Montreal, Vancouver pride events denied Marquee cash

OTTAWA – The Canadian Press reported that the Marquee Tourism Event Program, which doled out $400,000 to the Toronto Pride parade in June, refused in July to fund similar gay pride events in Montreal and Vancouver. Divers-Cite, the organizing committee in Montreal, had asked for $155,000 to promote their gay pride events and add performers, but were denied their request. CP noted, however, that the same committee received an unreported amount from Economic Development Canada in a two-year grant, although Paul Girard, government relations and marketing director for Divers-Cite, complained that for the first time, the ECD did not send them a public letter of congratulations. According to officials within the Industry Ministry responsible for the Marquee program, the program received so many requests, it had to refuse some. Girard claimed he was told by bureaucrats at Industry Canada that their application had met all criteria before being sent to Minister Tony Clement’s office for approval. In early July, the Conservative government was criticized by social conservatives for funding the Toronto Pride parade and shortly afterward, the Marquee Tourism Event Program was removed from Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state for small business and tourism, and given to Clement.

CHRC report falls short

OTTAWA – In a special report to Parliament entitled, “Freedom of Expression and Freedom from Hate in the Internet Age,” the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended a few limited changes be made to its current modus operandi. The main recommendations of the report, the result of an internal review by the commission, were: that the federal human rights tribunal no longer have the ability to issue fines to those it finds guilty of hate speech; that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to provide a statutory definition of “hatred” and “contempt;” that the Act be amended to allow for an award of costs in exceptional circumstances in which the tribunal finds that a party has abused the tribunal process; and that a provision be added that allows for the dismissal of Section 13 complaints when messages do not meet the narrow definition of hatred or contempt. The report was widely criticized as falling far short of necessary reforms. Phil Horgan of the Catholic Civil Rights League, for example, characterized the recommendations as “fairly superficial changes to a system that is fundamentally flawed.” He added, “Cases involving limitations on a Charter right such as free speech should not be addressed by human rights commissions.”

CRTC omits CHRC references

OTTAWA – The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) dropped references to the Canadian Human Rights Commission that originally appeared in its June 4 “Review of Broadcasting in New Media, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy” report. On July 17, blogger Stephen Taylor discovered that the report on the CRTC’s website omitted references to the commission’s battles with Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn and that “regulatory commissions of another type and armed with a different mission have challenged the right to say controversial things.” The CRTC originally warned that, “Wherever there is official orthodoxy, disagreement is heresy; where there is heresy, there is usually an inquisition to root it out.” As Taylor asked, “Why did the CRTC feel that it was necessary to omit” these references?

Judge refuses standing to religious, socon groups

TORONTO – Ontario Superior Court Justice Ted Matlow has denied the Christian Legal Fellowship, the Catholic Civil Rights League and REAL Women standing in a case to be heard this fall, which challenges laws against prostitution. Matlow said he did not want the case to “provide a political platform where interested persons are permitted to speak in order to advance their personal views, beliefs, policies and interests at large.” He claimed it would be a mistake to let the groups make presentations on moral issues, because they “reflect the views of only small segments of Canadian society.” The CLF, CCRL and REAL Women contend that a range of voices should be heard in cases with large moral implications. REAL Women said on its website: “This legal challenge to strike down the prostitution law, if successful, will result in very detrimental effects – practical, social, legal and health, that will undermine the social fabric in Canada.”

Hamilton Right to Life ad victory

HAMILTON – The city of Hamilton has revised its rules so that pro-life ads put out by Hamilton Right to Life are allowed to be displayed on city buses and shelters, after initially being banned last year. Hamilton Right to Life is intending to drop its human rights complaint against the city’s transit system and its LifeCanada advertisement “Abortion, Have We Gone Too Far?” is now being displayed on city buses. In a related story, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C. Teacher’s Federation in its assertion that the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority and the British Columbia Transit violated its right to free speech when the two organizations banned political ads on their bus fleets in 2005.