Beware the Canadian “human rights” thought police

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The Article

Thanks to a recent ruling of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, faithful Christians are free to publish their opposition to same-sex marriage in an Ontario newspaper or magazine. However, that is not the case in some other provinces where anyone who publishes anything opposed to the ideology of gay rights could be convicted by a human rights tribunal for expressing contempt for homosexuals.

And much the same goes for the publication of anything that might offend the members of any race, nationality or other class of persons favoured in human rights legislation. The editors of Maclean’s magazine are aware of the danger: They are under investigation by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for publishing a controversial article by Mark Steyn titled “Why the Future Belongs to Islam.”

Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission would also like to punish Maclean’s. In a bizarre statement on April 9, she derided Steyn’s article as an “explicit expression of Islamophobia” that the Commission would have censored, except for the fact that the Ontario Human Rights Code “does not give the Commission the jurisdiction to deal with the content of magazine articles through the complaints process.”

Hall wistfully added: “Limits to freedom of expression under some other human rights legislation in Canada are broader.” Quite so.

For example, the British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits the publication of any matter that “is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons.” The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act includes a similar provision.

Canadians should be especially wary of stating anything in a newspaper or magazine published in Alberta or British Columbia that might offend some Muslim zealot, gay rights activist or a member of any other class of persons covered in the human rights laws of these provinces. Furthermore, Canadians in all provinces should beware of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits posting anything on the internet “that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” by reason of that person or persons identification with 14 different prohibited grounds of discrimination, including race, religion and sexual orientation.

Note that one might lawfully publish an article in a newspaper or magazine in Ontario or some other province, yet run afoul of the Canadian Human Rights Commission if the newspaper or magazine republishes that same article on the internet. Thus, while Maclean’s has been exempted from punishment by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for publishing the Steyn article, Muslim complaints against the magazine for posting the article on the internet are pending before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Correspondingly, the Canadian Commission has placed Catholic Insight under investigation, because a reader in Edmonton took offence at the republication on the internet of articles upholding Catholic teaching on homosexuality that are exempt from censure under Ontario law.

If Commissioner Hall had her way, the Ontario Legislature would amend the Ontario Human Rights Act to expand the censorship powers of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Let us hope that the majority of Liberals and Conservatives, if not New Democrats, in the province are not so besotted with political correctness that they would be willing to go along with such a freedom-stifling measure.

The powers of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal are already excessive. On April 25, it decreed that Christian Horizons, the largest provider of residential services for developmentally disabled adults in Ontario, must pay $23,000 plus two years’ wages to a lesbian employee who had been dismissed for violating the Evangelical Christian agency’s moral code which requires employees to uphold the basic tenets of Christian morality, including abstinence from sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

The outrageous attack on Christian Horizons underlines the freedom-stifling propensities of all of Canada’s human rights tribunals. They should be deprived of all their coercive powers. Until then, Canadians cannot be secure in their inalienable rights to fundamental freedoms of expression, association and religion.

Rory Leishman
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