NORTHERN EXPOSURE

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Anti-Gay Pamphlets Are Hate Speech. Defendant Fined $17,000

William WhatcottIn a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that graphic flyers distributed in Regina and Saskatoon by anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott constituted hate speech. It ordered Whatcott to pay $17,000 to four individuals who filed complaints against him.

A high-profile anti-gay activist up north, Whatcott stuffed mailboxes with flyers depicting diseases allegedly caused by gay sex.

A court of appeals had previously overturned the conviction of Whatcott, who held a Heterosexual Pride Day parade in 2001.

The Supreme Court agreed that Saskatchewan’s human-rights code went too far by outlawing speech that “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity” of groups based on race, sexual orientation or other protected classes.

But the judges upheld the ban on speech that is “likely to expose” certain groups to hatred: “[The law] appropriately balances the fundamental values underlying freedom of expression with competing Charter rights and other values essential to a free and democratic society, in this case a commitment to equality and respect for group identity and the inherent dignity owed to all human beings,” wrote Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein.

Is it a good idea to limit free speech to this extent, or could it open LGBT citizens to complaints by religious bigots? Exercise your free speech in the comments section below!