"I have been trained by the Supreme Court not to engage in hate speech, even though no one can define it in advance."-Doug Christie, Canadian "human rights" lawyer1
Rev. Stephen Boissoin has not been trained in the fine art of avoiding "hate speech." Consequently, the former Alberta youth pastor can anticipate at least two more years of legal wrangling-some would call it persecution-over a letter he wrote to his local newspaper eight years ago.
For a few days this winter, Boissoin thought his ordeal had finally come to an end. The Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal had overstepped its bounds when it ordered him to make a public apology for the letter, publicly recant his beliefs, pay a $5,000 fine to the plaintiff, and on top of all that, imposed on him a lifetime ban on making any remarks, public or private, "disparaging" of homosexuality. The court dismissed all the charges and penalties against him.
He wasn't the only one who seemed to think his troubles were over. The National Post commented:
"As ever more prominent human rights hate speech convictions fail on judicial review, the credibility of human rights commissions is not the only thing at stake. The contradictory rulings suggest Canada is overdue for a comprehensive analysis of its approach to hate speech, to resolve the Supreme Court's own disagreement about how to regulate the darkest emotion."2
In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Canadian jurisprudence, the state regulates human emotions without even defining what is being regulated.
Very Temporary Relief
On December 3, Justice E. C. Wilson of the Queen's Bench (provincial) Court ruled that the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal's conviction of Rev. Boissoin, and the penalties levied against him, were "illegal."3 Justice Wilson especially faulted the tribunal's finding that the "tone" of Boissoin's newspaper letter constituted an incitement to violence or "war" against homosexuals, as well as its acceptance of hearsay and unchallenged statements by the plaintiff as "evidence."4
Whatever relief Boissoin may have felt, however, was short-lived. The plaintiff, self-proclaimed "human rights activist" Darren Lund, immediately appealed the decision. The case will now proceed to the Appellate Court-and from there might continue on to the Supreme Court.
A glimpse at a synopsis of Lund's appeal, provided by Boissoin, is revealing.
The court "erred," said Lund, in "restricting the authority of the Province to regulate statements, publications, etc." under the Alberta Human Rights Act, and "by narrowing the interpretation of the Act"
*By "requiring consideration of the writer's intent"
*And by "requiring demonstration of a causal connection between the message and an intended discriminatory practice."
This reveals two key presuppositions:
*That the state does have the legal authority to "regulate speech"
*And that it is not necessary to prove that anything said or published by the defendant actually led to any harm being done to any other person. In other words, the state can punish a citizen for harm that might be done, someday, in connection with anything he said or wrote. Here we find the state in the "pre-crime" business, punishing people for crimes that haven't been committed yet and may never be, by anyone.
An Interview with Lund
Before moving on to Rev. Boissoin's reaction to the appeal, we must report on our dialogue with the plaintiff, Darren Lund, an educator at the University of Calgary. He seemed genuinely surprised to hear from us. "It is very rare-only the second time in eight years-that I've been asked my opinion by someone wishing to write against my work," he said.
Lund was cordial, but also very hard to pin down. He presented himself as a champion of "human rights" and "freedom," while at the same time saying, "Yes, I think it's the role of any government to place reasonable limits on speech." He characterized Rev. Boissoin as "a youth pastor calling for people to take ‘any steps necessary' to rid the community of gay people and their supporters"-a characterization which Justice Wilson dismissed as unreasonable, if not absurd.
Lund would not grant that Canada's "human rights" machine is "anything threatening or ominous," nor that it is heavily prejudiced against Christians.
"I believe that those hate laws, and the provincial human rights laws around hate speech, should rightly be applied equitably to anyone who violates them," he said. "I think it is false [to say] that any one group somehow has ‘unlimited free speech in Canada'... The role of the person in the community, the vulnerability of the group, the nature of the specific language or behavior, and the impact of the actions, are all taken into consideration ... Proper checks and balances ensure that rights are not violated on either side."
This sounds fair-minded and reasonable, but in fact Lund was being disingenuous-and that's putting it charitably.
We put it to Lund that the victims of the "human rights" panels are always either Christians, or persons who have somehow run afoul of one of the favored groups-Muslims, homosexuals, or feminists. "You ask why people [plaintiffs and ‘human rights' panels] seem to go after Christians, but I would re-frame the question to ask why so many people who claim to follow the most loving historical holy figure, Jesus Christ, would wish to foster hatred and violence in His name?" Lund parried.
That's not reframing the question. That's completely ignoring it-while at the same time slipping under the door a supposition that any dissent from the aims of Organized Sodomy equates to "hatred and violence."
We say the tribunals are loaded against Christians. For example:
Alberta Human Rights Commissioner Lori Andreachuk-the same commissioner who imposed illegal penalties and fines on Stephen Boissoin-in 2003 dismissed a hate speech complaint made by a Christian against a rock band calling itself "Deicide" and its song entitled, "Kill the Christian." The son featured lyrics such as these:
Kill the Christian
You are the one we despise
Day in day out your words compromise lies [sic]
I will love watching you die.
The amazing Ms. Andreachuk didn't find anything the matter with this bit of toxin. Her reason? "There is very little vulnerability of the target group," she said, while opining that it really doesn't matter what a rock band says.5
As Lund and Andreachuk see it, "hate" is only actionable when directed against a group that is "vulnerable." Homosexuals, Muslims, and feminists are "vulnerable," but Christians are not.
Who decides which groups of citizens are "vulnerable," and which groups are not?
You guessed it-the "human rights" commissioners!
What we have here is circular reasoning employed to enforce a narrow political orthodoxy. Thus, a rock group spewing hate against Christians is not deemed as having an important enough "role" to take notice of, while a small-town night club comic giving lip to tipsy lesbian hecklers must be hounded to the gates of Hell.
We repeat our charge: in Canada to this day, no hate speech action has ever been taken against a homosexual activist, a Muslim, or a feminist, no matter how extravagant their expressions of hatred may be. Darren Lund knows this, and takes refuge in hypocrisy.
Boissoin Won't Give Up
Stephen Boissoin has vowed never to pay a fine to Lund, never to apologize, never to recant. Meanwhile, eight years of fighting for his rights has begun to tell on him.
"I feel a very heavy weight upon me at the moment," he said, "and a strain around my eyes that I have rarely experienced."
"As many of you know," he wrote in March, "yesterday I was informed that Lund has appealed the recent ruling that vindicated me and released me from the bondage that this eight-year human rights crusade has inflicted on me for a 2002 letter to the editor. Even my own two children have had to share the burdens that the case has inflicted on me."
"This could go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada," he told Chalcedon. "Am I willing to go that far? Yes, I am. Christians have to be willing to take risks. You have to have the courage to say, ‘I'm not going to be told what I can say.'"
The case has disrupted Boissoin's life to the point where it's difficult for him to hold a full-time job. He divides his time now between a part-time sales job and being a Sundays-only part-time pastor at his church.
For several years after his ordeal began, he maintained a website and a blog wherein he defied the "human rights" tribunal by continuing to comment on social issues.
"I kept airing my views publicly, and nothing happened," he said. "But I needed a break, and I desired one, so I've let the blog lapse. I'm not burned out, though. If challenged to speak, I will speak confidently."
Lund, he said, has "stated that I need to be re-educated," and he sees no prospect for reconciliation with the plaintiff. "Lund is an authoritarian-he believes I don't have a right to hold the opinion that I hold. Even if he loses in a higher court, he's still dragged me through this process for eight years."
Meanwhile, the government minister responsible for the Alberta Human Rights Commission has said Boissoin's case should never have been brought before the commission.
The commission "is not there to mediate hurt feelings," Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett said. "If it's hateful, then that's a hate crime. And that's something for the Crown attorneys and the police to investigate."6
"Our freedom of speech has been taken for granted," Rev. Boissoin said, "attacked and abused. But I think there's going to be a turnaround.
"The problem lies with the laws of our land. They need to be changed to protect others from this horrible abuse. Anyone can file an accusation of hate or prejudice to a human rights commission, and the process then becomes the punishment regardless of the ruling. My prayer and hope is that the Appeals Court smacks this down and stands behind Justice Wilson's ruling. Please pray to end this."
Why should Christians everywhere pay attention to this ongoing story in Alberta?
"If it happens to you," Rev. Boissoin said, "you have to hold out. There is no other alternative for a convicted Christian."
Under Canada's "human rights" laws, the government pays 100% of the plaintiff's legal costs, while the defendant must pay for 100% of his own costs. So far the defense of Rev. Boissoin has cost more than $200,000-money that had to be donated by Christian legal foundations, and by fund-raising events. Justice Wilson did not award him damages.
"I think I'm entitled to some significant compensation for what they've done to me," Rev. Boissoin said. "But I put my trust in God."
The Abolition of Man
"[E]ither a structure exists in being, in the universe, or else a structure must be given to it or evolve from it in terms of a human order," R. J. Rushdoony wrote. "This logos or true order of being is the state as guided by philosopher-kings or social engineers, by the elite, in whom the logos of being is realized ... The practical consequence of all this will be the abolition of man by the state in the name of Man."7
Statists have grown more subtle since Lenin used to ship dissidents off to gulags on Novaya Zemlya, north of the Arctic Circle. Tyranny today wears a smiley face: everything it does is for our own good, and toward the building of a better world.
To this end our own federal government has recently proposed, or enacted, laws for universal health care, universal college education, micro-managing the nonexistent "global climate," granting blanket amnesty and fast-track citizenship to tens of millions of illegal aliens, and doing away with childhood obesity by "making" children eat more fruits and vegetables.8 But these are only details in a broader plan for "social justice" in which the power of the state will be exercised to erase economic and social "inequality" of every kind.
The fact that none of these programs ever, ever achieves its objective seems not to trouble anyone in Washington. The trillions of dollars that go up in smoke-minus the billions that stick to the fingers of government personnel-also seem to make no impression. Then again, it's not their money.
Canada is farther down this path than we are. Canada has embarked on the business of regulating human emotions, with an eye toward state regulation of human relationships at every level.
We have reported on this regularly for years, because we reject with all our being the satanic claim that "ye shall be as gods, knowing [that is, determining for yourselves] good and evil" (Genesis 3:5)-and its modern version, as uttered by Woodrow Wilson, "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."9
How does this-all for man's own good-abolish man?
In many ways: by taking away his liberty, and taking away his private property, by which he exercises freedom; by telling him what he can or cannot say, and ultimately what emotions he can or cannot feel; by authorizing the state to make decisions for him; by encouraging all kinds of fornication to the point where the family is dissolved; by undermining his religious faith by means of mockery, "educating" his children not to believe, and by persecution. Take away all these from a man, and there is no man left.
One last question remains to be asked: why do the Darren Lunds and Lori Andreachuks of Canada find it necessary to crush Stephen Boissoin?
In Canada, as in all the Western countries these days, the statist Left holds all the cards. They can push any law they please through the legislature, and have the judiciary uphold it, even in the face of strongly adverse public opinion. They control the public schools and colleges. The news and "entertainment" media slavishly promote the Left's agenda. Banks and corporations fund "gay pride" parades and the electoral campaigns of statist politicians. Even some churches collaborate with them.
And yet with all this going for them, a single letter to the editor by an obscure youth pastor in Alberta activates the "human rights" inquisition. You'd think, with all the power and prestige that they enjoy, that they could afford simply to ignore Boissoin. He has no power to turn back the tide on them.
What are they so afraid of?
Maybe it's not Stephen Boissoin they fear, but the all-knowing and all-powerful God he serves. Even as they deny God publicly, they know they stand in danger of His judgment. Their disproportionately aggressive response to even the most trifling opposition reveals a deep-seated fear.
Maybe in their hearts they know land dread the writing on the wall: "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it" (Dan. 5:26).
7. R. J. Rushdoony, Politics of Guilt and Pity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  1995), 345, 356.
- 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.