A P.E.I. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a human rights complaint by blogger Stephen Pate against the P.E.I. Press Gallery of the Legislative Assembly and three Island journalists.
Pate complained to the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission in 2010 that his membership in the press gallery was revoked because of his disability. Pate has post-polio syndrome and is an advocate for those with disabilities.
His action also named three journalists with the gallery — Charlottetown Guardian reporters Wayne Thibodeau and Teresa Wright and CBC executive producer Donna Allen, all members of the gallery which recommended the revocation to the Speaker of the Legislature, Kathleen Casey.
'False, sexist, demeaning and abusive comments, together with false inferences of government and press corruption, cost Mr. Pate his membership in the press gallery.' — P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Ben Taylor
"There is no suggestion it was Mr. Pate's disability which caused him to write these things, and there is no suggestion the Legislature or the Press Gallery is prejudiced against disabled people," wrote Supreme Court Justice Ben Taylor in his decision.
"The reason for Mr. Pate's expulsion appears to have been his so-called critiques, or satires, or his sexist insults of a fellow member."
'Crude, sexist and abusive'
In the first year as a member of the press gallery, Pate made up a story and posted it on his blog, which included a fake email exchange between Thibodeau and his editor about fabricating a news story to make the provincial government look good. Justice Taylor said Pate's comments were not satire, as Pate claimed, and were "contrary to the basis of the press gallery … which values the truth."
Pate also wrote a story about the appearance and behaviour of Wright, which Taylor called "crude, sexist and abusive."
"There is a difference between sexual trash talking and analysis of a subject," wrote Taylor.
After Pate published the two stories, the Press Gallery asked the speaker to revoke Pate's membership in the press gallery, which she did. It was that decision that prompted Pate to launch his complaint to the human rights commission in Oct. 2010.
The executive director at the Human Rights Commission Greg Howard dismissed Pate's complaint in Nov. 2012. However, in April 2013, commission chairwoman Anne Nicholson ordered the evidence be heard by a panel.
The press gallery and some of its members asked the courts to review that decision by the commission.
Discrimination assertion 'incredible'
Taylor upheld the original decision by the Human Rights Commission's executive director, who found Pate's press pass was revoked because he wrote stories "questioning the integrity and professionalism of two colleagues."
"False, sexist, demeaning and abusive comments, together with false inferences of government and press corruption, cost Mr. Pate his membership in the press gallery, as I expect they would any other member of any press gallery anywhere in Canada who made similar comments," he wrote.
He added that the Speaker has the right to expel members for misconduct, "such as nasty and/or offensive speech towards other members."
In the decision, Taylor also dismissed any connection between Pate's dismissal from the press gallery and his disability.
"Mr. Pate's bare assertion he was discriminated against because of his advocacy of disability issues is, on its face, incredible, and he does not provide a scrap of alleged factual evidence to support it," he wrote.
Taylor also ordered Pate to pay costs of $5,000 to the parties named in his action within 30 days. The judge said costs would normally be higher as this was a very expensive lawsuit, but he reduced them because of Pate's limited means and income.