On March 19, the University of Alberta held a public event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Vriend v. Alberta. In 1998, the court ordered Alberta to add “sexual orientation” to its human rights legislation.
When pondering the Vriend ruling, it is important to remember that, during the 1990s, activists across Canada were claiming that adding “sexual orientation” to human rights laws would never, ever lead to a Christian getting in trouble for saying that gay sex is sinful. There was no way, they said, that Christian schools and universities would be prevented from preaching and practicing their traditional beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexual morality.
Yet after the Supreme Court added “sexual orientation” to Alberta’s human rights laws, pastor Stephen Boissoin was prosecuted over a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate, in which he denounced the homosexual political agenda.
In Ontario, printer Scott Brockie was prosecuted under human rights laws for having refused to print letterhead, envelopes, and business cards for a homosexual advocacy group. Brockie had never refused to serve gay customers, but he refused this particular printing job because he said the group in question promoted the homosexual lifestyle.
Under the guise of “human rights” and “stopping discrimination,” law societies in Ontario and British Columbia have told the Supreme Court of Canada that Trinity Western University (TWU) cannot have a law school, simply because TWU’s Community Covenant (code of conduct) requires staff and students to refrain from sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.
In Chilliwack, B.C., elected school board trustee Barry Neufeld has been threatened with a human rights complaint, and publicly urged by the Education Minister to resign, simply for expressing his disagreement with a curriculum that teaches children that gender is fluid, that there are more than two genders, and that gender is not determined by biological sex.
An Edmonton couple was told in 2017 that they could not adopt kids, in spite of the government recognizing that they would be loving, stable, competent, good parents. The couple’s application was rejected solely because this husband and wife accept Biblical teachings about sex, gender, and marriage.
All of this is a radical departure from what gay rights activists from the 1960s to 1990s were claiming to fight for, which was that the government would leave them alone. Removing sodomy from the Criminal Code, Pierre Trudeau declared that there was no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.
This leave-me-alone, respect-my-privacy libertarianism, which once animated the gay rights movement, has been replaced by a movement to compel – through coercive state power – universal agreement with and support for homosexuality. Across Canada, the movement to silence criticism of homosexuality (and now transgenderism) through laws and government policies grows stronger and more aggressive by the day.
In a free country, you can argue that gay sex is sinful, or that gay sex is normal, natural, and good. But once the state attaches penalties, or withholds benefits, for speaking out about your philosophical beliefs, or for practicing them peacefully in a voluntary community with other like-minded citizens, society is no longer free. Such is Canada today: no longer free. Expressing the “wrong” opinions will result in not being allowed to open or run a law school (even if the law school is recognized as academically solid), not being allowed to adopt children, and not being allowed to maintain religious schools and universities.
Don’t expect to hear these thoughts about individual freedom and the free society at the University of Alberta. Inviting speakers with opposing views on the Vriend ruling did not cross anyone’s mind. At the U of A, only one side (the left one) has the official backing and endorsement of the university authorities.
What to do about this loss of freedom in Canada? Self-censorship is our worst enemy, more destructive than any law or policy. Canadians who love liberty should continue to speak out about what they believe to be true, regardless of the consequences. The fearless proclamation of truth – whatever we may believe it to be – might not work miracles in the months and years ahead. But over the course of decades and centuries, truth will prevail.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (www.jccf.ca), which acts for the Edmonton couple referred to in this article, as well as school trustee Barry Neufeld, and has intervened before courts in support of Trinity Western University’s Charter freedoms.