Anti-gay crusader can't distribute flyers: top court

Bill Whatcott in a 2007 file photo. (Darryl Dyck/QMI Agency)

Bill Whatcott in a 2007 file photo. (Darryl Dyck/QMI Agency)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:43 PM ET

OTTAWA - An anti-gay pamphleteer whose flyers Canada's top court ruled Wednesday crossed the line into hate speech says he won't back down from his campaign.

And the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission that fought Bill Whatcott up to the Supreme Court of Canada is calling the ruling a "vindication" for hate-speech watchdogs.  

Whatcott, a born-again Christian, is "profoundly disappointed" by the justices for upholding Saskatchewan's hate speech laws and called them "repulsive."

"They should be ashamed of themselves for coming up with a ruling like this and I certainly won't respect it," he said. "I have to follow Christ rather than socialist justices."

The highest court struck down the section of Saskatchewan's human rights code that defines hate speech as something that "ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity" of any person as too broad.

It restricted the legal definition of hatred to "those extreme manifestations of the emotion described by the words 'detestation' and 'vilification'."

In the unanimous ruling, it also upheld in part a human rights tribunal ruling against Whatcott, who distributed flyers in Regina and Saskatoon in 2001 and 2002 calling homosexuals "sodomites" and equating them with child abusers.

The court agreed some of those flyers crossed into hate speech and upheld reduced damages of some $7,500 imposed on Whatcott.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation -- an intervener in the case -- warned the ruling could have a chilling effect on free speech.

"The Supreme Court missed an excellent opportunity to rein in the power of various human rights commissions and tribunals to censor the expression of unpopular beliefs," he said.

But Don Hutchinson, with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said he's pleased the court has giving religious freedoms some leeway in the ruling.

"The court is clear that Bible passages, biblical beliefs and the principles derived from those beliefs can be legally and reasonably advanced in in public discourse," he said.

The Saskatchewan commission brought the case to the top court after losing against Whatcott in a second appeal in a Saskatchewan appellate court in 2010.

The province's court of appeal ruled Whatcott didn't breach the hate speech laws and overturned the original $17,500 in damages and a ban on distributing the flyers the human rights tribunal had imposed for the pamphlets he distributed over a decade ago.

Four people filed complaints against him at the human rights commission, arguing the flyers promoted hatred against homosexuals.

The court heard arguments in the case in October 2011.


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