OTTAWA – Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of Canada will release its decision in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. William Whatcott case, which involves the expression of religious comment in public policy dialogue. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) intervened in the case which was heard by the court on October 12, 2011.
“We are convinced that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of religion, conscience and expression to all Canadians and that the right to debate moral issues, whatever they may be, is foundational to a true and vibrant democracy,” explains Don Hutchinson, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel. Hutchinson made the arguments for the EFC at the hearing.
In 2001 and 2002, Mr. Whatcott distributed flyers to neighbourhoods in Saskatoon and Regina. Vehement in tone and language against homosexuality, the flyers offended some individuals who filed complaints with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. At the tribunal, the flyers were found to contravene the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and to promote hatred. The October 2011 hearing was the result of multiple appeals of that decision, including before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal where the flyers were found to be constitutionally acceptable free expression. That decision was appealed by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We don’t necessarily condone the language Mr. Whatcott used, but we do firmly believe that every Canadian should be at liberty to share their beliefs and participate in the democratic process from a faith-inspired perspective,” continues Hutchinson. “Unless one can act in a non-harmful way in public dialogue, inspired by one’s religious beliefs, then one does not have religious freedom but only the freedom to believe. Canadian courts have, to this point, been clear that religious freedom includes the right to speak about our beliefs; to share our beliefs with others; to practice our beliefs; and, to engage in public policy debate from a position that is informed by those beliefs. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court’s decision will reflect those concepts.”
Don Hutchinson will be available for comment after release of the decision through the contacts noted below.
For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868 x332