[ ED NOTE: Look for more Boissoin-related commentary as the day goes on. This item is also crossposted to Scary’s blog, Scary Fundamentalist. ]
The Court of Queen’s Bench Alberta handed down a ruling yesterday afternoon in Stephen Boissoin’s appeal of his conviction under the Human Rights Tribunal for writing a letter to the editor back in 2002. Unfortunately, the judge did not strike down the sections of the Code that made it possible for Boissoin to be persecuted in the first place. He also didn’t award Boissoin costs outright, but allowed him to make a separate application for them.
You can find the decision here. A particularly delicious comment relates to the Tribunal’s order that Boisson not make “disparaging remarks” about gays and homosexuals.
But clearly, “disparaging remarks” are remarks much less serious than hateful and contemptuous remarks and are quite lawful to make. They are beyond the power of the Act to regulate and the power of the Province to restrain.
Colby Cosh has a good summary of the lukewarm fence-sitting decision in MacLean’s. He summarized the judge’s reasoning as follows:
1. The Charter of Rights can’t be used willy-nilly by content creators in magazines and newspapers as a shield against tribunal oversight, but
2. The tribunals have to confine themselves strictly to the powers granted them by statute, defer to Charter values, respect the presumption of innocence, and in general act a lot less like a cross between a military junta and a three-ring circus.
I would completely disagree with point (1). What is the point of a Charter if we always have to check with our judiciary or, worse yet, a bunch of bureaucrats in the HRCs, before we say or print anything? The language of the charter specifies that it is the limits of these freedoms that cannot be used willy-nilly by the government against us, as the Human Rights bureaucrats are obviously doing.