Interim StaffIn the end, the final vote on Bill C-250 wasn’t even close. On April 28, senators voted 59-11 at Third Reading to push through Svend Robinson’s pernicious private member’s legislation, which adds the undefined phrase “sexual orientation” to the “hate” speech provisions of the Criminal Code. Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson wasted no time and signed the bill into law a day later.
Homosexual activists, emboldened by their legislative victory, have been plotting strategy on how they might silence their political opponents using the new law. Users of activist group EGALE’s internet discussion group have been discussing ways to litigate groups such as Focus on the Family Canada right out of existence.
Focus has drawn the wrath of activists for currently running a series of advertisements in newspapers and on radio in support of traditional marriage. “The ad is designed to encourage mothers and fathers, while promoting the idea that marriage is worth protecting,” said Derek Rogusky, Focus’s vice-president of family policy.
“It is sad that the words from our ad campaign … are now a political statement causing people to take great offence. The reality is that gay activists want to wipe out any dissenting opinion. It is ironic that those demanding tolerance are not offering tolerance as well,” he said.
While any prosecution under the contentious new law is unlikely before the federal election is concluded, some groups believe the persecution of Christians and other people of faith is only months away.
Dr. Thomas Langan, president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, said, “We have seen comments from leading Canadian gay advocates such as Rev. Brent Hawkes of the (homosexuality-promoting) Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto, in which he suggested last year that Vatican statements or a Catholic bishop’s commentary on homosexuality are ‘expressions of hatred.’ We suspect Canadians will soon discover the extent of the new peril imposed on their freedom of speech only after they receive that knock on the door to answer to the authorities.”
And, Langan pointed out, there are many examples of so-called hate speech prosecutions of Christians in other nations where legislation has already been implemented. “In January of this year, Swedish Pentecostal pastor Ake Green was prosecuted for ‘hate speech against homosexuals’ for a sermon he preached last summer citing biblical references to homosexuality.
Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid is facing a suit in Spain for preaching against homosexuality in a homily he gave in the Madrid Cathedral on the feast of the Holy Family. Belgian Cardianal Gustaaf Joos faces a lawsuit under that country’s discrimination laws for his remarks about the nature of homosexuality and the church’s teaching published in a Belgium magazine,” he said.
How far Canadian authorities may take the law remains to be seen, but simply debating current political issues may now be a crime.
Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham, director of Law and Public Policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said, “This legislation comes at a time when issues of sexual morality and marriage are at the forefront of public debate. Without a clear definition of what is criminal hatred, it is ambiguous what public statements will be considered criminal.”
There may be no opportunity for Christians to defend themselves once charged. “The Supreme Court of Canada has limited the use of the defences, so that it is not clear that they will adequately protect religious expression about sexual morality,” said Buckingham.
“Christians have seen their rights to dissent restricted by case after case in the courts. We no longer trust that the guarantee of religious freedom in the Charter is necessarily going to apply to protect religious free speech,” she added.