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Hate speech or freedom of speech?

A human rights trial taking place this week will examine whether a homophobic letter is hate speech or an exercise of freedom of speech.

An Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission panel is hearing a complaint by University of Calgary professor Darren Lund against Reverend Stephen Boissoin. The complaint relates to a letter Boisson wrote that was published in the Red Deer Advocate on June 17 2002.

In the letter Boissoin states “where homosexuality flourishes all manner of wickedness abounds” “homosexual rights activists and those that defend them are just as immoral as the pedophiles drug dealers and pimps that plague our community” and “it is only a matter of time before some of these morally bankrupt individuals… will achieve their goal to have sexual relations with children.”

Lund believes that the letter “constitutes a public statement likely to expose a class of persons to discrimination or hatred or contempt” contrary to Alberta’s Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act. Boissoin’s lawyer argues that he was simply exercising his freedom of speech.

The panel hearing started on July 16 and will end on July 20. The commission has 60 days to render a decision.