The Canadian Human Rights Commission are out of control.
Support Freedom of Speech and
Governments must reform human rights commissions
By Editor | Catholic Insight
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
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 &
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
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.
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
The Catholic Church, for one, cannot and will not change her teaching, not even in the face of false legislation in
Please write your
Religious freedom, gay rights and human rights legislation
By Gwen Landolt
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This article provides the legal-political background to the current attacks in
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
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 [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
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 (
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 [iv]. In that case, a
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
The Supreme Court of Canada next moved onto
Clearly, neither the intent nor purpose of legislation, nor the legislative debate leading to the passage of the
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
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
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] the
Despite this constitutional protection,
As a further insult to the Catholic Church,
In Trinity Western University (TWU) v British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT)  [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]  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
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
Another decision on the question of religious rights and homosexuality was Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board [xiv] . 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.
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.
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
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 [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
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
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
b) Pastor Stephen Boissoin
Stephen Boissoin, a Baptist
…opposed gay-positive programs in
He went on to say:
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
Panel chair Lori Andreachuk concluded that
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
Human Rights Decision Overturned in
This maddening arrogance and abuse of power by Human Rights Tribunals was curtailed, however, on at least one occasion, in 2006, in the
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.
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
[i] Egan v
[ii] Law v.
[iii] Ibid, paragraph 51.
[iv] Vriend v
[vi] Ibid., paragraph 73.
[vii] R v Big
[viii] Zylberberg v
[ix] Canadian Civil Liberties v
[x] Brillinger v
[xiii] Syndicat Northcrest v Amselem,  2 S.C.R. 551.
[xiv] Chamberlain v
[xv] Brucker v.
[xvi] Smith and Chymyshyn v Knights of Columbus and others  BCHRT 544.