COLUMN: Levant – Time to end Alberta’s censorship law

- October 30th, 2012

Alberta Premier Alison Redford needs to make good on censorship law

by Ezra Levant

When Alison Redford was running for the leadership of Alberta’s PC party, she came on my TV show and promised to repeal the censorship provision of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

That’s the law that makes it illegal to publish anything “likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt.” In other words, it’s a thought-crime law that makes it illegal to cause hurt feelings.

That law has been a bee in my bonnet ever since I was prosecuted for 900 days for the “hate crime” of publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed.

But Redford wasn’t just pandering to me. She also answered a survey by the left-leaning Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, telling them “freedom of expression must be shielded and Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act should be repealed.”

It was a close-fought leadership race, and Redford’s promise probably gave her a boost with Albertans who care about civil liberties. But it’s a promise she hasn’t kept.

Canada is the most tolerant and harmonious country in the world. So human rights commissions have had to justify their budgets by keeping busy, becoming more extremist in their hunt for problems to “fix.”

That’s why they prosecuted me — and that’s why they went after a Christian pastor named Stephen Boissoin, for the “hate crime” of writing a letter to the editor in 2002 criticizing gay marriage. They convicted him, fined him, demanded that he publish a false apology he didn’t believe in, and gagged him with a lifetime ban against saying anything “disparaging” about gay marriage, in public or in private, in sermons or in e-mails, for the rest of his life.

Seriously. That was an order issued by an agency of the government of Alberta, whose provincial motto is “Strong and Free.”

Well, this month the Alberta Court of Appeal smashed that order to pieces, confirming what another lower court said: The human rights commission was outrageous, it violated any standards of fairness, and was generally a kangaroo court.

Except they were much more brutal in their language.

In a unanimous three-judge ruling, the court went through the censorship law, line by line, and showed it just didn’t make any sense. It was un-Canadian. It was junk legislation. For 31 pages the judges went on.

But here’s what’s so fascinating: The target of the judges’ criticism wasn’t even the kangaroo court itself. They aimed where the problem truly lies — the government that has such a disreputable law on the books. Alison Redford’s government.

Here’s what the judges said:

“Of particular concern in the area of human rights law is that a lack of clarity will cast a chill on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and religion.”

And: “This lack of clarity has resulted in this protracted litigation, to the detriment and expense of all parties.”

And an explicit call for Redford to fix things: “If the legislature thinks it appropriate to regulate speech in this area, then it is incumbent upon it to do so in a clear fashion.”

And, finally, the toughest line of all: “The citizens of this province are entitled to certainty when it comes to exercise of their fundamental rights.”

Redford should have kept her promise to voters. If her conscience isn’t enough motivation, perhaps the province’s highest court is.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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