Top court to rule on free speech vs. hate propaganda laws
Bill Whatcott's anti-gay sex pamphlets at centre of case
The Supreme Court of Canada is set to release a decision Wednesday morning in a Saskatchewan case that has pitted advocates of free speech against laws which curtail hate propaganda.
A Saskatchewan man, Bill Whatcott, distributed pamphlets to households in Regina and Saskatoon in 2001 and 2002 that condemned gay sex as immoral.
Complaints about the pamphlets were taken up by the province's Human Rights Commission and a panel ruled the pamphlets promoted hatred against gays.
What the law says:
Saskatchewan law prohibits publishing or broadcasting anything that "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 a prohibited ground."
That finding was appealed and the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard oral arguments on the case in October 2011.
Whatcott, who engaged in same-sex behaviour prior to a religious conversion, argues the pamphlets simply reflect his religious beliefs.
"The material is blunt and forthright," Whatcott's factum to the court says. "There is no polite way of saying, 'You are going to hell unless you change your behaviour.'"
Whatcott argues the pamphlets are an expression of opinion and free speech is protected by the Charter.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, in its factum, argues that an identifiable group — homosexuals — were hurt by Whatcott's pamphlets and merited protection.
"Hate expression is restricted for what it does and not what it says," the commission's factum says.
"Limiting the publication of hateful religious beliefs does not interfere with the right to hold beliefs," the commission added.
The Supreme Court decision is expected to be released around 9:45 a.m. ET.