Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whatcott case - SCC hearing today. Freedom of Speech at issue

The Bill Whatcott case is going to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada today.  Bill Whatcott ran into some trouble with the fanatics at the Sask “Human Rights” Commission, here is Karen Selicks review of the case - http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/11/03/karen-selick-supreme-court-can-still-choose-to-defend-free-speech/

 

The SCC describes the legal issues as

 

“Human rights - Freedom of conscience and religion - Freedom of expression - Freedom from discrimination - Hate propaganda - Respondent distributing flyers containing crude, harsh and demeaning comments about potential sexual practices of same sex partners - Whether the appellate court was correct in holding that the flyers did not violate s. 14(1)(b) of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, S.S. 1979, c. S-24.1 (the “Code”) - What is the correct process, and which contextual factors should human rights administrative decision-makers and courts consider, when applying hate propaganda provisions of human rights legislation so that free expression is not unduly limited, the right to be free from discrimination is protected and the State’s obligations to protect citizens from incitement to hate is met - Does “sexual orientation” include sexual practices and, if so, to what extent - Is it possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin” so that hateful messages directed at conduct do not violate hate propaganda provisions of human rights legislation.

 

The Respondent, on behalf of the Christian Truth Activists, distributed four flyers in the mailboxes of various homes in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002. Four persons who received the flyers filed complaints alleging that the material in them “promotes hatred against individuals because of their sexual orientation” in violation of s. 14(1)(b) of the Code. The Applicant appointed a Tribunal to hear the complaints. The Tribunal concluded that the flyers contravened the Code. The Respondent appealed, arguing that he was exercising his right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion and that the flyers do not violate the Code. Alternatively, he argued that if the materials exhibit hate, it is directed towards sexual behaviour, which is not a prohibited ground. If sexual behaviour is a prohibited ground within the meaning of sexual orientation, he argued that it is overbroad and should be inoperative to the extent that it conflicts with s. 4 and 5 of the Code and s. 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

 

 

You can watch a webcast of the case on the Supreme Court of Canada’s website at: http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/webcast-webdiffusion-eng.aspx?cas=33676  (Webcast starts at 9:00am)

 

Documents on the case (known as Factums) can be downloaded at:  http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/fac-mem-eng.aspx?cas=33676