(Formerly Boissoin v. Alberta Human Rights Commission)
On July 22, the Canadian Constitution Foundation filed its Intervener’s Brief in Boissoin v. Lund, arguing that restrictions on free speech in Alberta’s human rights legislation violate Canada’s Constitution.
In 2002, Rev. Stephen Boissoin wrote a strongly worded letter to the Red Deer Advocate critical of what he described as a “homosexual agenda.” University of Calgary Professor Darren Lund felt offended by the letter, and filed a complaint against Rev. Boissoin with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.
In 2007, a panel of the Human Rights Commission ruled that Rev. Boissoin had violated the Alberta human rights legislation with his letter-to-the-editor by potentially inciting hatred.
In 2008, six years after the complaint was filed, the panel ordered Rev. Boissoin to never again make “disparaging” remarks about homosexuals, ordered him to write a formal letter of apology retracting his previous letter, ordered him to have the apology letter published in the Red Deer Advocate, and ordered him to pay $5,000 in damages to Professor Lund.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench heard the appeal of the Commission’s decision on September 16-17, 2009.
On December 3, 2009 Justice Wilson overturned the original panel decision. Justice Wilson did not agree with the constitutional arguments made by the CCF, choosing not to strike down the Human Rights legislation under which Rev. Boissoin was orginally convicted. Justice Wilson’s ruling does however limit the scope of the legislation. Justice Wilson ruled that only words that demonstrate a real intention to discriminate in the provision of housing, employment, service, etc. or words that incite others to discriminate is such areas, are outlawed.
This ruling is a positive step towards restoring freedom of speech to Albertans. Nevertheless, the CCF plans to continue to support Freedom of Expression in Alberta, as well as the rest of Canada.
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