Supreme Court Partially Condemns Sask. Hate Speech Prohibition

The Supreme Court of Canada has announced its ruling to uphold the provisions against hate speech in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, while also condemning a part of the code’s wording in a case prompted by circulation of flyers by a religious anti-gay activist, William Whatcott.

The court decided that majority of the code is constitutional, however, a part of the legislation is in confliction with the rights to free expression and free religion, which the court only allowed up to its reasonable limits. The court denounced the part of legislation, where it says that speech “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground.” The court alleged that these words are not sensibly associated with the objective of protecting people from hate speech. The court upheld the ban placed on speech which exposes, or tends to expose, persons or groups to hatred.

The appeal of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in court was against the verdict of overturning its original ruling against William Whatcott, who is accused of publishing and distributing four anti-gay flyers in Saskatchewan in 2001 and 2002. Almost four residents filed complaints against the act with the commission, emphasizing that flyers of Whatcott use words like “filth,” “propaganda” and “sodomy” for portraying gay relationships and the discussion of equality. Hence, it was noted that the Saskatchewan law prohibits publishing or broadcasting anything that “exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons on the basis of a prohibited ground.”

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