Monday, July 16, 2007

The Wheels Turn Slowly At Times

[Update 06:00 17/7/07]
Well, since CBC is so slow updating the Calgary news website, I found what I was looking for on the Globe and Mail website.

Here's a couple of the more interesting tidbits:

Janel Dodd, who worked with the pastor at Red Deer's youth at-risk drop-in centre, testified yesterday on Prof. Lund's behalf. When asked about Mr. Boissoin's intent in writing the letter, she told the chairwoman of the hearing: "God called him to be active with his beliefs."

Ms. Dodd also talked about her outrage after the alleged gay-bashing incident, which involved a youth who frequented the drop-in centre, who was not admonished by Mr. Boissoin, she says. "There was no repercussions for this and the youth was allowed to still come into the organization," she told reporters later.

and ...

Mr. Boissoin has the support of Concerned Christians Canada and the U.S.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which backs legal causes involving freedom of religion.

So...Boissoin has been bankrolled through most of this by none other than Chandler himself, and an American organization that sees fit to inject itself into Canada's legal system. Fascinating.

[Update 18:00 16/7/07]
According to the news on CBC this afternoon, Boissoin's former secretary has claimed that she thought Boissoin wrote that letter "to get attention". {As soon as I find a corroborating print story, I'll post it here}

All I can say is that if this was a "publicity stunt", Boissoin suffers from not mere bigotry, but amazingly bad judgment to boot. (and, I would point out that if you attributed to Jews, or religious groups the evils he claims of GLBT people, there would be no question of the status of his letter)
In 2002, Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate newspaper. I won't reproduce the entirety of the letter's text here, but the following snippet gives the flavor of it:

Come on people, wake up! It's time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn. Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds.

Regardless of what you hear, the militant homosexual agenda isn't rooted in protecting homosexuals from "gay bashing." The agenda is clearly about homosexual activists that include, teachers, politicians, lawyers, Supreme Court judges, and God forbid, even so-called ministers, who are all determined to gain complete equality in our nation and even worse, our world.

That was in 2002. Shortly afterwards, University of Calgary professor Darren Lund filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission accusing Boissoin of spreading hatred against this province's GLBT citizens.

Today, the first hearings in this case begin. That is some five years after the fact.

At one time, Boissoin was involved with Concerned Christians Canada, one of Craig Chandler's enterprises, and one of Calgary's more outspoken opponents of equal treatment for GLBT citizens - going as far as claiming to be offended by the presence of "Gay Flags" following Pride week in 2005.

At this point in time, I'm not going to guess what the outcome will be. I don't think Boissoin is as articulate and intellectually agile as Bishop Henry - the "you misinterpreted what I said" defense that Bishop Henry used a year or so back probably won't work so well for Boissoin. That said, I'm not privy to what Boissoin's counsel have cooked up either.

I expect that whatever comes out of the next few days' of hearings will be very interesting indeed. I am more than a little disturbed by the fact that it has taken five years or more for this case to even reach hearings. It suggests that either the legal gyrations have been extreme, or that the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission has been starved for the resources necessary to bring things to closure in a timely fashion.


Stephanie said...

I was living in Red Deer when this disgusting letter was published. Coincidently, less than 2 weeks later, a gay teenager had his face bashed in with brass knuckles while on his way home from the Canada Day fireworks. His cheekbone was completely shattered.

Some background on Boissoin: He has multiple convictions for assault and extortion and "found Christ" and became a reverend while in prison. At the time of this letter, he was operating a youth drop-in center in downtown Red Deer.

There was no report whether or not the teenage assailant in the gay bashing had been attending the drop-in center, but a number of letters to the editor accused Boissoin's letter and others of his anti-gay letters previously published with creating an atmosphere where that kind of violence is encouraged.

A couple of months later he lost his funding due to the controversy and had to close the center.

The silver lining in all of this is that the letter and the publicity of the bashing woke up the people of Red Deer and ended a lot of the quiet complacency about the loud anti-gay attitudes prevalant in that town. One year later, I had the honour of being a part of Red Deer's first ever Pride celebration -- a low key event that received a lot of positive press.

Anonymous said...

A question raised...

If the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission were faced with a public discrimination case involving gendered issues, would it have taken 5 years? How about racial issues?

How would we have reacted had Mr. Boissin's letter read that "women are just as immoral as pedophiles", or "the english are just as immoral as pedophiles", or "the jewish are just as immoral as pedophiles", or "blacks are just as immoral as pedophiles"?

It seems that certain hot words get a different reaction based on societal percetions of the group as a whole, and the wording used. Certain groups are more visibly targets of human rights attacks, and those attacks are treated in a very different fashion.

Are the delays in this case related to the subject at hand - the discomfort raised by a 'borderline' group of GLBT? (Notable, this group is gaining more and more power and acceptance, and the rainbow has become a badge of pride. Even our Liberal MLAs were out at the recent Pride parade sporting Red Shirts that read "straight but not narrow". Hopefully THIS is the future of our democracy!

But I digress. Compare your reaction to the English versus the Jewish (the English would probably laugh it off, the Jewish would see it as a return of the Third Reich and fight it in a bitter public feud). How about if we start looking at Muslims? Or we start looking at the phrase using racial slurs such as 'Wops' or 'Niggers'?

(Wow! That got a HUGE gut response, didn't it? Sure, it's politically incorrect, but no more so than many of the slurs passed by the gay-bashing activists who are hiding behind the hollow shield of their religion... Neither is acceptable!).

The truth of the matter is that once the words "gay" and "fag" were synonymous, and both were slurs on an individual. The disenfranchised group, however, have embraced the term "gay" and reinvented it by adopting it as their own. It has turned from a slur to a rallying cry under a rainbow flag.

How will we see these issues in five years time? ten? fifty? It all depends on how much power the religious right grabs, and the amount of bigotry spread by groups like Concerned Christians Canada. Just think... Craig Chandler could be YOUR next MLA.

And they call this a progressive society?

Alison said...

There is something truly despicable about those who use their choice of religion to discriminate against people who have NO choice about who they are.