a Gay Pride Day on the basis of her religious belief; marriage commissioners refusing to perform same-sex marriages on the grounds of their religious belief; a Christian teacher publishing a letter in a local newspaper opposing homosexual material in the schools; etc.  In all of these complaints before the Human Rights Commissions, homosexual rights trumped religious freedoms.  A few examples of such decisions are as follows:


a) REAL Women of Canada

The bias of Human Rights Commissions was made apparent in a classic case in 2001 when REAL Women, together with a number of other pro-family and faith groups, formed the “No Committee” to oppose the Gay Games to be held in Montreal in 2006.  The Royal Bank refused to allow the No Committee to open a bank account on the grounds that its primary activity was “to discriminate against a group of people because of their sexual orientation”.  The Quebec Human Rights Commission, to its credit, refused a complaint laid by a homosexual group against the No Committee because the Commission concluded there was no basis for such a complaint since the Committee had not discriminated against homosexuals by expressing its opposition to the Games.


The federal Human Rights Commission, however, took quite a different approach, when the No Committee laid a complaint against the Royal Bank for its refusal to provide them with its services.  The Commission concluded that the Royal Bank had acted properly in refusing its service to the No Committee because, “the Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation”.  No one, however, had discriminated against any homosexual group.  All that had occurred were objections about the Gay Games being held in Montreal.  In effect, the federal Human Rights Commission had decided that the expression of an opinion opposing the Gay Games was valid reason for the Royal Bank to deny its services under the Act, since that opposition constituted discrimination against homosexuals.


b)         Pastor Stephen Boissoin

Stephen Boissoin, a Baptist Minister in Alberta, published a letter opposing homosexuality in a local newspaper, The Red Deer Advocate.  This letter was an expression of Mr. Boissoin’s deeply held beliefs on the issue, and ran under the subheading “Homosexual Agenda Wicked”.    In his letter, Mr. Boissoin stated that he:


…opposed gay-positive programs in Alberta schools and that homosexual rights activists and those that defend them are just as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.


He went on to say:


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.


With me stand the greatest weapons that you have encountered to date – God and the moral majority.  Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage you  have caused.


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.


As a result of his letter, a complaint was laid against Mr. Boissoin before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.


Panel chair Lori Andreachuk concluded that Mr. Boissoin’s letter made it more acceptable to others to manifest hatred against homosexuals and that a reasonable person would consider it more likely than not that this letter serves to dehumanize people who are homosexual by referring to them in degrading, insulting and offensive terms.


Significantly, according to the homosexual newspaper, Xtra West (December 6, 2007), the complaint against Pastor Boissoin was opposed by the homosexual lobby group, EGALE, which issued a press release on the case stating “that debate was the best method for dealing with homophobia (sic)” and that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”


Also, Pink Triangle Press (PTP) which publishes the homosexual newspaper, Xtra West, opposed the complaint in its editorials and opinion pieces.


Ken Popert, executive director of PTP stated:


People may or may not be safer as a result of the ruling, but they certainly will be less free to speak their minds.  By supporting this complaint we’d be creating grounds on which someone could take action against us for speaking out against ‘homophobes.’


If gay people are allowed to invoke safety when it comes to homophobes then homophobes will be allowed to invoke safety when it comes to us.


c)         Pro-life campus groups

The fact that the decisions of Human Rights Tribunals are arbitrary was made all too apparent when a number of pro-life clubs in Canadian universities were recently denied the right by their student unions to operate on their respective campuses.  As a result of this rejection, a pro-life club at the Okanagan campus of UBC in Kelowna laid a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Its complaint, however, was rejected by the Tribunal which claimed the pro-life position was not specifically a religious one, and, therefore, the complaint, based on religious discrimination, failed.  However, a similar complaint by another pro-life group, at Capilano College in North Vancouver, was accepted because the BC Tribunal (with a different adjudicator) concluded that the complaint by the pro-life group of religious discrimination fell within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, since the pro-life group was an organization whose views were based on religious belief. 


Human Rights Decision Overturned in Saskatchewan

This maddening arrogance and abuse of power by Human Rights Tribunals was curtailed, however, on at least one occasion, in 2006, in the province of Saskatchewan.  In that case, a Saskatoon man, Mr. Hugh Owens, believing he was publicly expressing his honestly held religious belief, placed an ad, in 2001, in a local newspaper during Gay Pride Week.  The ad included Biblical references that rejected homosexuality, and also included stick figures of two men holding hands with a diagonal line through the depiction.  The Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench upheld the decision of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal on the grounds that the stick man figures combined with the Biblical passages incited hatred against homosexuals.  The Tribunal had ordered Mr. Owens to pay the three complainants in the case $1,500 each.  However, in April 2006 the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the Tribunal’s decision, concluding that the advertisement was only a position advanced in a continuing public policy debate, rather than with the character of a message of hatred or ill will.


Interestingly, the Court of Appeal also stated that a court cannot be drawn into the business of attempting to authoritatively interpret sacred texts.  A wise conclusion.


Wide latitude given to Human Rights Commissions

One of the significant reasons why the rulings of the Human Rights Commissions are so arbitrary and without legal or moral merit is due to the fact that they have been given such a wide latitude to carry out their mandate.  There is no requirement that they apply the standard rules of evidence required by our courts in making their decisions.  That is, their tribunals are not bound by the traditional legal standards of procedural fairness, such as the presumption of innocence, the rules of evidence and the rule of law.  Without these safeguards, the Commissions are free to act on their own prejudices, instead of the principles of law.


Moreover, Commissions usually act as both judge and jury in most provinces in that they employ investigators to determine the facts of each case and then select the panelists for the Tribunal that will adjudicate these same facts.  Further, the Commissions act on behalf of the complainant all during the complaint process. Those charged with human rights violations are not allowed the assumption of innocence, but are required to establish their innocence by paying for their own legal counsel, while the taxpayer underwrites all the legal costs of the complainant.


Human Rights Decisions Are Confused and Confusing

The public is not served by Human Rights Commissions, which are partisan and biased contradictions of the rule of law.  Their decisions are confused and confusing and entirely arbitrary, based on nothing more than the personal whims and prejudices of the adjudicators.  As a result, these tribunals are untrustworthy and unworthy of respect since they operate without regard to justice and the rule of the law. Pro-life groups and others should not appeal to these disgraceful Tribunals to resolve their complaints because to do so only legitimizes the Tribunals and provides them with an opportunity to trample on or destroy genuine, fundamental, human rights, including the freedom of religious belief.



Religious belief does not restrict or regulate homosexual conduct in the public square, but the secular values protecting homosexuals do infringe on many citizens holding a religious belief. This has occurred even though homosexual rights under the Charter sprang only from the minds of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada who require that the law, culture and religion adapt to the demands of homosexual activists.


This paper was delivered at “The Future of Freedom Conference” on October 13, 2007 and was updated on February 13, 2008. The conference was organized by the Canadian Constitution Foundation and was held at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto from October 12 – 14, 2007. Mrs. Gwen Landolt is a lawyer and Vice President of the National Women’s organization REAL Women.

[i] Egan v Canada [1995] 2  S.C.R. 513.

[ii] Law v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration  [1999]  1 S.C.R. 497.

[iii] Ibid, paragraph 51.

[iv] Vriend v Alberta [1998] 1 S.C.R. 493.

[v] M v H [1999] 2 S.C.R. 3

[vi] Ibid., paragraph 73.

[vii] R v Big M Drug Mart Ltd. [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295.

[viii] Zylberberg v Sudbury Board of Education [1988] 65 O.R. (2d) 641.

[ix] Canadian Civil Liberties v Ontario (Elgin County) [1990] 71 O.R. 2d 341.

[x] Brillinger v Ontario Human Rights Commission [ 2002] 222 D.L.R. (4th) 174.

[xi] Marc Hall v Powers [2002] 59  O.R. (3d) 423

[xii] Trinity Western University TWU v British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) [2001] 1 S.C.R. 722.

[xiii] Syndicat Northcrest v Amselem, [2004] 2 S.C.R. 551.

[xiv] Chamberlain v Surrey School Board [2002] 4 S.C.R. 710.

[xv] Brucker v. Marcovitz [ 2007 S.C.J. No. 54)

[xvi] Smith and Chymyshyn v Knights of Columbus and others [2005] BCHRT 544.