CCLA is intervening today at the Supreme Court of Canada in Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. William Whatcott, et al. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will be arguing that section 14(1)(b) of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code—its “hate speech” provision—is unconstitutional under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it acts as an overbroad and unjustifiable limit on freedom of expression.
At the heart of this case is the reconciliation of the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion, and the equality claim of LGBT communities and their allies to be free from hateful expression. The appeal arises from the distribution of three flyers by William Whatcott in 2001 and 2002 that contained statements about homosexuality and the morality of certain types of sexual behaviour in often crude, confrontational, and polemical terms.
The CCLA has long supported the rights of members of LGBT communities through legal interventions and the assertion of LGBT equality rights. The CCLA has also vigorously defended the freedom of expression of members of LGBT communities where their expression has been challenged for being outside of the heteronormative mainstream (see, for example, Little Sisters Book Shop and Art Emporium v. Canada).
As a long-time defender of freedom of expression, the CCLA continues to believe that a mature democracy requires the least restriction on the expressive rights of its citizens. While the CCLA strongly opposes the content of William Whatcott’s flyers, the CCLA advocates a position in favour of the vigilant and principled protection of freedom of expression, including offensive statements of opinion. Indeed, the right to express an unpopular or non-mainstream opinion remains an important tool in the arsenal of equality-seeking groups.