Pastor, Christian coalition violated human rights law, Alberta panel rules
Last Updated: Friday, November 30, 2007 | 4:37 PM MT
A former pastor and the Christian group he belonged to broke Alberta's human rights law by writing an anti-gay letter published in a Red Deer newspaper, a panel ruled Friday.
In 2002, Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that compared gay people to pedophiles and drug dealers. It was published under the headline "Homosexual agenda wicked."
'There are some reasonable lines that need to be drawn and some responsibilities that come along with free speech.'—Darren Lund, complainant
Darren Lund, a high school teacher in Red Deer at the time, complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission that the letter was a hate crime after a gay teenager was attacked in the city.
On Friday, a commission panel decided Boissoin and the Concerned Christian Coalition of which he was executive director violated human rights law because the letter likely exposed gays to hatred and contempt.
"I find that there is a circumstantial connection between the hate speech of Mr. Boissoin and the CCC and the beating of a gay teenager in Red Deer less than two weeks following the publication of Mr. Boissoin's letter," wrote panel chairwoman Lori Andreachuk.
Lund, now a professor who teaches social justice in Calgary, was pleased with Friday's ruling after a five-year fight.
"I think the ruling was very strong on that, that you can't just hide behind saying something is my opinion or my belief and that somehow allows hate speech," he said.
"So I think that's essentially what the ruling enforces is that in this case there are some reasonable lines that need to be drawn and some responsibilities that come along with free speech."
'Clearly, the freedom of expression has been suppressed so we're disappointed.'—Jim Blake, Concerned Christian Coalition
Lund said he does not regret raising the complaint despite receiving hate mail and death threats.
Jim Blake, the current head of the Christian group, said all Canadians should be allowed to speak freely.
"Clearly, the freedom of expression has been suppressed so we're disappointed," Blake said.
Penalty to be determined
The panel has yet to decide on a punishment for Boissoin or the coalition, but Lund said if a fine is imposed, he'd like to see the money go to the Alberta Teachers Association's diversity, equity and rights committee.
During the human rights hearing in July, Boissoin testified that the coalition's CEO at the time, Craig Chandler, was aware of the letter and supported him.
Chandler won the Alberta Conservative party nomination in Calgary-Egmont earlier this month.
The Tory executive is reviewing his candidacy on Saturday because of concerns about comments he made on his radio show against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Latest Calgary News Headlines
- Crews respond to Inglewood blaze
- Fire heavily damaged two homes in Inglewood Saturday afternoon near Eighth Street S.E. and MacDonald Avenue. more »
- Homeowner says he was swindled out of his own property
- A Calgary homeowner says he was swindled out of his own property by a realtor he thought was trying to help him. more »
- RCMP investigating after man dies in Gleichen
- RCMP are investigating the death of a 26-year-old man at his home in the town of Gleichen, near Calgary. more »
- Langevin Bridge will go green for Lyme awareness
- The Langevin Bridge will go green Saturday night for Lyme disease awareness. more »
Top News Headlines
- Spectator killed at Edmonton Jeep event
- A 20-year-old woman died Saturday during an event for Jeep enthusiasts held in a parking lot just west of downtown Edmonton. more »
- Rescue attempt over for New Brunswick fishermen
- The rescue attempt for two missing fishermen has been called off in New Brunswick, hours after one body was found. more »
- Astronaut Chris Hadfield adjusts to 'earthling' life
- Canada's space ambassador, Chris Hadfield, is still readapting to life on this planet after spending 146 days in zero gravity as commander of the International Space Station. For now, though, he's taking his homecoming one step at a time. more »
- Afghan legislators block law protecting women
- An Afghan legislator says conservative lawmakers have blocked approval of a law that aims to protect women's freedoms, saying parts of it violate Islamic principles. more »
- Danielle Smith asks RCMP to investigate Sandhu
- Evanston victims died by stabbing, police say
- Lock your doors, police warn
- Power outage cost ENMAX $20M
- Calgary fire ban lifted
- Chat replay: Your gardening questions answered
- Family angry after Calgary police chief defends shooting
- Alberta to open 6 new trade offices
- Fire destroys, damages 2 homes hours after ban lifted