Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. William Whatcott

William Whatcott is a controversial and self-proclaimed activist. He regularly comments on abortion and LGBT-related issues. Whatcott had distributed four flyers criticizing the inclusion of LGBT-related materials in public education and criticizing the advertising standards of a LGBT magazine. The magazine ran classified ads allegedly designed to facilitate same-sex casual encounters between men and under-aged boys. Four individuals who received the flyers filed complaints with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, and the matter proceeded to a hearing before the Tribunal. The Tribunal found that Whatcott had violated the hate-speech provision of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, ordered him to stop promoting and distributing similar materials and to pay compensation to the four complainants totaling $17,500.

Whatcott appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench who upheld the Tribunal’s decision. Whatcott then appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal where the Tribunal’s decision was reversed on the grounds that Whatcott’s impugned “speech” did not meet the test set-out for the “hate speech” provision of the Code. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Before the Supreme Court of Canada, Whatcott filed a Notice of Constitutional Question on the constitutionality of the “hate speech” provision of the Code.

The Association for Reformed Political Action sought to intervene in the appeal. ARPA argued that the “hate speech” provision was unconstitutional in that it limited freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ARPA also argued that it is not the State’s role to limit speech, and especially not political speech. Finally, ARPA argued that regulating speech was outside of the scope of power granted to the Saskatchewan Legislature. ARPA’s application to intervene was rejected and the Supreme Court decided, in a unanimous 6-0 decision, to partially uphold the Tribunal’s decision, finding that two of the four flyers constituted hate speech.

Click here for the Association for Reformed Political Action’s Application to Intervene.

Click here for the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.