Alberta judge upholds ‘truth about homosexuality’ activist’s free speech rights
CALGARY, April 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Jeffrey has dismissed a Crown appeal of a decision from a lower court that acquitted Bill Whatcott of trespassing charges for distributing “Truth about homosexuality” pamphlets at the University of Calgary in 2008.
On Friday, March 30, Jeffrey upheld the November 2011 ruling by provincial court Judge John D. Bascom that stated the University of Calgary infringed on Whatcott’s Charter rights to freedom of expression when campus security arrested and detained him for distributing a pamphlet that addressed the “harmful consequences” of homosexuality.
The university had argued that the Charter only applied to “government actors and government actions,” not to the university itself since it was a private entity.
Bascom ruled, however, that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the University of Calgary since “the University is not a Charter free zone,” in that it carried out “specific” governmental work by providing post-secondary education to the public in Alberta, making its actions subject to scrutiny under the Charter.
“Mr. Whatcott entered the university property with a purpose to distribute his literature to students, staff and public,” said the judge, adding, “His activity was peaceful and presented no harm to the university structures or those who frequented the campus. … Although Mr. Whatcott’s pamphlet is not scholarly, freedom of speech is not limited to academic works.”
Bascom concluded that “the means used by campus security halted Mr. Whatcott’s distribution of these flyers and violated his right of free expression.”
The judge also lifted the University’s ban against Whatcott that would have indefinitely prohibited him from setting foot on the campus again, stating that the ban was “arbitrary and unfair.”
In Friday’s hearing Crown prosecutor Andrew Barg argued that Judge Bascom “erred in law in ruling that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies in the circumstances of this case,” according to a Calgary Herald report.
Justice Jeffrey rejected the argument and dismissed the appeal.
Defense lawyer, Dale Fedorchuk, told the Calgary Herald that “Judge Bascom’s decision has been effectively upheld and remains good law.”
“I’m very happy with the decision,” Whatcott told LifeSiteNews, “and my lawyer and I believe that it is now illegal for universities in Alberta to try to shut down peaceful protests and literature distributions that offends their pro-abortion, pro-homosexual sensibilities.”
“The precedents set in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” Whatcott added, “will make it almost impossible for any university in Canada to secure a conviction against a pro-lifer who speaks up on campus.”
In 2010 Whatcott won an appeal in Saskatchewan when Justice Darla Hunter of Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal overturned a 2006 Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruling that found him guilty of violating the province’s human rights code by publicly criticizing homosexuality through a series of flyers he distributed in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002.
The tribunal had ordered Whatcott to pay $17,500 and imposed a “lifetime” ban on his freedom to publicly criticize homosexuality.
In her decision Justice Hunter ruled that Whatcott did not violate section 14(1)(b) of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code by distributing flyers to oppose the teaching of homosexuality in Saskatoon’s public schools.
“It is acceptable, in a democracy, for individuals to comment on the morality of another’s behaviour. ... Anything that limits debate on the morality of behaviour is an intrusion on the right to freedom of expression,” Justice Hunter had remarked.
“My advice to universities,” Mr. Whatcott concluded, “is forget about imposing their leftist ideologies and go back to teaching much needed skills and knowledge to enable young people to make a successful living and contribute to our economy.”