CALGARY, AB., Dec. 4, 2009 (CCRL) – Stephen Boissoin, who last year was fined $5,000 and ordered to desist from any public expression of his views on homosexuality by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, has been successful in his appeal to Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. In a ruling Dec. 3, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice E.C. Wilson set aside the Panel’s order against Reverend Boissoin, ruling that he did not violate section 3(1)(b) of the legislation. Accordingly, the order against Mr. Boissoin, that he pay $5,000 to Professor Lund and that he refrain from making “disparaging remarks” about homosexuals, is no longer in force. The judge called the latter provision “unenforceable.”
The conviction stemmed from a letter to the editor in in 2002 in the Red Deer Advocate, in which Mr. Boissoin, who was serving as a youth pastor at the time, stated forcefully that homosexuality is immoral and dangerous, and that some related components of the province’s public school system were inappropriate.
“People of faith should not be fined or jailed for expressing their political or religious beliefs,” Mr. Boissoin’s lawyer, Gerald Chipeur, said in a press release when the appeal was filed. The appeal sought a full dismissal of the complaint and conviction, and the granting of costs incurred by Mr. Boissoin in his defense as well as repayment of the fine Mr. Boissoin paid to the complainant. The Canadian Constitution Foundation was an intevenor in the case.
“The ability to express one’s conscience is a fundamental human right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This pastor cannot be muzzled simply because someone else does not share his viewpoint, and a recent decision from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in a national case confirms this,” said Mr. Chipeur.
He was referring to a Sept. 2 decision in which the CHRT wrote that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which regulates the Internet expression of so-called hate speech, is inconsistent with the Charter guarantee of freedom of expression (League press releases, Sept. 3/09).
The League is pleased with the court’s decision in the Boissoin case, but notes that the human rights provisions used to penalize him are still on the books. We continue to work for an end to the use of human rights tribunals in cases involving the peaceable expression of opinion based on religious belief.
– From the December, 2009 edition of our newsletter Civil Rights.