Friday, December 4, 2009

It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

Response to the Boissoin Judgment

I borrowed this joke from John Pacheco at Socon or Bust just now. The humour of it is something we agree on, though I have a different context for it.

A Harley biker is visiting the zoo in Calgary, Alberta when he sees a little girl leaning into the bars of the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker without hesitation runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.

A CBC reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter addressing the biker says, ‘Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.’

The Harley rider replies, ‘Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.’

The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, you know, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page… So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’

The biker replies, ‘I’m a soldier in the Canadian military and a Conservative.’

The journalist leaves. The following morning the biker buys the paper to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads, on the front page:


John Pacheco's comment was the cynical thought that the joke pretty much summed up how the media presents the news now. Although it is a journalist joke, the loss of context by the journalist and bias towards certain things was more emblematic of the approach taken by Human Rights Commissions to the alleged by somebody, and then windmill tilted by them, egregious in their eyes only, human rights sins committed by hapless members of the citizenry.

The 7 years of purgatory that Stephen Boissoin was put through by Lori Andreachuk, then Panel Chair for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but since exfiltrated to her next Government sinecure over at Alberta Health, is a good example of the above joke being more true than humorous.

As I read the various publications that have expounded on the Boissoin judgment of Justice Wilson over at the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, which qualifies as a real court in this once fair land, I have noted almost unanimous agreement that Stephen Boissoin had had his chain jerked rather forcefully and in error for lo these 7 years.

You may not be surprised to know that the lone dissenting voice I read, was that of none other than Dr. Darren Lund, who has some bias himself in that his tax free payday went south, and an ill wind might bring him a need to come up with cash to pay some or all of Mr. Boissoin's costs, which is being adjudicated separately in the real court.

He had this to say in the Winnipeg Free Press version of the Canadian Press release:

"I really think this is a step backwards for our province," he said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"In my view, the judge's ruling sets such strict standards for hate speech that this section is rendered all but unenforceable.

"I'm hopeful that Albertans hope to keep our communities inclusive and respectful for all people, but this ruling certainly offers no assistance in this regard. If the language contained in the letter does not meet the threshold of hateful, I am not certain what possibly would."

We should all be so lucky if in fact the judge set strict standards for hate speech that make the offending legislation all but unenforceable. Alas, I think it is not so.

I didn't really expect Dr. Lund to say that he had been in error, and wished Stephen Boissoin well, and that all is forgiven. Contrite is not his style, it would appear. Along the way, he had been sued by Stephen and his then lawyer, one Ezra Levant, of free speech fame, when he went and allegedly shot his mouth off about Mr. Boissoin for all to see and hear. He said that defending that suit, which was dropped by Mr. B. and his legal counsel Gerry Chipeur, had cost him $30,000 and seemed to conclude that that was why he should be justified in getting the blood money from the original Alberta HRC Panel decision.

Of greater concern to me is that he is moulding the minds of students in the Faculty of Education at the U of Calgary.

Of course, it was curious to note during the original Alberta HRC case that the not so good doctor was unable to garner support for his human rights complaint from EGALE, the gay lobby group who said they despised what Stephen Boissoin had said, but agreed that he must have a right to say such things, in order to protect the right of gay people to speak their piece as well.

So, once again I was surprised today to read over at, which claims that it is "Where Queers Conspire", that they supported the judgment issued yesterday, though they deplored THE LETTER.

They quoted Justice Wilson in his multi adjectival flaying of THE LETTER here:

"That the language [of Boissoin's letter] may be jarring, offensive, bewildering, puerile, nonsensical and insulting may be of little doubt," wrote Justice Earl Wilson in yesterday's ruling. "But the language does not go so far as to fall within the prohibited status of 'hate' or 'contempt.' "

They had previously in the article stated their position on THE LETTER as follows:

It's a nonsensical rant against gay rights.

I was not aware that it was any rant at all against gay rights, but then I read it and asked the writer about it. Be that as it may, they also had this to say about the decision:

Gays also stand to benefit from yesterday's court decision. As we continue to face censorship — whether it be at the Canadian border or on major TV networks — it's in our interest to promote free speech and expression. Censoring homophobes is an easy way to shut them up, but it does little to address the outrageousness of their arguments. Speech should be fought with speech.

In 2005, queer lobby group Egale argued that open debate, rather than censorship, is the best way to address homophobia. "We believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant," said then-Egale executive director Gilles Marchildon.

Well, I agree with them on something important to the debate. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and free speech is necessary for differing views to be assessed in a free country.

It was also noted that the publishers of Xtra had opposed Lund's case against Stephen Boissoin as well in editorials and then quoted this paragraph from one of their columnists Brenda Cossman:

"Boissoin's views are appalling but censoring them isn't the answer. Holding them up to the light of day is admittedly more time consuming, but in the long run, much more effective. And who said that democracy wasn't supposed to be exhausting."

I don't wish to quibble here over how the deck chairs are arranged, as this is not the moment for that. As I stated on more than one occasion, including in this post, I have personally discussed THE LETTER with Stephen, and understand the particular content and more importantly the context of THE LETTER, and of his work with youth.

In the article quoted above one is left with the impression that censoring homophobes is bad, enlightening them good. Somehow enlightening them, that would be homophobes, is going to make things work so that all will see that putting your Johnson into someone's garbage chute is perfectly normal, healthy behaviour, and should be encouraged for all and sundry.

On the page were a couple of things that made me understand why Extra is apparently misspelled, with emphasis on the "X". Over on the lower left was an ad for an organisation where guys can seek hookups with other guys. As well, over on the right was an ad for an interactive uncensored live connection site.

Frankly, I was so disgusted by seeing what I saw that I wanted to go and sanitize my hands and my mind from just gathering this information for this blog post. So, speaking in context, that makes me a homophobe I guess. I can live with being called that, though I don't believe it for a moment.

I can also live much better with shining the light of day on things to see what turns out to be the Truth.


Anonymous said...

I consider Xtra as NSFW, ergo I won't link to it. I do find it interesting how everyone, including Judge Wilson, can't resist putting in their two cents on how they hate the letter. As far as I know Stephen, this gets him almost as mad as the HRT decision - using the government's bully pulpit to denounce him when he can't defend. Why should Wilson, or Andreachuk, or anyone in the government be critiquing Boissoin's letter in such fashion?

mbrandon8026 said...

Yes, SF everyone has an opinion, and nobody has the context.

I thought that pontificating was actually a Catholic issue, but it turns out it is just a descriptive noun that has less to do with people thinking they are the Pope, than thinking they are God and know a person's mind, possibly even better than the person does themselves.

Steve said...

Great post Michael. I'm very happy for Stephen.

I was drawn by one particular excerpt:

"and an ill wind might bring him a need to come up with cash to pay some or all of Mr. Boissoin's costs, which is being adjudicated separately in the real court."

Does this mean that the court is deciding whether Stephen's legal fees over the last 7 years (both at the HRC and the real court) could possibly be refunded to him by Mr. Lund? That would be so awesome!

mbrandon8026 said...

Thanks Steve.

It appears from the ruling that the court will entertain costs, but based on the Judgment, which denied the specific claims for costs, it may be a stretch.

Deserved. Yes. Likely. Not as much.