Court rules anti-gay letter wasn’t hate speech

Overturning a ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled last week that an anti-gay letter published in the Red Deer Advocate was not hate speech.

Justice E.C. Wilson declared “unlawful or unconstitutional” the commission’s orders that Stephen Boissoin, a Christian pastor at the time he wrote the letter in 2002, refrain from making disparaging comments about homosexuals and pay the complainant $5,000 in damages, the Canadian Press reported.

There has been positive reaction to the decision from the media (for instance, Colby Cosh writing for Macleans), from the Christian website LifeSiteNews and even from the gay blog Xtra, which argued “speech should be fought with speech.” called the letter “a nonsensical rant against gay rights” and reposted it online so readers can judge for themselves.

The ruling falls in with a recent trend toward restricting Canadian human rights commissions’ ability to limit or punish disagreeable commentary in the media. In September, the Alberta Human Rights Commission itself threw out complaints against two Canwest newspapers, the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, over an anti-Islamic editorial titled Apocalyptic Creed that was distributed by Canwest and published in both papers in 2002 (see previous post). The Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed complaints against Macleans and columnist Mark Steyn, and a complaint against the Western Standard and publisher Ezra Levant was dropped (see previous post).