Free speech victory in Whatcott v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal
Feb 25, 2010, CCF Newsletter, CALGARY: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) today responded to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision in Whatcott v. Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal, a case in which the CCF had intervened in support of free expression. In a decision released February 25, the 3-member court ruled that William Whatcott did not violate section 14(1)(b) of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code by distributing flyers to oppose the teaching of homosexuality in Saskatoon’s public schools.
The flyers distributed by Mr. Whatcott in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002 were polemical and inflammatory, and the court noted in its decision that many people would find his words “crude, offensive, and pejorative.” The contents of the flyers are re-printed in the court’s decision, posted HERE.
The CCF intervened in support of free expression. Its factum is posted HERE . You will note that many of the CCF’s arguments were adopted by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, sometimes with an express reference to the CCF (see paragraph 130 of the court’s decision) and sometimes without an express reference.
The Court set aside a Human Rights Tribunal Order that Mr. Whatcott pay $17,500 to four gay complainants who were offended by his flyers. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code prohibits the publication of any statement which “exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons” on the basis of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and other grounds.
“This court decision is good news for free speech,” stated lawyer John Carpay, Executive Director of the CCF, which intervened in support of the right of citizens to express their religious and political opinions on matters of public policy.
“Unfortunately, the court did not strike down the restrictions on free speech. But nothing prevents our federal and provincial politicians from repealing these laws,” continued Carpay.