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Canadian “Human Rights” Commissions Bear Down on Christian Clergymen

By Lee Duigon
September 25, 2008

“Those who refuse to participate in the worship of man, those who refuse to surrender to man’s complacent satisfaction with man and man’s society, are increasingly branded as aliens … Every kind of subtle and direct pressure is employed to force the true believer into conformity with the City of man and the creed of Cain.” —R. J. Rushdoony, 1970[1]

“Each judgment emanating out of our various human rights commissions seems to be more brazen and bizarre than the one that preceded it. However, for inane stupidity and gross miscarriage of justice our own Alberta Human Rights Tribunal deserves to take first prize for its treatment of Stephen Boissoin.” —Fred Henry, Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary (quoted by Ezra Levant on June 24, www.ezralevant.com )

A Protestant minister and a Roman Catholic priest who edits a Catholic magazine are in the crosshairs of Canada’s “human rights” commissions.

In Alberta, Rev. Stephen Boissoin has run up almost $200,000 in legal costs, defending himself from the provincial “human rights” commission. In Ontario, Fr. Alphonse de Valk’s monthly magazine, Catholic Insight, has incurred $20,000 in legal fees while awaiting a ruling from the commission as to whether he and his magazine are guilty of promoting “hate.”

What crimes did they commit to place them in such jeopardy?

Six years ago, Rev. Boissoin wrote a letter to his local newspaper, Red Deer Advocate, expressing his opposition to “the homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s” (for the full text of the letter, see http://canadianpastor.blogspot.com). And Catholic Insight’s offense was to publish the church’s teachings on sexual morality. In both cases, offended homosexual activists complained to provincial “human rights” commissions, and the machinery of censorship was set in motion.

Will Boissoin Go to Prison?

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has ordered Rev. Boissoin to pay $7,000 to the offended party, to write a public apology for publication in the Advocate, and never again to say or write anything critical of homosexuality in any public venue, including the Internet—a lifetime gag order. The gay activist plaintiff, Boissoin said, “has told me in person that I need to be reeducated.”

But Boissoin says he will not pay the fine, he will not recant, and he will not keep silence.

“They can incarcerate me if they want to,” he told Chalcedon. “But by the power of God, I don’t think I can be ruined spiritually. If I’m incarcerated, I’ll minister in prison.”

Meanwhile, he hopes to file an appeal in a court of law against the commission’s decision. He is being represented pro bono by the Alliance Defense Fund in the United States: otherwise, he said, he never could have borne the costs—although concerned citizens can donate to his defense fund via www.stephenboissoin.com.

“I have been ordered not to talk about this case, or make any disparaging remarks about the commission or its actions,” he said. “But I’m talking to you, and I’ll keep talking. I’ve started educating people, and I’ve had fantastic opportunities to do this since my letter was published.”

Hate Literature?

It may seem natural to most of us for a Catholic magazine to publish articles about Catholic teachings, but that’s what plaintiffs are trying to stop Catholic Insight from doing.

“They’re trying to put us out of business, harass us, cost us money,” Fr. de Valk said. “Our magazine is hate literature, as far as they’re concerned. We haven’t had a hearing in front of the commission yet, but we’ve already spent $20,000 fighting nuisance actions. Meanwhile, they’ve asked the Heritage Ministry to take away our subsidy.”

Canadian magazines, he explained, are all subsidized by the Heritage Ministry, an agency of the federal government.

Over the years, he said, Insight has published more than one hundred articles on homosexual activity, including official Vatican statements and scientific studies of the health effects of sodomy. Sixteen months ago, a gay activist in Edmonton filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Fr. de Valk is still waiting to learn whether the commission will hear the case.

“The Fred Phelps of Canada”

At the time he wrote his letter to the newspaper, Boissoin was a youth minister with the Upper Level Youth Centre of Central Alberta, “a multipurpose Christian charitable organization that promoted Christian character and offered numerous life-skill, employability, recreational, and other youth development programs.”[2]

“Once the complaint was filed against me,” he said, “that made it very, very hard on the organization—especially when the complaint hit the media and Darren Lund [the gay activist plaintiff] started attacking me in the media, comparing me to the Aryan Brotherhood, etc.”

Boissoin lost his place with Upper Level, and now supports himself with a part-time sales job while continuing as best he can as a minister.

“I just want to work,” he said, “but I’m perceived, nationally, as a very controversial person. That makes it hard for anyone to hire me.”

For some time, he said, he had serious worries about the loss of his livelihood and the potential loss of all his possessions—worries that soon led to a crisis in his faith. But that has passed, he said: God has made him ready for whatever he has to suffer.

“It’s ironic, though,” he said. “I’m not an anti-homosexual activist. That was maybe one percent of my life, before all this. But now I’m the Fred Phelps of Canada.”[3]

Canada Sleeps

Fr. de Valk tried to explain how such things could happen in Canada.

“The whole idea of moral ineptitude is no longer prevalent here,” he said. “What we see in Canada is not a full-blown persecution, but a very quiet strangulation of Christians.

“In 1995 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that ‘sexual orientation’ was covered by the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms], and they’ve been working on it steadily ever since, step by step. The judiciary has played an enormous role in that. In 2001, human rights commissions in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, as well as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, were given the right to supervise the Internet. Because anything that’s written can end up on the Internet, they can supervise everything that’s written.”

But Fr. de Valk and Rev. Boissoin both agreed that the chief cause of Canada’s “human rights” tyranny has been the ignorance and apathy of the Canadian people.

“Canadians have a very good standard of living, and they’re very comfortable with things as they are,” Boissoin said. “Canada is the fat man lying under the big apple tree with apple cores all around him, fast asleep. They don’t want to stand up for anything, and they certainly don’t want to be persecuted for anything.”

“Everyone is asleep,” De Valk said. “They all take the attitude, ‘Who cares? How does it affect me?’ We have tried to explain: once homosexuals are ‘equal,’ they will invade the schools and indoctrinate your children. That’s how it affects you. In British Columbia schools today, ‘gay marriage education’ is mandatory for all children.

“If all the Catholics in Canada were to wake up and stand together against this, it’d all be over in a minute. But so many Catholics just shrug their shoulders—just like in the United States. Catholic politicians support abortion, and the church just looks the other way.

“It’s the refusal of Catholics—priests, bishops, laity—to take to heart the message of Christ. It’s as simple as that.”

“Feelings …”

Rev. Boissoin described his experience at the hearing before the “human rights” commission.

“When compared to the right the Alberta Human Rights Commission is given to rule on all the most important constitutional issues, it was unbelievably unprofessional,” he said. “The hearing was held in an ordinary conference room, not a court room, with one single panelist who was to be my judge and jury—plus one stenographer, and one lawyer from the Alberta attorney general’s office who was there to bolster up the human rights law. He asked my witness, ‘Have you compared Rev. Boissoin’s letter to Mein Kampf?’

“The hearing officer was not a judge, not a constitutional scholar. She wouldn’t let me interpret my own letter. They brought in a witness for the plaintiff who was allowed to go on a long, personal rant about how bad I’d made him feel. And I just sat there, listening to that, and thinking, ‘I’m doomed.’”

Never again, the commission ruled, may Rev. Boissoin publicly express his opposition to “the homosexual machine.”

“As they see it,” he said, “we criminalized homosexuality in Canada for many years. They believe social conservatives have persecuted them for decades. All their troubles—disease, depression, the high death rate among homosexuals—they blame on ‘homophobia.’ And so they are excluding my entitlement to my religious views.

“Of course I have sympathy with those who are struggling with homosexuality. My opposition is to the gay activists. The gay activists in Canada don’t want to coexist with us.

“A few Christians are starting to wake up and resist. But it takes courage to do that, and everybody only has a certain amount of courage.”

But Christian morality and “gay rights,” said Fr. de Valk, are a perpetual reproach to one another, making coexistence problematic.

“Canada’s ‘human rights’ laws are abominable,” he said, “especially Section 13.1 of the Human Rights Act, which criminalizes any speech that makes a person feel uneasy. So it’s not a matter of truth, or evidence, but of feelings.”

Section 13.1 prohibits speech, including speech on the telephone, or writings on the Internet, that is “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”[4] Whether this is “likely” to happen soon, or in the distant future, the law does not specify. Nor does it define speech that is “likely” to do this. In practice, “human rights” commissions have allowed plaintiffs to define it, based on their subjective feelings.

“Now, finally, there is quite a stirring against the human rights commissions—at least among the newspapers,” De Valk said. “We hope this is beginning to change the environment.”

Canadian newspapers have been increasingly critical of “human rights” commissions since complaints were brought against Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, and Maclean’s magazine. Levant, when he was editor of the now-defunct Western Standard, fell afoul of the “human rights” regime when he published the notorious “Muhammad cartoons” to illustrate a news story about them. Maclean’s, Canada’s most widely circulated magazine, published excerpts from Steyn’s book, America Alone, that discussed the growing Muslim influence in Western Europe.

But Levant, Steyn, and Maclean’s have vigorously defended themselves. Their high-profile cases have led to calls for investigation of the commissions’ procedures and even for repeal of portions of the Human Rights Act—first by newspaper, and lately by members of Parliament. Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have launched their own investigation of the commissions.

“The Canadian government has got to be convinced to act,” De Valk said. “We have a Conservative government and a Conservative prime minister; but it’s a minority government, so the Conservatives can’t go forward without support from the other political parties.”

A Taste of Irony

“[T]he things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” —St. Paul, Philippians 1:12

Let us savor the irony.

By trying to silence Rev. Boissoin and Fr. de Valk, the “human rights” commissions have caused the clergymen’s messages to reach a much wider audience than they ever could have reached on their own.

By trying to crush these clergymen, the commissions are losing the cloak of invisibility that has protected them for years, revealing themselves as censors, despots, and bullies. People now are paying attention to the commissions instead of ignoring them. Newspaper editors, especially, don’t like what they see.

How does it start?

The state tried to establish a regime of “full equality” for homosexuality, and found that it could only be maintained by censorship and coercion. Christians—and Jews and Muslims, too—know that sodomy is an abomination, consistently condemned in all the Scriptures. In a country like the United States (or Canada, to a lesser extent), where the great majority of citizens at least profess to be Christians, the people can never fully accept “gay equality” without rejecting their religious beliefs.

Even to some unbelievers, the folly of sodomy is obvious: it generates no children and is fraught with a plethora of serious risks to health.

As Fr. de Valk explained, once the state decides that “gay marriage” is morally equal to real marriage, then this doctrine must be taught in the state schools. As we have seen in our own country, this always begins as “voluntary” and soon morphs into “mandatory.” In Massachusetts, this has been done by “educators” who simply ignore—with impunity—laws that allow parents to opt their children out of such instruction. In California, the state law has been changed to require public schools to teach the moral equivalency of all “sexual lifestyle choices.”

But if Christian doctrine, and five thousand years of recorded history, are right, then the teachings of gay activists must be wrong. The two worldviews are diametrically opposed: how can they possibly coexist?

The state can only maintain its “gay rights” regime by intimidation: hence the “human rights” commissions, hate speech laws, campus speech codes, mandatory “sensitivity training,” and the forcible indoctrination of children into an anti-Christian worldview.

Why has this come to pass?

Because Christians in the Western world—not just Catholics, but all denominations—have refused to obey God. It really is, as Fr. de Valk said, as simple as that.

Can we get the Christian children out of schools where they are taught that Christian morality is wrong? Of course we could—but as a nation, as a church, we haven’t. The Southern Baptist Convention, just this summer, rejected a resolution to urge Christian parents to remove their children from California’s public schools—where the law now makes “gay education” mandatory for all grades from kindergarten on up. If this provocation could not move the SBC, what can?

Meanwhile, servants of God like Stephen Boissoin and Alphonse de Valk faithfully proclaim God’s Word: “Of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

***Update***

Before this article could go to press, the Canadian Human Rights Commission dropped the complaint against Fr. deValk and Catholic Insight, and declared the file closed.

This is good news for the magazine; however, Catholic Insight has still paid $20,000 in legal fees to defend itself from frivolous "human rights" complaints—while the plaintiff's costs have all been paid by the Canadian taxpayer. In effect, the magazine has incurred a $20,000 penalty for publishing content that a gay activist didn't like.

***Further Update***

On Aug. 13 the same homosexual activist appealed the dismissal of his complaint against Catholic Insight. The complaint having been rejected by the CHRC, the activist has asked for a new hearing in Edmonton, Alberta. And so the process begins again. How much will it cost the magazine this time?

As Ezra Levant has often observed, when it comes to “human rights” complaints, "The process is the penalty."


[1] R. J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1970; 2001 edition), 172.

[3] Phelps is notorious for turning up at public occasions displaying signs that read “God Hates Fags.”

[4] “Canadian Human Rights Commission,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Human_Rights_Commission.

Topics: R. J. Rushdoony, Biblical Law, Statism, Education, Church, The

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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