Hate complaint legal fees rising

  • April 8, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Catholic Insight magazine has paid $6,000 in legal fees fighting a human rights “hate” complaint, yet no hearing date is in sight.

For a small circulation (3,500 subscribers) conservative specialty magazine, “it has cost us quite a bit,” said the magazine’s editor, Basilian Father Alphonse de Valk.

“We’re getting some donations, fortunately, even though we haven’t done anything,” de Valk said in an interview from Toronto.

It’s not only the money. De Valk said he and staffer Tony Gosgnach have spent an “enormous amount of time” on the issue since they became aware of the complaint against the magazine a year ago.

“We probably spend three days a week, two people, just keeping up with what’s going on in this,” he said.

But de Valk remains calm in the face of the complaints.

“Maybe my little problem is something to be endured patiently, maybe we can say a few words of truth before this commission,” he said. “Nothing is lost in the eyes of God.”

Though he sees truth “under assault” in the West, especially in Europe, de Valk remains hopeful.

“It may all turn around suddenly,” he said. “Who knows?”

In February 2007, the magazine received a letter from Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator Sandy Kozak that said the magazine was “being investigated for hate literature.” Rob Wells, an Edmonton resident, had complained of material hateful against homosexuals. Included in the letter were “three long sheets with endless quotes that Rob Wells has culled from our articles.”

De Valk said the complaint contained no sources for the out-of-context quotes. Their lawyer advised them to go over every one of the more than 100 articles the magazine had posted online. They asked the commission to provide the articles containing the offending quotes.

“That took four or five months,” de Valk said. Eventually Catholic Insight received 16 articles that provided the context for the complaint.

De Valk admitted “there is vigourous language in some of them” and “strong words” about the homosexual lifestyle, but pointed out each article contained counterbalancing commentary in the Catholic tradition. The articles opposed the agenda of homosexual activists, but “weren’t attacking any individual persons,” he said.

Catholic Insight decided to go public last December after human rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine became the subject of many columns and editorials.

Maclean’s faces complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) for an excerpt of Mark Steyn’s book America Alone entitled “The Future Belongs to Islam.” The CIC complained to the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. Only Ontario has refused to hear the case.

De Valk has also been following the news concerning former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant who faced complaints to the Alberta Human Rights Commission two years ago for republishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. His case leapt into prominence in early January when he posted a videotape of his interview on YouTube, an Internet video sharing site. His provocative videos have received more than a half a million views.

But de Valk sees Catholic Insight’s battle as much more difficult because the “gay drive for equality under the guise of its being a right” has been popular. “They have achieved their triumph with the co-operation of the majority in Parliament.”

Steyn and Levant are perceived to be fighting Islamic extremists and “have the wind in their sails.”

De Valk said most Canadians believe the battle for gay rights is of no consequence to them. “Many Catholics have been asleep at the switch, not interested, too preoccupied by other things,” he said.

“It (secularism) is not just a neutral thing. There is no such thing,” he said. “Secularism is aggressive.”

The rapid change in the traditional definition of marriage over a short period of time is one example, and de Valk worries that religious freedom and freedom of speech is next.

“The way I see it is that our case has a particular difficulty and that is because section 13 (1) (of the Canadian Human Rights Act) does not accept truth as a validating criteria,” he said.

“Under this section 13 (1), when my feelings are hurt, you pay; you are spreading hatred.”

He is also deeply concerned about last November’s Alberta Human Rights Panel decision in the case of Alberta pastor Stephen Boissoin, who wrote a letter to the editor critical of gay activists. The panel chair determined that the “right” to be protected from “hatred and contempt” trumped the charter’s guarantee of religious freedom.

In addition to the human rights complaint, Catholic Insight faces another time-consuming and costly battle. Another individual has filed a complaint with Heritage Canada and an Access to Information Request concerning the magazine’s postal subsidy and any other funds it receives from government. They have had to go over boxes of documents to make sure that information that would compromise the privacy of their personnel is redacted before the federal department releases them.

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