Pastor Boissoin’s Lawyer: Case Will Positively Impact Religious Freedom in Canada [Excerpts]
Gerald Chipeur, the lawyer who represented Pastor Stephen Boissoin, has said that the recent ruling in favor of Mr. Boissoin “will have a significant long term positive impact on religious freedom in Canada.”
Pastor Boissoin was exonerated by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge after being subjected to the proceedings of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal for over seven years. The Tribunal had found Boissoin guilty of “hate speech” for having written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about the homosexualist agenda.
But Justice Earl C. Wilson last week ruled the letter Mr. Boissoin wrote to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate on June 17, 2002 on the subject of homosexual-rights curricula in the province’s educational system was not a hate crime but legitimate expression allowed under freedom of speech.
Chipeur states that the bar has been raised substantially on what may in the future be construed as a violation of the “hate” provisions of human rights laws. “The decision established a very high threshold for the conclusion that a publication is in violation of the ‘hate’ provisions of Alberta’s human rights laws,” he said.
Most importantly Chipeur notes that without a connection between Mr. Boissoin’s letter and proof of discriminatory practices against homosexuals which fall within provincial jurisdiction, Alberta’s “hate speech” laws had no authority to suppress his comments. Moreover, he said, provincial tribunals will have to confine themselves to working within these provincial statutes and defer in all cases to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“While the decision did not strike down Alberta’s ‘hate speech’ laws, it significantly limited the application of such laws. Justice Wilson properly pointed out that a province may not duplicate the federal Criminal Code rules outlawing hate crime.”
“Furthermore,” said Chipeur, “Justice Wilson interpreted the provision in question as only prohibiting hateful words that lead to discriminatory activity under the provincial human rights legislation. Justice Wilson found that Stephen Boissoin’s letter to the editor was not hateful and did not cause discriminatory behaviour.”
Chipeur concluded, “It is difficult to conceive of a political or religious debate that would meet the two part test established in the legislation. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that in the future no religious or political debate will be found to be in breach of the current text of Alberta’s human rights laws.”



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