Christians and human rights commissions
Every federal and provincial human rights code in Canada prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, so why do faithful Christians not take advantage of these laws to protect themselves from anti-Christian discrimination?
To anyone who is at all familiar with human rights litigation, the answer is, or should be, obvious: Canada’s human rights codes are a two-edged sword that is much less likely to be wielded for than against Christians, especially those who affirm the plain teachings of sacred Scripture on the sinfulness of sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.
Let us recall some of Canada’s more notorious human rights cases. In 1997, Dianne Haskett, a lawyer and devout evangelical Protestant who was then serving as mayor of London, Ont., was convicted and fined by an Ontario human rights board of inquiry for refusing on religious principle to issue a gay pride proclamation.
In 2002, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice unanimously upheld the ruling of a human rights board of inquiry that found that Scott Brockie, a Toronto print-shop owner and sincere Christian, had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, by refusing on religious grounds to print letterheads and other materials for an organization that promotes gay, lesbian and bisexual lifestyles. Having already run up close to $100,000 in legal bills and standing little chance of winning upon further appeal, Brockie gave up and complied with the order of the tribunal that he must pay $5,000 in damages to the homosexual complainant in the case and never again refuse to print such materials for a homosexual client.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, Hugh Owens was ordered by a provincial human rights board of inquiry to pay $1,500 in damages to each of three homosexual complainants for having hurt their feelings by publishing an advertisement in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that featured a list of Bible verses condemning homosexual acts. Owens lost on appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, but won in 2006, in the provincial Court of Appeal, which found that his advertisement did not transgress the limits of freedom of expression permitted by the province’s human rights code.
In the aftermath of this court of appeal ruling in Owens, can faithful Christians rest assured that they have nothing to fear from Canada’s human rights thought police? Most certainly not. In 2005, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held in the Chris Kempling case that a Christian teacher has no right to point out the risks of homosexual sexual behaviour in a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper.
How the Supreme Court of Canada might eventually settle these contradictory rulings is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, while Christians have been losing case after case in human rights tribunals, the Canadian Jewish Congress has been going from victory in victory. The Congress is especially proud of having used the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the courts to expose Ernst Zundel as a Holocaust denier and get him extradited to Germany, where he is serving a sentence of five years’ imprisonment for incitement of hatred against Jews.
No one should have any sympathy for Zundel, but are his prosecution and incarceration really a victory for Canadian Jews? Ezra Levant, the former editor of the Western Standardand an Orthodox Jew, does not think so. He points out that prior to the prosecution for hate crimes, Zundel was only an inconsequential and obscure bigot. Levant charges: “The Canadian Jewish Congress, and its executive director, Bernie Farber, are the super-agents who turned Ernst Zundel into an international figure.”
Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, likewise opposed the prosecution of Zundel. In a recent interview with the Edmonton Journal, Borovoy said: “Nobody ever thought the commissions would have anything to do with expressions of opinion or the dissemination of news reports. I think it’s awful that a law could be used to muzzle that kind of expression. That’s the stuff of what democratic polemics are about.”
Christians should heed Borovoy’s warning. And we should join with him and Levant in urgently calling upon Parliament and the provincial legislatures to enact legislation to eliminate at least the censorship powers of Canada’s oppressive human rights commissions.