Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More Canadian Free Speech Problems

I am really getting fed up with this notion that many of our allies have that someone else’s criticism or disagreement violates their human rights. The latest example is from Canada, again, where a city councilman from Kamloops, British Columbia has been fined $1000 for refusing to support a gay pride rally and for criticizing homosexuality:

A Catholic city councillor in Kamloops, British Columbia, who was himself the victim of the crime of vandalism due to his faith, has been forced to apologize and pay a homosexual activist couple $1000. The couple filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal which was accepted and was to go to the hearing stage…

In August, homosexual activist couple John Olynick and Greg Koll filed a complaint against DeCicco with the human rights commission over remarks he made at the council meeting and repeated in media interviews. In line with Catholic teaching on the matter, he described homosexual acts as “not normal and not natural.”


Now, DeCicco looks to me to be a first class ignoramus and his views are idiotic. But that has no relevance at all. He has a right to hold and express his opinion and the notion that a “human rights commission” would think that they have the legitimate authority to fine someone for expressing their opinion, no matter how offensive others may find it, is ridiculous. No one – let me repeat that, no one – has any right not to be offended by the opinions of others. This is not a preservation of human rights, it is a violation of them.

I’ve not been able to confirm the details of this from a regular media source, but I’d still be surprised if they’re inaccurate. This isn’t the first time this has happened with Canada’s “human rights” commissions. But if any Canadian reader has any other source for the details, I’d appreciate seeing them. It’s conceivable that there may be some details left out, but I doubt there’s anything seriously contrary to the story.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave S.
    January 29, 2007

    From Kamloopsthisweek.com:

    Jan 19 2007

    Kamloops city council has agreed to foot the $10,000 legal bill Coun. John De Cicco incurred during a human-rights tribunal after likening homosexuality to a disease.

    However, the settlement portion of the agreement — which De Cicco described as “minimal” — will be paid by the veteran councillor.

    “I’m glad it’s over and it’s a done deal,” De Cicco said, noting that the very public affair has been a “burden on myself, my wife and my business.”

    In a public apology, De Cicco wrote that “I acknowledge that the community of Kamloops is made up of a diverse population, all of whom need to be treated with dignity and respect as equal contributing members of our society.

    “I recognize that my previous comments with respects to gays and lesbians were inappropriate and hurtful to some.

    “For that I am truly sorry.”

    Mayor Terry Lake said he is glad the affair is over, noting he had concerns Kamloops’ reputation would be tarnished.

    “The city needed to put this behind it,” he said.

    Personally, I think it’s the reputation of Canadian law that’s tarnished by persuing this in the first place. His beliefs may be ignorant and reprehensible, but that’s no reason to haul him into court.

    And a related lifesite story:

    “Homophobia Die” Scrawled on Door of City Councillor Who Opposed Gay Pride

    By John-Henry Westen

    KAMLOOPS, BC, June 16, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The cry for tolerance for homosexuality has quickly evolved into intolerance for those who object to homosexuality. Kamloops city councillor John DeCicco, first elected in 1999, has consistently opposed the homosexual pride proclamation. But after opposing the measure again this year his barber shop was vandalized with “Homophobia Die” scrawled on the door of his business.

    After waiting for him to finish a haircut for one of his clients, LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Mr. DeCicco, an Italian immigrant who came to Canada at the young age of 15 and is fiercely proud of the country he now calls home. “In this great nation of ours,” he says, “we can express our opinions and when you can’t there’s something wrong.”

    DeCicco is very much a community man, playing a very active role in the local Knights of Columbus. Of his opposition to gay pride, he said “I’m not against lesbian and gay people, but I don’t agree that I should have to endorse it.” He also said that people can do what they like in the privacy of their own homes, but, he said in reference to gay pride parades, they shouldn’t “go out and flaunt it, in front of people who don’t necessarily agree.”

    All eight other city council members voted in favour of the gay pride proclamation. Some of the members reacted with disdain when DeCicco commented on television about his decision to object to the proclamation. In line with Catholic teaching on the matter, he described homosexual acts as “not normal and not natural.”

    DeCicco said police were not called about the incident but he believed the city would be looking into that.

    The Knight/baber/city councillor told LifeSiteNews.com that since the story of the vandalism to his shop was covered by local media, he has “been inundated with phone calls and emails” which he described as “eighty-five per cent supportive.” He noted however there were some very nasty letters opposing his stand. One, he recalled, stated “I hope you rot in Hell.”

  2. #2 Prup aka Jim Benton
    January 29, 2007

    Because of our differences over the ‘t-shirt’ issue, I have to say loudly that this is something we agree on 100%. This truly is an expression of opinion rather than a deliberate provocation, and I would even contribute to paying his fine were I in a position to do so.
    Yes, he’s an idiot, but we’d all have fines to pay if THAT were legally punishable.

  3. #3 Miguelito
    January 29, 2007

    I’m a Canadian and I think the law is stupid. My research offends creationists. Can I be fined for publishing my work?

  4. #4 Bob Smith
    January 29, 2007

    Um, according to the story, the councillor wasn’t fined anything. The parties settled the matter, the Human Rights Tribunal did not rule on this matter.

  5. #5 Pro Canadian
    January 29, 2007

    Canadians do not bow to Yankee Imperialists.

    Typical imperialist, trying to tell us whats wrong with our own country when yours is so fucked up.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007

    Pro Canadian wrote:

    Canadians do not bow to Yankee Imperialists.

    Typical imperialist, trying to tell us whats wrong with our own country when yours is so fucked up.

    Feel free to come back when you want to actually address the issue raised in the post. This is all just a typical kneejerk reaction to avoid addressing the issue.

  7. #7 Raging Bee
    January 29, 2007

    Typical imperialist, trying to tell us whats wrong with our own country when yours is so fucked up.

    And this is a typical reaction of anti-democratic interest-groups all over the world whenever they’re critized by Americans — including Ferdinand Marcos, Kim Jong Il, Jim Jones, the Red Brigades, and Osama bin Laden.

  8. #8 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    This kind of thing embarrasses me. Sometimes I feel like my country is slowly adopting the worst parts of Europe. The draconian anti-offensive speech laws are utterly ridiculous. I’m of the opinion that we should let the idiots say what they want. By fining them and jailing them (like they do in Europe for Holocaust denial), we make them the victim and we lend credibility to their pathetic rantings.

    The people who went to the human rights commission come out looking even more pathetic then the guy who got fined. Why do people think they have a right to not be offended? Why do we pretend that they are right to think that?

  9. #9 Lothaire
    January 29, 2007

    I’ve gotta disagree here. This wasn’t a free speech issue – it was a discrimination issue.

    It’s quite alright for the councilor to say what he wants, and proclaim his own personal opinion. However, in this case he used his position as a city councilor to prevent a minority group from hosting an event (in this case a gay pride parade) apparently solely on the basis of his intolerance towards that group. That’s discrimination, and he deserves the fine.

  10. #10 Jason I.
    January 29, 2007

    Lothaire said:

    However, in this case he used his position as a city councilor to prevent a minority group from hosting an event (in this case a gay pride parade) apparently solely on the basis of his intolerance towards that group. That’s discrimination, and he deserves the fine.

    No, he opposed the event, he didn’t prevent it.

    From Dave S.:

    All eight other city council members voted in favour of the gay pride proclamation.

    He expressed on opinion, and in no way did that opinion result in the prevention of the event. And even if it had, it still would’ve required at least 4 (I’m guessing) other city council members to agree with him.

  11. #11 TomMil
    January 29, 2007

    There is one aspect to this that no one is mentioning and that is, how are we going to identify the morons and bigots if moronic and bigotted statements are not allowed?

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007

    Lothaire wrote:

    It’s quite alright for the councilor to say what he wants, and proclaim his own personal opinion. However, in this case he used his position as a city councilor to prevent a minority group from hosting an event (in this case a gay pride parade) apparently solely on the basis of his intolerance towards that group. That’s discrimination, and he deserves the fine.

    Absolute nonsense. He was elected to the city council and he cast a vote. You may not like that vote (I certainly don’t), but casting a vote is not discrimination, nor is expressing the reason why you cast it. The government has no authority to fine someone for their opinions – period, end of discussion.

  13. #13 CPT_Doom
    January 29, 2007

    Although I wholeheartedly agree with Ed that such a fine for an opinion – as bigoted, insensitive and stupid as it was – is ridiculous. I don’t believe, however, that a city official can completely escape repercussions for his statements, particularly when he goes out of his way to offend people who pay his salary (assuming this is a salaried position). Statements such as “The cry for tolerance for homosexuality has quickly evolved into intolerance for those who object to homosexuality” imply that gay and lesbian people should accept as a mere “difference of opinion” the idea that we should not exist – and that we have no right to the respect and acknowledgement of our governments, and that is simply wrong.

    Mr. DeCicco has every right to believe that gays and lesbians are immoral for violating his “church’s” teachings, and he has every right to think that gay and lesbian sex is icky. However, when he declares that people with whom he shares religious differences should be kept in their homes and silent because it offends him, that is the equivalent of saying that a Jewish celebration should not happen in public, or an Italian heritage celebration, for that matter, because certain people don’t want those with mafia ties marching down the streets (and yes, I realize I am using a huge stereotype here – that’s the point). Although I don’t believe that government has a right to fine him, I believe his fellow citizens have every right to treat him with the contempt he so rightfully deserves. Vandalism is not right, but a boycott of his establishment, or a demand that he step down from office, are completely appropriate responses, and come from the appropriate arena.

  14. #14 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    The reprecussions should be felt at the next election. We shouldn’t be turning him and his fellow idiots into martyrs. It only strengthens their cause and turns people like me into their defenders. I support gay rights, but if you ask me to side with this man or the people who went to the human rights courts, I’m siding with him. The same thing applies when we have so much public debate about deporting holocaust deniers, or in the case of Europe, jailing them.

    As much as I detest the things they say, I’ll be on their side to say them. And so should anybody who cares about freedom. Freedom of speech is the first ammendment for a reason. The ability to say and think and believe what you want, despite the sensitivities of others is the hallmark of a free society. And I’m sad to see my country abandoning that with idiotic cases like this.

  15. #15 doctorgoo
    January 29, 2007

    I support his (despicable) free speech for many reasons. But one that hasn’t been mentioned yet is this:

    I would prefer him to state the reasons why he voted the way he did. This way, people can know who he is and remember not to reelect him to the city council in the future. If he had just voted his dissent on that measure without expressing his reasons why, it might more easily have slipped by under the radar, thus resulting in a bigotted polititian remaining in office.

  16. #16 Kevin
    January 29, 2007

    Exactly doctargoo. The more these people talk, the less likely they are to be treated seriously and then to be re-elected. They will have their views ridiculed and people who hold similar views may decide to re-evaluate their beliefs. But fines and prison only help them think they are right.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007

    CPT_doom wrote:

    Although I wholeheartedly agree with Ed that such a fine for an opinion – as bigoted, insensitive and stupid as it was – is ridiculous. I don’t believe, however, that a city official can completely escape repercussions for his statements, particularly when he goes out of his way to offend people who pay his salary (assuming this is a salaried position). Statements such as “The cry for tolerance for homosexuality has quickly evolved into intolerance for those who object to homosexuality” imply that gay and lesbian people should accept as a mere “difference of opinion” the idea that we should not exist – and that we have no right to the respect and acknowledgement of our governments, and that is simply wrong.

    Of course he shouldn’t “completely escape repercussions”; the idiot should be voted out of office. But that’s all that should happen to him.

  18. #18 Jason
    January 29, 2007

    Ed – The human rights commission in Canada is relatively unique. By saying “that’s all that should happen to him”, you are showing you don’t really know much about how the Canadian government is organized or regulated. In America, that job is often done by the courts. If a government agency discriminates illegally, the courts will punish the government and correct the discrimination. In Canada, that job is shared by the courts and by agencies like the HRC.

    If the head of a government agency in America said, “I’ll never hire a nigger for this office no matter what anyone says”, a court could fine that agency money or force them to change their policy. In Canada, that job does not exclusively belong the courts and the immunity from personal liability is greatly reduced.

    In short, when he took office, the counsellor swore he would abide by the law and then he blatantly refused to.

  19. #19 Robis
    January 29, 2007

    Well I did a search around the net and was quick to see a pattern with the story you reference, Ed. That story seems to appear exclusively on Conservative Christian and Freeper sites–which should make anyone dismiss it out of hand based upon the tendency of such stories to be a gross exaggeration if not a downright lie. I did find one story that seems to treat the incident with some balance at kamloopsnews.ca. (I couldn’t figure out how to get the actual URL for the story in question–either I’m too stupid to figure it out, I think. )

    First, DeCicco is not being forced to pay a $1000 fine. The fine is part of a settlement he agreed to in order to avoid a full tribunal. The other part of the settlement is the apology that he offered for the remarks that he made. In short, he plea bargained to avoid a tribunal. That’s a fairly minor point but one I think points out the subtle way the story is spun to make it look as if DeCicco is a victim here. He isn’t; had he wanted to, he could very well have allowed the tribunal to proceed.

    Had he allowed the tribunal to proceed, it is quite possible that the complaint would have been found without merit. Under Human Rights Code RSBC 1996, c 210, section 7, the definition of Discriminatory Publication requires that two conditions be met: 1) discrimination or the intent to discriminate and 2) the action must be “likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt”. Further, the code does not apply to private communication or to communication intended to be private. Surely he meant to discriminate against a class of people (his comments were made to justify his vote to deny equal access to gay people) and his communication was not private (he said it in a TV interview). But his comments probably were not likely to expose anyone to hatred or contempt. We will never actually know, though, since DeCecco settled.

    I mention specifically the conditions that must be met for such a complaint to be found to have merit because it is not any more egregiously restrictive than libel laws here in the states. It isn’t a case of DeCecco being dragged off to jail because of what he said; instead it’s a civil case akin to filing suit for libel or slander. Would anyone here criticize the US for not valuing free speech because libel is a crime here? Of course not; free speech has its limits. The fact that BC has a different view of what speech is damaging than the US does not mean that their view is unreasonable or somehow inferior to ours, nor does it mean that Canada does not value free speech.

    So I have three points here which I think is important. The first one is that regardless of the spin around this story, DeCicco’s right to free speech was not violated. The law does not unduly place restrictions upon him, at least not any more restrictions than are placed on other kinds of speech that we never question. The second one is that DeCicco was not penalized by the law for his speech; rather he chose to accept an agreement rather than stand before a full tribunal. And my third point is that any time you see a story on a Conservative Christian site, it is safe to assume that the real story is not as simple as the story they tell.

  20. #20 Bob Smith
    January 29, 2007

    The councillor was not fined.

    The Human Rights Tribunal did not rule on this matter.

    Two people filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.

    Rather than litigating the matter or seeking to have the matter dismissed the councillor and the complaints voluntarily settled the matter.

    There was no government action.

  21. #21 Ed Brayton
    January 29, 2007

    Robis wrote:

    Well I did a search around the net and was quick to see a pattern with the story you reference, Ed. That story seems to appear exclusively on Conservative Christian and Freeper sites–which should make anyone dismiss it out of hand based upon the tendency of such stories to be a gross exaggeration if not a downright lie. I did find one story that seems to treat the incident with some balance at kamloopsnews.ca.

    This is an illogical statement. I did the same search you did and also noticed that the story was mostly being covered by conservative Christian webpages. But the notion that one should therefore “dismiss it out of hand” is ridiculous, every bit as ridiculous as when a conservative Christian automatically dismisses stories in the media out of hand because the news media is liberal. I also found the story on kamloopsnews.ca, and it confirmed all of the facts that you cite, all of which were also present in the lifesite story that was copied on so many conservative webpages. All of those pages included every fact you cite, all of which I was well aware of, but they added their editorial comment that what happened was unjust; they are correct in that view.

    First, DeCicco is not being forced to pay a $1000 fine. The fine is part of a settlement he agreed to in order to avoid a full tribunal. The other part of the settlement is the apology that he offered for the remarks that he made. In short, he plea bargained to avoid a tribunal. That’s a fairly minor point but one I think points out the subtle way the story is spun to make it look as if DeCicco is a victim here. He isn’t; had he wanted to, he could very well have allowed the tribunal to proceed.

    This is completely irrelevant to my position. He is a victim, of a law that should not exist, and the fact that he chose to settle the case rather than carry out a long fight does not diminish my argument in the slightest. Even if he had chosen to go forward with the tribunal hearing and been absolved of all responsibility, that would not make the law any more just nor would it make him any less a victim of those laws. I think you’re being blinded by the fact that you find what he said to be vile. If someone advocated something you agreed with and was charged under such a law, even if they were ultimately absolved of it, you would still be justifiably angry that the government would presume to decide which opinions are okay to express and which are not.

    Had he allowed the tribunal to proceed, it is quite possible that the complaint would have been found without merit. Under Human Rights Code RSBC 1996, c 210, section 7, the definition of Discriminatory Publication requires that two conditions be met: 1) discrimination or the intent to discriminate and 2) the action must be “likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt”. Further, the code does not apply to private communication or to communication intended to be private. Surely he meant to discriminate against a class of people (his comments were made to justify his vote to deny equal access to gay people) and his communication was not private (he said it in a TV interview). But his comments probably were not likely to expose anyone to hatred or contempt. We will never actually know, though, since DeCecco settled.

    You have pinpointed precisely why such a law is inherently unjust. It’s one thing to make discrimination against the law; it is quite another to make advocacy of discrimination against the law. And the distinction between private and public communications couldn’t possibly be any more irrelevant. One has the right to express their opinion, period; whether they do so on the phone to a friend or on TV in front of an audience makes no difference whatsoever. Again, if this situation was changed only in terms of the target of the criticism, I think it’s highly unlikely that you would be making the arguments you’re making. If someone went on TV and said that Christianity is a stupid religion and that the council should not issue a proclamation honoring the area’s Christian heritage – a nearly exact analogy, since the issue on which he spoke out was whether the city council should issue a proclamation of support for gay rights – would you be saying this? I doubt it. Yet it fits the law in precisely the same way. The content of the speech is irrelevant; the very notion that the government can decide which expressions of opinion are allowed and which are not is unjust and tyrannical.

    I mention specifically the conditions that must be met for such a complaint to be found to have merit because it is not any more egregiously restrictive than libel laws here in the states.

    Absolutely false. The libel laws here in the states are notoriously difficult to make stick and that is by design. In a libel or slander case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knowingly spread false information with the intent to defame them (all of those criteria must be met, which is extraordinarily difficult to do. That’s why the National Enquirer rarely loses a libel suit despite publishing lies constantly). That isn’t even in the ballpark of a law that punishes people for the expression of a subjective opinion; it’s a completely different situation.

    The bottom line is that this man expressed his opinion that homosexuality is nor normal. As wrong as we both think he is, no government has the legitimate authority to punish such speech, nor does any other person have any cause for demanding that he be compelled to apologize or give them money. No one has the right not to hear that someone else disapproves of them. No one has the right to demand that anyone who disapproves of them give up their freedom to express such disapproval.

  22. #22 James
    January 30, 2007

    Plus I don’t beleive defamation against groups is actionable.

    The most disturbing aspect of this for me is that a politician was censured by law (and yes a settlement counts) for engaging in legitimate (if odious) political speech. Only the electorate has that right. For those who support this action, remeber that maybe in the future some of your beliefs may be designated as offensive and be punishable by law. Pray that day never comes.

    I’d say Voltaire must be turing in his grave, but he’s been doing that for decades.

  23. #23 Raging Bee
    January 31, 2007

    Robis: The problem I see in all this is your second qualification:

    …2) the action must be “likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt”.

    In the US, such a clause would have been struck down as “unconstitutionally vague:” the concept of “exposing” someone to hatred or contempt is simply too poorly defined. If I make a critical comment about someone, however mild, I am “exposing” him/her to contempt, by creating, or contributing to, an atmosphere in which others feel freer to join me in bad-mouthing the same person. Surely you must have seen this principle in action — one person says something uncharitable about a boss or mutual acquaintance, and others immediately light up and join in with more negative observations about the person. Would the Canadian HRC consider all such conversations actionable?

    Also, there’s a major problem with your comparing this to US slander/libel laws: the latter only apply to statements that are found to be: false, in reckless disregard for the truth, intended to cause harm, and — perhaps most important — actually causing harm. The last clause pretty much rules out any criticism of whole groups, unless specific individuals in said group can show that they were harmed in some specific way.

    Furthermore, the distinction between a fine and a settlement is not all that meaningful: if there had been no threat of a fine or other punishment, there would have been no need for a settlement.

    If the head of a government agency in America said, “I’ll never hire a nigger for this office no matter what anyone says”, a court could fine that agency money or force them to change their policy.

    Only if the words were backed up with an actual, provable, policy of discrimination; in which case the courts would rule against the policy, not the words. It would be the President’s job to fire the guy for the words; and chances are, the public outrage would force him to do just that, policy or no policy.

  24. #24 Robis
    January 31, 2007

    [i]This is an illogical statement. I did the same search you did and also noticed that the story was mostly being covered by conservative Christian webpages. But the notion that one should therefore “dismiss it out of hand” is ridiculous, every bit as ridiculous as when a conservative Christian automatically dismisses stories in the media out of hand because the news media is liberal. I also found the story on kamloopsnews.ca, and it confirmed all of the facts that you cite, all of which were also present in the lifesite story that was copied on so many conservative webpages. All of those pages included every fact you cite, all of which I was well aware of, but they added their editorial comment that what happened was unjust; they are correct in that view.[/i]

    If you found the story in the Kamloops News, why would you choose the Lifesight if you were aware of the KW story? You stated, “I’ve not been able to confirm the details of this from a regular media source.” So did you find the KW story or didn’t you? And if the story in the Kamloops News gave more details (which it certainly does, since all the extra details I provided came from that story), why would you go with a source biased by editorial comment? Or do you think that it is OK to use biased sources when you agree with the bias?
    Neither is it illogical to dismiss such stories out of hand when they appear exclusively as a website story on sites designed to promote a particular extreme political view and when those sites are historically less than truthful. Such stories are not news stories, they are propaganda pieces disguised as journalism. I’m quite sure you recognize the difference, and I doubt that you’d defend such a story in any other context.
    Regardless of your bias, it’s not a reliable source, and should be dismissed out of hand.
    Further, the story in Lifesite has at least one very important detail that is less than truthful. They state that he “has been forced to apologize and pay a homosexual activist couple $1000″. He hasn’t been forced to apologize nor has he been forced to pay any fine. He settled. He CHOSE to apologize and pay the fine rather than continue on. That alone makes the story untruthful. Add to that the details missing from the story (such as details on the actual statute and that it is an issue of civil law) and the mention of the vandalism as if it were relevant to the civil case and you have a story that is so biased as to be useless. It creates the impression that DeCicco is the victim of religious persecution, which he is not.

    [i]This is completely irrelevant to my position. He is a victim, of a law that should not exist, and the fact that he chose to settle the case rather than carry out a long fight does not diminish my argument in the slightest. Even if he had chosen to go forward with the tribunal hearing and been absolved of all responsibility, that would not make the law any more just nor would it make him any less a victim of those laws. I think you’re being blinded by the fact that you find what he said to be vile. If someone advocated something you agreed with and was charged under such a law, even if they were ultimately absolved of it, you would still be justifiably angry that the government would presume to decide which opinions are okay to express and which are not.[/i]
    That the law should not exist is merely your opinion, and one that seems to be based more on the way the US government approaches the right to free speech and less to do with the way the Canadian government approaches it. Canada is not the 51st state and really has no obligation to approach the issue we do. DeCicco is not a victim any more than anyone else is when they are sued in civil court. The function of a civil law is to give people a venue for redress when they feel that they have been unfairly treated within the limits of the law. That he chose to settle is relevant because he wasn’t being punished nor was he being persecuted for his religious view, as the Lifesight story implies. He was not forced to do anything. He chose to pay the fine and he chose to give the apology. The law never even came into play because he never even went to court. You can’t be a victim of a law if the law hasn’t even come into play.

    Also, I’m not blinded by the fact that I find what DeCicco said vile because I don’t really find it to be all that vile. I don’t really think the plaintiffs had much of a case because I don’t think DeCicco said anything that was all that outrageous. I think it is rather unfair of you to make assumptions about my motives since I really haven’t given any information that implies that I disagree with DeCicco’s comments. All I’ve talked about was the law itself. Do I think that the Canadian government should have the right to decide which opinions are okay to express and which are not? Generally no. But the statute in question does not place much restriction on expressing any opinion. I think the statute places enough conditions on the plaintiffs proof of claim that it would be quite hard to sue someone under the statute.

    This is backed up historically, since the statute has only been invoked four times and of those four, only two were found to have merit–meaning that in those two cases, the plaintiffs were able to prove actual damages resulting from the actions of the defendant. The very fact that the plaintiffs have to prove damages makes it unlikely that the law creates an undue restriction on the freedom to express one’s opinion. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill here, Ed.

    [i]You have pinpointed precisely why such a law is inherently unjust. It’s one thing to make discrimination against the law; it is quite another to make advocacy of discrimination against the law. And the distinction between private and public communications couldn’t possibly be any more irrelevant. One has the right to express their opinion, period; whether they do so on the phone to a friend or on TV in front of an audience makes no difference whatsoever. Again, if this situation was changed only in terms of the target of the criticism, I think it’s highly unlikely that you would be making the arguments you’re making. If someone went on TV and said that Christianity is a stupid religion and that the council should not issue a proclamation honoring the area’s Christian heritage – a nearly exact analogy, since the issue on which he spoke out was whether the city council should issue a proclamation of support for gay rights – would you be saying this? I doubt it. Yet it fits the law in precisely the same way. The content of the speech is irrelevant; the very notion that the government can decide which expressions of opinion are allowed and which are not is unjust and tyrannical.[/i]
    Actually, in the United States, one has the right to express their opinion, as detailed in our First Amendment. And even in the United States that right to express our opinion is limited–contrary to your assertion that we have “the right to express their opinion, period.” You recognize that there are conditions when we don’t have the right to express our opinions, most notably when those opinions are libelous. Obviously there are situations in the US when our right to express our opinions are indeed limited.

    Further, the statute in question does not make advocacy of discrimination against the law. Look again at the three requirements; none of them make advocacy of discrimination against the law. Instead, what they do is place limits on what type of speech is considered to be actionable under the statute–i.e., it has to be discriminatory, it has to expose people to hatred, and it has to be public.

    And if the terms of the target of criticism were changed, I would not change my view. I believe that religion is one of the protected groups in Canada. That means that they have as much right to pursue a suit (and, if the incident meets the three requirements, win) under the statute. In fact, I think if the cops catch the people who vandalized DeCicco’s shop, I think DeCicco could file suit against them under the same statute and would have a stronger case than Olynick and Koll has against him. He can show that the words spray painted on his shop fit all three categories. And I don’t think the law would be any more unjust if he did.

    [i]Absolutely false. The libel laws here in the states are notoriously difficult to make stick and that is by design. In a libel or slander case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knowingly spread false information with the intent to defame them (all of those criteria must be met, which is extraordinarily difficult to do. That’s why the National Enquirer rarely loses a libel suit despite publishing lies constantly). That isn’t even in the ballpark of a law that punishes people for the expression of a subjective opinion; it’s a completely different situation. [/i]

    I use libel because there are some direct parallels between libel and this statute. First, both are limits on speech (you know, that free speech that you say we all have a right to, period). Both are pursued through civil suit. Both have requirements that make it difficult to stick. And libel suits can be used against expressions of personal opinion in some cases. So please do elaborate how they are so different.

    And the statute does not punish people for the expression of a subjective opinion. DeCicco was not arrested and thrown in jail. He didn’t go before a judge and have to plead guilty or not guilty. He didn’t go through sentencing. The fine he paid and the apology he issued were by his own agreement and by his settlement and was not imposed by any tribunal. Had he gone through the tribunal and had the plaintiff’s case had been found to have merit, the most likely judgment would have been for DeCicco to pay restitution to the plaintiffs, meaning that the plaintiffs would have the further burden of proving that DeCicco’s speech caused them monetary damage.

    Ed, I respect your opinion on most things, but you are just simply wrong on this. You are wrong because you used a prorpaganda piece over an objective nems story. You are wrong because you insist on conflating this to a violation of human rights when it is just simply a civil suit, the same kind of civil suit that goes on here in our own country every day. And you are wrong to accuse me of disagreeing with you because of a personal bias when the only personal bias seems to be yours.

  25. #25 Ed Brayton
    January 31, 2007

    Robis wrote:

    If you found the story in the Kamloops News, why would you choose the Lifesight if you were aware of the KW story? You stated, “I’ve not been able to confirm the details of this from a regular media source.” So did you find the KW story or didn’t you? And if the story in the Kamloops News gave more details (which it certainly does, since all the extra details I provided came from that story), why would you go with a source biased by editorial comment? Or do you think that it is OK to use biased sources when you agree with the bias?

    There were no factual issues that I recall that were in the Kamloops News story that were not in the Lifesite story. I only wondered if there were other facts that were left out of both that might change the story a bit; none have been forthcoming. You and I both have the same set of facts; the difference is that the conclusions you draw from them is absurd and mine is not.

    That the law should not exist is merely your opinion, and one that seems to be based more on the way the US government approaches the right to free speech and less to do with the way the Canadian government approaches it. Canada is not the 51st state and really has no obligation to approach the issue we do.

    God, this is a stupid argument. It has nothing to do with the which country handles the situation correctly, it matters what is the correct way to handle it. My argument is based upon principle and has absolutely nothing to do with national bias; if my government violated that principle, I would be saying the exact same thing I’m saying now, that the law is unjust. In fact, my government often does violate that principle and I often do say that such laws are unjust. I couldn’t possibly care any less about national borders, I care about principle. The government of Canada, like all governments, has a moral obligation to protect freedom of speech; if it chooses not to do so, I will condemn it. And the same is true of my government. It is the moral principle that matters, not the coincidental issue of whether it’s my government or another government that violates that principle. Funny, if I condemn the government of Iran for hanging gay people, no one says, “Iran is not the 51st state and they have no obligation to approach the issue as we do.” If you disagree with my argument on principle, then by all means say that; couching it in terms of cultural relativism is just plain stupid.

    DeCicco is not a victim any more than anyone else is when they are sued in civil court. The function of a civil law is to give people a venue for redress when they feel that they have been unfairly treated within the limits of the law. That he chose to settle is relevant because he wasn’t being punished nor was he being persecuted for his religious view, as the Lifesight story implies. He was not forced to do anything. He chose to pay the fine and he chose to give the apology. The law never even came into play because he never even went to court. You can’t be a victim of a law if the law hasn’t even come into play.

    Utter nonsense. The fact that the law allows someone to be fined for nothing more than the expression of an opinion makes it unjust. Under no circumstances should he have to suffer anything other than the disapproval of others for expressing his opinion on whether homosexuality is normal or not (and I’ll happily make him suffer such disapproval; he’s an idiot and deserves condemnation as one). The fact that the law does not explicitly protect his expressions of opinion, and in fact provides a means by which other people can subject him to coercion to pay fines merely because they don’t like what he says, is unjust. Period. It really is that simple.

    Do I think that the Canadian government should have the right to decide which opinions are okay to express and which are not? Generally no. But the statute in question does not place much restriction on expressing any opinion. I think the statute places enough conditions on the plaintiffs proof of claim that it would be quite hard to sue someone under the statute.

    Of course it does. It says that if the expression of an opinion would be “likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt” and expresses an “intent to discriminate” then one can bring charges against the person expressing that opinion and subject them to coercion to actually give money to those who bring the charges. Any criticism of any person, group or belief could easily be construed as exposing them to “hatred or contempt.” And the mere statement that one does not think they should be covered under anti-discrimination legislation evinces an “intent to discriminate.” This makes nothing more than advocacy of one’s position subject to government coercion; that is unjust by any sane criteria.

    Actually, in the United States, one has the right to express their opinion, as detailed in our First Amendment. And even in the United States that right to express our opinion is limited–contrary to your assertion that we have “the right to express their opinion, period.” You recognize that there are conditions when we don’t have the right to express our opinions, most notably when those opinions are libelous. Obviously there are situations in the US when our right to express our opinions are indeed limited.

    Nonsense. Libel laws absolutely do not apply to opinions, only to false claims of fact. And even then, only to claims of fact that one knows to be false and that one utters with the intent to defame and with actual malice. And even then, the plaintiff has to prove that what was said actually damaged them in some material way. There simply is no comparison here.

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