Newspaper letter prompts freedom of speech debate
A former pastor and a university professor are in front of a human rights panelin Calgary this week over a letter published in a Red Deer newspaper comparing homosexuals to pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.
The letter, written by Stephen Boissoin, was published five years ago in the Red Deer Advocate under the title "Homosexual Agenda Wicked."
University of Calgary professor Darren Lund complained about the letter to the Alberta Human Rights and CitizenshipCommission. He said Monday that challenging it will set a precedent for what constitutes a hate crime in Alberta.
"I think the letter did expose people to hatred and I think the government, if it's serious about its human rights legislation, needs to make a ruling in this case, and I think it's very clear what they need to do."
Janel Dodd, who worked with Boissoin at a youth outreach centre at the time the letter was published, testified at the hearing Monday morning, saying her former co-workerwas just trying to get attention.
"That's why he wrote this letter, I feel, is because he wanted to get a public reaction," she told CBC. "He would come into the office every day and look at the newspaper and [say] 'What's the backlash today? Who's going against me today?' He was really, really excited by that."
Dodd says opinion was mixed in Red Deer over the letter, butBoissoin's public display of his beliefsled to the youth centre being closed.
"It didn't have a place in the organization and that's why it shut down."
Boissoin and his lawyer declined to comment until after they had given evidence at the hearing. The matter will resume Tuesday morning and is expected to wrap up on Friday.