“Religious persecution” in Canada

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c8/Edouard_Manet_-_At_the_Caf%C3%A9_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/834px-Edouard_Manet_-_At_the_Caf%C3%A9_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgWilliam Whatcott, a poor deluded man who imagined his own sexual orientation was “sinful”, circulated flyers claiming that sex education about gay people in schools would result in children “paying the price in disease, death and abuse”. In Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v Whatcott, these were found unlawful.

In England, it is a criminal offence to use threatening words or behaviour with the intention of inciting hatred against gay (or straight, or bi) people. In Saskatchewan, no person shall publish… any representation…that exposes or tends to expose to hatred, [ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of] any person or class of persons on the basis of…sexual orientation.

The same statute specifies that this shall not restrict the right to freedom of expression under the law upon any subject. The statute is interpreted in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the freedom of conscience and religion and the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

Mr Justice Rothstein gives reasons why the publication is hatred, at Para 180-190:

[187]                      Passages of Flyers D and E combine many of the “hallmarks” of hatred identified in thehttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c1/Edouard_Manet_-_Masked_Ball_at_the_Opera_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/838px-Edouard_Manet_-_Masked_Ball_at_the_Opera_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg case law.  The expression portrays the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to the negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred…  It delegitimizes homosexuals by referring to them as filthy or dirty sex addicts and by comparing them to pedophiles, a traditionally reviled group in society.

[189]                      The flyers also seek to vilify those of same-sex orientation by portraying them as child abusers or predators.  Examples of this in Flyers D and E would include: “Our children will pay the price in disease, death, abuse . . .”; “Sodomites are 430 times more likely to acquire Aids & 3 times more likely to sexually abuse children!”; and “Our acceptance of homosexuality and our toleration [sic] of its promotion in our school system will lead to the early death and morbidity of many children”.

Rothstein, J. finds that the section infringes the right to freedom of expression, and then decides whether the infringement is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Paras 63-164 balance hate speech against free speech.

If you read any of the judgment, I recommend paras 69-77 on the harm done by hate speech. The emotional reaction of gay people to the hate is not http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ad/Edouard_Manet_-_The_Balcony_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/737px-Edouard_Manet_-_The_Balcony_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgthe issue: instead, it is that hate speech tends to reduce the social standing of the vilified group, promotes discrimination against them, and prevents them from taking part in the national discourse (para 82).

Note the extreme nature of the speech prohibited. The court removes from the statute reference to speech which “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of” gay people or other protected groups, as unconstitutional (para 92). Reasoned debate is always permissible. Whatcott can still advocate that homosexuality and homosexual behaviour should not be discussed in schools, but not by calling us a threat to children.

Whatcott sought to argue that his pamphlets only attacked sexual behaviour, not people of a sexual orientation. The court found that homosexual conduct is a crucial aspect of the identity of the homosexual group, so that attacks on the conduct stand as proxy for an attack on the vulnerable group (paras 121-124).

The Bible calls for us to be stoned to death. Is it hate speech? No. While use of the Bible as a credible authority for a hateful proposition has been considered a hallmark of hatred, it would only be unusual circumstances and context that could transform a simple reading or publication of a religion’s holy text into what could objectively be viewed as hate speech (para 199).

Whatcott was ordered to pay $7,500 Canadian to two complainants, and cease to distribute his two most objectionable pamphlets. Others saying “Saskatchewan’s largest gay magazine allows ads for men seeking boys” and “[t]he ads with men advertising as bottoms are men who want to get sodomized. This shouldn’t be legal in Saskatchewan!” were permitted (paras 194-202).

So this article claiming that the Bible, or anyone calling homosexual sex “immoral”, could be prohibited as hate speech, is in error, and as it quotes from the judgment, that error is likely a deliberate lie. And that poor silly cakemaker, who writes that even claiming that homosexual behaviour is immoral is now classified as ‘Hate Speech’, is mistaken. I hope she will delete her false claims from her blog.

5 thoughts on ““Religious persecution” in Canada

  1. I took a peek at cakemaker’s blog. I don’t understand how allowing same-sex couples to marry can be construed as discriminating against different-sex marriage. Am I missing something here?

    Take care, angel! xx 🙂


    • I think the argument is that she feels a religious obligation to have nothing to do with the celebration of a union she feels is sinful, but that religious obligation is no defence to a claim that she has refused to sell her goods to people because they are gay. Thinking about it, the defence “It is not because you are gay, it is because you are marrying and you are gay” might work. But that would require research.

      She is interesting as an instance of someone cutting her nose off to spite her face.


    • Thank you. What mere utterances or publications should be unlawful, and which should give rise to a right of civil action, is of huge importance in a democracy. We learn by allowing people to speak. So Rothstein J’s argument that hate speech, by restricting the participation of gay people in the national discourse, actually reduces our learning and so goes against one purpose of free speech, is so useful. I think of how upset and frustrated I have been on not being understood, or on being prevented from speaking- that does not balance the hurt felt by the victim of hate speech, in Canada, but does in England. I just don’t know.


      • I totally agree. It’s such a difficult balance to strike. That’s why it’s so interesting looking at the laws with regard to specific cases like this. And the silly cake maker.


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