Court of Appeal upholds ruling on Boissoin letter

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld the right of people to have opinions, and the right of newspapers to publish those opinions, even if those opinions are offensive, coarse, crude or insensitive.

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld the right of people to have opinions, and the right of newspapers to publish those opinions, even if those opinions are offensive, coarse, crude or insensitive.

On Wednesday, a panel of three judges dismissed an appeal by a former Red Deer school teacher and human rights activist who took exception to a letter published in the Red Deer Advocate on June 7, 2002.

Within the body of his letter, writer Stephen Boissoin attacks a system he calls “the homosexual machine.”

Two weeks after the letter was published, the Advocate reported that a gay teenager had been attacked.

Social Studies teacher Darren Lund then launched a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, claiming Boissoin’s rant had precipitated the attack.

While a human rights tribunal agreed with Lund’s position and awarded damages, that decision was later overturned by Justice Earl Wilson of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Lund, who left his position at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School to join the faculty at the University of Calgary, then asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to review the Court of Queen’s Bench decision.

In a judgment heard on Dec. 7, 2011, and announced on Wednesday, the panel of three judges agreed with Justice Wilson, repeating his statement that, “While the language of the letter ‘may be jarring, offensive, bewildering, puerile, nonsensical and insulting,’ it was not likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt within the meaning of the Alberta statute.”

Justice Clifton O’Brien, author of the Court of Appeal’s 31-page judgment, stated that he and the two other judges on the panel support the Advocate’s decision to publish the letter, allowing that it opened public discussion on an issue of public interest.

Joe McLaughlin, who was the newspaper’s managing editor at the time the letter was published, said in a sworn affidavit for the Queen’s Bench hearing that Boissoin’s letter did not directly target homosexuals, but that it targeted the “machine” that supports them.

“We believe that he has a right to express his views, and the Advocate has the responsibility to publish letters on issues of wide public interest,” says McLaughlin’s affidavit, parts of which are published in the Court of Appeal judgment.

O’Brien writes that a certain amount of debate must be permitted, even if some of it is offensive, “to make the general public aware that such type of thinking is present in the community and to allow for its rebuttal.”

The judgment also awards Boissoin his costs for the appeal.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Spring book sale this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians can get lost in a world of inexpensive books this… Continue reading

Central Alberta wildlife rehab facility not prepared to take orphaned bear cubs, yet

It’s been about eight years since the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was… Continue reading

Regional sewage line moving ahead despite concerns

Cost sharing among concerns of municipalities involved in Sylvan Lake-to-Red Deer sewage line

Red Deer family who lost everything in house fire begin rebuilding

Couple had moved into north-end home only two days before basement fire

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by Maxime Bernier

MONTREAL — Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by former Tory… Continue reading

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Riley Nash step up in Game 4 win over Leafs

Bruins 3 Maple Leafs 1 TORONTO — The Boston Bruins didn’t need… Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling corks B.C. vintners’ hopes for free trade of Canadian wines

VANCOUVER — The Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding interprovincial trade laws… Continue reading

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

MONTREAL — Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month