16 Dec 2009 Crucial Victory for Freedom of Religion in Canada
Boissoin wins Case Against Human Rights Commission
By ARPA Canada (www.ARPACanada.ca): Christians who care about the freedom to apply their faith to public life have a big reason to be thankful this month. On December 3rd, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled in favour of former-pastor Stephen Boissoin and his appeal of the sentence against him by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal. The consequences of this are huge.
In 2002 Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper in Red Deer, Alberta in which he warned against the homosexual agenda, especially as it is being waged against the youth. As Boissoin explained in his talk at a Niagara ARPA event recently, he had good reason to write passionately about this subject. His job as a community youth worker made him witness first-hand the devastating impact of this agenda on teens.
A university professor filed a human rights complaint against Boission because of this letter. The HRT ruled that Boission’s letter was guilty of being likely to expose a person or group to hatred. As a result, he was ordered to pay a substantial fine, publicly apologize in a letter that was to be published in his local paper, and never again publish anything about homosexuality in a disparaging manner. That would apply to preaching as well.
Because of this complaint Boissoin was subject to seven years of stress and financial instability. His legal bills are well over $100,000. Keep in mind, that with our human rights commissions, anybody who launches a complaint, even if it is frivolous, get their bills paid. But if there is a complaint against you, you have to cover all of your own bills, even if you win. Simply being accused of an offence (i.e. hurting someone’s feelings) is worthy of punishment according to our commissions and tribunals.
ARPA Canada has repeatedly made the case that this HRT decision has consequences that extend much broader than Boissoin. The same complaint can be filed against many Reformed pastors, teachers, or anyone who speaks out with a Biblical perspective on an issue that is considered politically-incorrect. But why does something have to directly challenge us or our loved ones before we care?
Thankfully, Boissoin didn’t agree to the tribunal demands. At great cost he challenged the tribunal ruling in a real court. And that court has agreed with him. The judge went out of his way to reveal the absurdity of the human rights tribunal decision. He also ruled that “’Disparaging remarks’ were not defined by the Panel. 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.” In other words, the tribunal should stop acting as if it has the power to shut down anything that it finds offensive.
The victory was not complete. The judge didn’t go so far as to rule that part of the Alberta Human Rights Code is unconstitutional, which means that the tribunal retains much of its power. But it is still a powerful precedent for future complaints against Christians who take a public stand for their faith.
Sometimes we think we are fighting a losing war against the advances of secular humanism in Canada. But we aren’t. God remains in control and we know that the ultimate victory is His. Boissoin’s court victory is another reminder that we have to fight for what we believe in rather than throw up our hands in defeat and write-off the secular world. Thank you very much to many faithful ARPA readers who have prayed for Boissoin’s case, contacted their elected officials about it and other HRC injustices, and financially supported his efforts. May we continue to thank the Lord for the freedoms He has given us and stand up for truth and justice in 2010.
Related story: Partial victory for free speech in Boissoin court judgment
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