Alberta Pastor Convicted of Hate Speech Appeals Human Rights Commission Ruling
By John Jalsevac
July 7, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Alberta Pastor Steve Boissoin has filed an appeal to the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal ruling that convicted him of hate speech. The pastor was found guilty last November of having written a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate that was "likely" to expose homosexuals to hatred.
The appeal was filed on June 26 with the Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
A hearing has preliminarily been set for September 9, although that date could change during negotiations between the involved parties.
LifeSiteNews spoke with Boissoin’s attorney, Gerald Chipeur, who said that he is confident that the court will grant the appeal and overturn the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal’s decision.
"We are very optimistic, because the Constitution is so clear," said Chipeur. "We were surprised to have lost before the Tribunal, but we believe that the courts will conclude that there has been a violation of the constitutional rights of our client. We feel very confident in our arguments, and we do expect the courts to intervene and reverse the decision."
Chipeur said his confidence was based on the fact that, "the courts have always seen themselves as the defenders of the oppressed. The context and the experience of the courts will lead them to accept our arguments."
Boissoin’s appeal seeks a reversal of the Tribunal’s decision as well as the awarding of appropriate damages.
Last month the Alberta Tribunal issued a remedy ruling that ordered Boissoin to pay $7,000 in fines, to never speak disparagingly about homosexuality or about the complainant Darren Lund, and to apologize to Lund in a letter to be published in the Red Deer Advocate. Besides the sum of the fines, Boissoin has also had to spend many tens of thousands of dollars in defending himself against Lund’s complaint since the case began.
The appeal filed with the Queen’s Bench criticizes the Tribunal’s decision on numerous points, including the nature of the remedy ruling, for which the Tribunal is accused of having "exceeded the limits of its jurisdiction and the constraints of law, natural justice and the Charter."
In particular the appeal criticizes the Tribunal for "awarding damages to Darren Lund and Janet Dodd, neither or whom were mentioned in the Complaint or victimized or injured by the Letter," amongst other points.
As Chipeur explained, it is also highly unusual for the Tribunal to have ordered Boissoin, in its remedy ruling, not to speak negatively about Lund, when Boissoin was never accused of having done so in the first place. "Our client wasn’t speaking in the past in that way, so we’re shocked to find that kind of limitation in place when our client was not accused of doing that, and, in fact, did not do that."
Chipeur concluded his interview with LifeSiteNews, saying that, in his opinion, the Human Rights Commissions, in prosecuting "hate speech" at all, have turned human rights laws "on their head" and have made them "a weapon against the individual."
"I find the [Boissoin] decision to be frankly an aberration after a long history over the last two decades of the courts standing up for freedom of religion and expression based upon the Charter," he said. "Ever since 1982 there’s been a new approach which is individual freedom comes first, and it doesn’t matter what the government wants to do, the government must respect individual freedom. And that has generally been the trend."
"But over the last year there has been a reversal of that trend," he continued. "It’s surprising that human rights laws, which were also meant to protect individuals have in fact been misused, turned on their head, and used to take away freedom.
"When you apply human rights laws to landlords and employers, organizations that are in positions of power, you can see how, yeah, that makes sense. They have a position of power and we need to defend the powerless. But when you take those same human rights laws, and instead of applying them to government or to employers or landlords, we now start using them as a means to have a witch hunt in the community, and start to control what people think and say, then you can easily see how what was intended to be a protection for the individual then becomes in fact a weapon against the individual."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Alberta’s Conservative Government Sought Conviction of Christian Pastor for "Hate Speech"
Interview with a Persecuted Christian Pastor
Alberta Pastor Fined $7000 and Ordered to Publicly Apologize and Remain Silent on Homosexuality
Alberta Human Rights Tribunal Rules Against Christian Pastor Boissoin