Newspapers react to the Whatcott ruling

Tease the day: Editorialists go to the barricades for free speech

CP/Adrian Wyld

Saskatchewan’s human rights code used to contain a provision that condemned speech that “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons.” Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down that particular section of that particular province’s human rights code. Free-speech enthusiasts applauded. But that’s about all they applauded. This morning, Postmedia‘s Andrew Coyne leads the charge against much of what the top court ruled.

At stake here were anti-gay pamphlets distributed by William Whatcott, a man whose surname will forever be associated with free-speech wars. The court ruled that two of the pamphlets, which Whatcott passed around a decade ago, did not meet the criteria that constitute hate speech—but two others did. The court said human rights commissions can still judge what is and isn’t hate speech.

How the justices made those determinations is what really riles Coyne, who says the Supremes were so quick to limit free speech that they failed, off the top, to recognize its importance. The Post‘s Jonathan Kay says the ruling “has privileged the protection of gay Canadians over the right of religious Christians to promote what they view as the established, Biblical take on homosexuality.” Bernie Farber, the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote a dissenting view in the Toronto Star. He applauded the decision, arguing Canadians “should be proud of a court that supports the victim against the victimizer.”

Talk about free speech in Canada and you’re sure to divide a room. As for Whatcott, the conversation’s moot, as far as he’s concerned. The anti-gay crusader will continue his activism, unabated, cognizant of the potential consequences.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Arthur Porter’s involvement at the confluence of an SNC-Lavalin bribery scandal and alleged corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. The National Post fronts the fraud charges levelled against Porter. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Mayor Rob Ford’s solicitation for donations among city lobbyists. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Liberal Senator Mac Harb’s inclusion on Ottawa’s voter list—not Pembroke’s, where he claims to live. iPolitics fronts a meeting between various players in the energy industry that hopes to address a potential skills shortage. leads with Pope Benedict XVI’s final day in the papacy. National Newswatch showcases The Globe and Mail‘s latest look at Senators who’ve paid back expenses.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Seal hunt. An annual hunt off the coast of Cape Breton has been cancelled, a move that bolsters anti-sealing groups’ claims that the seal hunt is a dying industry in Canada. 2. Gulf drilling. A former New Brunswick energy watchdog says his planned public consultation on a sensitive project was cancelled, and its replacement might not be as rigorous.
3. American arrest. An American who was accused of causing $125,000 in damage during the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto voluntarily turned himself over to police. 4. USB keys. A new policy at the federal department that lost private data belonging to almost 600,000 student loans borrowers mandates that bureaucrats only carry encrypted USB keys.

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