Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside is the latest on a lengthening list of Canadian municipal officials to suffer harassment from human rights tribunals over refusals to proclaim Gay Pride Day in their communities.
Mayor Woodside says he has no intention of proclaiming any sort of pride days, gay or otherwise, despite a New Brunswick Human Rights Commission ruling that he discriminated against gays and lesbians by turning down their request for an official Fredericton Gay Pride Day in 1995.
If the mayor, as the chief elected representative of Fredericton’s citizens, proclaims Gay Pride Day, it implies that the community endorses the gay political agenda. Woodside presumably believes that a majority of Frederictonians do not support that agenda, and does not wish to betray his mandate.
If the mayor is mistaken in his interpretation of that mandate, the people can vote him out in the next election. If someone wants to oppose him on a gay rights platform, they are entitled to do so.
That’s how democracy is supposed to work. Second-guessing of the people’s elected representatives by unelected, unaccountable, politically biased, quasi-judicial kangaroo courts like the Human Rights Commission amounts to a dangerous subversion of democracy.
Discrimination is not the issue here in any legitimate sense. The mayor has not interfered with any bona fide rights or activities of gay and lesbian individuals by refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Day. He has merely declined to put the stamp of municipal government approval on a political agenda that most of the people who voted him into office disagree with and that many find morally repugnant. That’s called “representative government,” not “discrimination.”
However, if he sticks to his guns, Mayor Woodside may face some rough sledding ahead. Provincial Labour Minister Rory Lieshman, who is responsible for the Human Rights Commission, gave the mayor until January to settle his differences on this issue with the gay rights activists, after which a board of inquiry will be convened.
London mayor fined
In October of last year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission fined the City of London, Ont. and its mayor Diane Haskett, $10,000 for refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Day. It also ordered Mayor Haskett to make a public statement praising the “valuable contributions of gays and lesbians to her community.” To her eternal credit, Mayor Haskett has refused to comply with the latter edict.
At a press conference, Haskett said, “I will not bow down to the ruling of the human rights commission and I am willing to bear any consequences of that.
“If this ruling is left unchallenged,” said Mayor Haskett, “any Canadian can be forced to say what they don’t believe … The implications are so staggering it should be a matter for legal review.”
Haskett then announced that she would withdraw from public life during Ontario’s recent municipal election campaign, saying that she trusted the people of London to make their choice based on her record in office. The voters returned that trust by re-electing her on Nov. 10.
In April 1994, a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission board ruled that Regina police chief Ernie Reiner violated Saskatchewan’s human rights code when he refused to issue a permit for Gay Pride Day in his city. In June 1994, a complaint was laid against the city council of Saskatoon for refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Week.
In 1995, the OHRC ordered Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow to personally pay a homosexual complainant $5,000 for “mental anguish” allegedly suffered because the mayor refused to proclaim Gay Pride Week.
Morrow was also ordered to declare Gay Pride Week if requested, or face even heavier penalties.
In testimony, Morrow stated that “the Gay and Lesbian Alliance was in fact asking for a declaration of political support from a political person and as such this request should not be governed by the Ontario Human Rights Code because expression of political opinion is a very highly held freedom in our country and should not be in any way limited.”
Political support not a right
Morrow also argued that political support isn’t a right for any citizen, nor something that legislation should be seen to require.
To fair-minded people, these human rights rulings against municipal politicians are an outrage tinged with fascism. The commissions have served notice that when gay-lesbian-bisexual organizations request a gay pride proclamation, mayors must say precisely what the commissions deem politically correct or be held personally liable to heavy fines.
“Those charged with human rights violations are denied the right of being presumed innocent until their guilt is proven,” says the activist group, REALwomen, “They are required to establish their innocence at their own considerable expense, while the complainant’s costs are
underwritten by the taxpayer.
“In short, the human rights commissions are a betrayal of fairness and decency … They must be disbanded.”