Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

SDA Religious Liberty History, Canada, 1904

December 8, 2008

Canadian Union Messenger, March 1, 1904


The Canadian Union Conference Committee met at their office in Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Members present were Elders Thurston, Rickard and Thompson, and the writer. Three days were spent in careful and prayerful consideration of questions concerning the work in the Union Conference, and the following resolutions were carried by unanimous vote of the members present:—

2. That we ask Bro. T. H. Robinson, of the Ontario Conference, to go to Ottawa during the session of the Dominion Parliament, to represent the interests of religious liberty, spending as much time as seems advisable, in view of the attempt of any party to secure legislation in reference to Sunday laws.

3. That we invite Elder Rickard to associate with Bro. Robinson in the aforementioned work at Ottawa.

4. That we invite Elder G. B. Thompson to prepare some literature for use in the Religious Liberty campaign.


The General Conference Council last October recommended that special offering for religious liberty work be taken early in 1904. The first Sabbath in March was the date first set, but to give more time for the announcement, we have set the time on Sabbath, March 12.

In the reorganization of the work on departmental lines called for in general, union, and state conferences, the time has fully come to develop the department of religious liberty, to enable it to bring out up-to-date literature, and to make an earnest effort to lift up the voice of warning against the influences that are working to bring about the enforcement of Sunday laws. We know that these agencies are working day and night to mold sentiment and secure control of legislation to enforce the worship of the beast and its image. We shall be surprised at the sudden manifestation of strength on the part of these organized movements one of these days. Now is our time to work. One call for immediate work is supplied by the opportunities in connection with the St. Louis World’s Fair.

In order to bring out special literature on the religious liberty issue, and to foster the interests of this work among all the conferences and churches, the General Conference Religious Liberty Department must have funds. Elder Allen Moon, the chairman of the departmental committee, has his office in Chicago. The committee is planning an active campaign. If the notice is given out promptly, and all unite in the offering, a good working capital for the year will be given in this one collection, which will take but a fey moments’ attention from the regular service. Will not ministers and church elders announce this, and encourage the people to act liberally and unitedly? The offering should be sent through the channel of the Local Conference treasury.




I trust that all of our people in Canada had a part in contributing to the special offering March 12 for the Religious Liberty work; and now we have another matter to which we wish to call attention.

You are probably aware that at the next session of Parliament there will be a strong effort made by the Lord’s Day Alliance people for a Dominion Sunday Law. We have had to prepare literature here in Canada to meet the issue and have arranged for two men to go to Ottawa in the interest of religious liberty, and spend what time seems necessary there when the bill is presented.

At the recent session of the C.U.C. committee, this matter was considered, and it seemed to us that it would be proper for us to ask our people in Canada to contribute to a fund for religious liberty work in Canada.

It will cost something to publish tracts, as several thousand of different kinds will be needed, and we believe that our people will gladly contribute to this fund. We do not design to set apart a day for a special offering to this fund, but will simply ask you to send to S. D. Hartwell, 4230 St. Catherine Street, Montreal, whatever
you feel willing to give for this line of work. We have a message for the people, and this session of Parliament will be an opportune time to call the minds of men in official positions to the true principles of Christianity.

“I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Let us pray, and not only pray, but let us do what we can at this time to bring these men to a knowledge of the truth. We shall he blessed in doing.



Freedom to Speak Against

December 8, 2008

A Canwest News Service report

National War of words over hate speech heating up

Keith Bonnell, Canwest News Service

Published: Sunday, December 07, 2008

In the war of words over free speech, it seems one of the early combatants has switched sides.

Imam Syed Soharwardy is opening a Freedom of Speech Centre in Calgary – a place where he says people will be encouraged to openly discuss thorny cultural issues of the day.

It’s a new twist for the man who helped spark a national uproar two years ago over the role of human rights commissions in censoring hate speech.

That debate’s still raging, and it’s a nasty one.

Conservative pundits and a growing number of major media outlets have turned on the commissions, saying they risk becoming kangaroo courts where special interest groups can bully the media and jeopardize Canadians’ freedom of speech.

On the other side, there are calls to preserve what advocates insist is a needed tool in the battle against hate speech – and a way to hold mainstream media outlets to account for biased journalism.

Soharwardy fired an early salvo in the battle, lodging a human rights complaint against publisher Ezra Levant. In February 2006, Levant published the notorious Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the now-defunct Western Standard magazine.

At the time, Soharwardy argued the cartoons were a form of hate speech.

However, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has been through a lot since then. You might say he’s had a change of heart about hate.

“My view of the human rights commission has changed almost 180 degrees,” he told Canwest News Service. “Especially about this Section 13, the freedom of speech.”

Soharwardy backed out of the complaint against Levant, which was eventually dismissed by Alberta’s human rights commission, and has renounced the process.

“I wish we could have sat down at that time and talked it out rather than me going to a human rights complaint and Mr. Levant writing about me in the media and on the website,” Soharwardy says. “I think it would have helped us both.”

He says he hopes his planned Freedom of Speech Centre can help Muslims and all Canadians explore ways to balance hate speech and free speech.

He said he wants to help Muslims newly arrived from more repressive cultures to understand why, for example, Canadians can freely mock religions – and why that right to offend is an important pillar of democracy.

He hopes to open the centre in January.

With his volte-face, Soharwardy has added his voice to a growing chorus calling for human rights commissions to get out of the business of sanctioning public discourse and deciding what qualifies as hate speech.

This is not the stuff of calm, reasoned debate. There are columns about how Muslims are taking over the world, there are blogs saying the holocaust never happened.

Still, editorials calling for changes have appeared in the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and elsewhere.

The debate centres around Section 13 of the federal Canadian Human Rights Act. It allows the federal commission to reprimand anyone found to have spread messages online that are “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”

Those fighting to have the section repealed got a boost last month from free speech expert and University of Windsor professor Richard Moon.

Moon was asked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to look into the debate. His report said the best-case scenario would be to get rid of Section 13 and leave hate speech to the police.

Alternatively, Moon suggested, the wording of the act should be changed so that the definition of hate speech is explicitly defined as language that “advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group.”

That was music to the ears of conservative pundits such as Levant and author and blogger Mark Steyn, who have long complained the commissions aren’t fair to the accused.

Their grievances? There is no presumption of innocence; truth is not a defence; and if a complaint in found to have no merit, there is no compensation offered to the wrongly accused.

All of which, these critics say, remains beside the point: the right to free speech is absolute in a free society.

“The only reason we’re talking about this is because of censorship,” Levant said.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it wants to get public reaction to the Moon report, then submit it to Parliament by the middle of next year.

But the commission may not find a welcoming audience on the Hill, where Liberal MP Keith Martin has taken up the fight.

“As freethinking, democratic individuals in a democracy, we don’t have a right not to be offended,” he said.

Martin has introduced a private member’s motion calling on the government to repeal Section 13. He said he’s also been lobbying to have the justice committee hold a public, televised hearing on the issue.

While Moon’s report partly sided with the conservative pundits, the expert also calls their criticisms largely “overblown.”

Moon stressed that the media have a responsibility to provide fair and balanced content.

His report suggested the creation of a national press council. It would have the power to investigate complaints of human rights discrimination or bias in journalism, and could force a media outlet to publicize a judgment against it, should one be made.

The Canadian Association of Journalists has condemned the idea, saying it smacks of government censorship.

The notion does appeal to some, including Khurrum Awan. He was one of the law students who filed a failed complaint against Maclean’s magazine over its decision to publish online an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone. The excerpt alleges that Muslims’ booming populations numbers could threaten Western democracies.

“There has been a lot of media and political heat around our complaint,” Awan said. “We do feel if that heat had not been there, the decision may have been different.”

He said currently the human rights commissions are the “only meaningful avenue of holding our media accountable for Canadians,” but said his group would have preferred to air their complaint at a press council – had Maclean’s belonged to such a body.

Like Awan, human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis says the media haven’t done a good job of fairly examining the issue – because they are vested in the outcome of the debate.

She says there are good reasons to keep hate speech under the mandate of human rights commissions, even if it means amending the legislation. She shoots down criticism from pundits she calls “controversy entrepreneurs.”

“These positions are simply incoherent,” he said. “The media normally dives in, attacks the hype, tests things. They haven’t done that in this case.”

Section 13, which dates back to the inception of the federal act in 1977, was originally meant to deal with the issue of “hate lines,” telephone numbers where callers could hear pre-recorded racist messages.

In 2001, the federal government amended the section so that it also covered hate speech online.

There, arguably, is where the problem began.

With the explosion of the Internet – including newspapers publishing online, political bloggers, etc. – suddenly the commissions were in a position to oversee and judge journalism.

“The fact that the mainstream media are now covered by the legislation is something none of us anticipated or foresaw,” said Philippe Dufresne, director and senior council for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The commission can award compensation to victims of hate speech to a maximum of $20,000. It can also levy a penalty of as much as $10,000.

Soharwardy’s complaint against Levant and the high-profile case against Maclean’s became twin lightning rods for those who said the human rights commission was going too far.

Levant said he’s spent $100,000 on legal fees dealing with the human rights complaints against him that have dragged on for a total of 900 days.

For the record, he doesn’t buy Soharwardy’s conversion in the least. But he said it’s clear opinion is piling up against the commissions.

“The only people in the country who still support it are those who have a direct financial stake in it,” he said.

He dismissed the argument that because he and Maclean’s won their cases the system is working.

“Mark Steyn and I were a political problem for them,” he says of the human rights commission. “We were let go, whereas people who can’t afford pricey lawyers . . . they get crushed. That’s a form of corruption.”

As for Soharwardy, the imam’s change of heart took time – and included spending a while looking down the barrel of a human rights complaint that was aimed squarely at him.

Soharwardy was accused of discriminating against several women at his mosque.

“I understand the pain that people go through when they face a complaint at the human rights commission,” he said. “If a frivolous complaint has been filed, then the defendant is still on the hook to defend himself.”

But he insists it wasn’t the complaint against him but his concerns about his religious freedom that prompted him to turn his back on the process.

“Freedom of religion is very dear to me,” he said, explaining he worries that restricting speech could lead to limits on his right to express his religious beliefs.

Soharwardy said he believes the federal government needs to do a better of educating newcomers to Canada about freedom of speech, as well its consequences, both good and bad.

“People in any Muslim country people will not make fun or should not make fun of any religions,” he said.

“Here, people go on air and make fun of Jesus Christ. . . . That is a very shocking thing for a Muslim. People are not used to this kind of freedom.”

He said he believes freedom of speech is about more than just public discourse – it’s also about how different generations relate within families.

He points to family violence, some of which is the result of tensions flaring between immigrant parents and their western-raised children.

Freedom of speech is crucial so that everyone’s voice is heard, he said.

“That freedom will save a family from destruction,” he said. “We can resolve domestic violence, we can resolve women abuse, child abuse.”

What proponents of Section 13 stress is that the system offers a more appropriate range of remedies than the criminal justice system.

The system, they say, works to find compromises and resolve disputes.

“Words have power; and terrible words have terrible power,” said Bernie M. Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

He argues that an amended act – along the lines of what Moon’s report recommends – is the best option.

“I know that there is a clamour by some to jump on the band wagon where they feel that any law that limits speech of any kind is harmful, but our position is that if one can find the right balance, it makes us a better society.”

Marriage Commissioner, a Baptist, Sues for Right to Refuse

November 30, 2008

Man sues Saskatchewan after being fined for refusing to perform same sex marriage

Tue Nov 25, 9:04 PM

By The Canadian Press

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – A marriage commissioner is suing the Saskatchewan government after being fined $2,500 for refusing to marry a gay couple.

A Saskatchewan human rights tribunal cited Orville Nichols for discrimination in May for refusing to perform the same-sex marriage. Nichols told the tribunal last year that he refused to marry the couple in 2005 because it went against his Baptist faith.

Philip Fourie, Nichols’ lawyer, said the lawsuit demands the province give marriage commissioners the legal right to not perform same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

“This is clearly a horrible violation of Charter rights,” he said in a release Tuesday

“This problem can be easily fixed by simply allowing the commissioners a right to decline and pass on the ceremony request to another commissioner.”

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said the tribunal’s ruling is binding on the province

He said commissioners unhappy about the law have the option of turning in their licences to perform civil marriages.

“We have sent a letter to all of the civil marriage commissioners indicating to them that it is an option to them to surrender their civil marriage certificate and to obtain a religious one if they wish to affiliate themselves with one of the churches,” Morgan said.

The case is to be heard in Prince Albert on Dec. 23.

During the tribunal hearing into the case, Nichols said he was contacted in 2005 by a gay man about performing a wedding.

The gay man, who can only be identified as M.J. because of a publication ban, found Nichols’ name on a list of marriage commissioners in Regina.

Same-sex marriage was made legal in Saskatchewan in November 2004. Marriage commissioners, who are appointed and licensed by the province to perform civil ceremonies, were told to provide the service.

Nichols, who has been a marriage commissioner since 1983, testified that he told the couple he would not marry them because it went against his religious beliefs.

He then referred the couple to a marriage commissioner who would perform the ceremony.

The tribunal said in its ruling in May that Nichols was acting as a public servant when he performed marriages and so was obligated to marry the gay couple because same-sex unions are permitted by law in Canada.

Fourie chided Premier Brad Wall and Morgan for being critical of the former NDP government on same-sex marriage and promising to stick up for the rights of marriage commissioners.

“The government promised to be different but they are not acting any differently at all on this issue,” he said.

“The pendulum has swung too far in favour of same-sex people and against people of faith.”


I would’nt attend my son’s marriage if he married another man. Why should I be forced to preside such a wedding?

Exactly , follow the law or get another job…If the same person refused to marry an interracial couple because of his religious beliefs NO ONE would question this decision but for some reason same sex people , in the eyes of many cannot choose who to love

POSTED BY: Vin on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 01:26 PM -0500

The Commissioner is a Conscientious Objector — his freedom of conscience, and opinion, should be protected as long as it isn’t hateful. I’d support a Gay Commissioner if he refused to marry a heterosexual couple because he felt that the straight divorce rate was a clear indication of their commitment issues. (It’d be hard to argue that…) Especially if he was willing to refer them to a more sympathetic Commissioner. This is Canada, we allow people freedom they can’t get anywhere else.

POSTED BY: Doug on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 07:25 AM -0500

Frantz,priests do not marry same sex couples.As some non denominational ministries do,they are considered “ministers.” The Anglican church,which is currently facing a “schism” in the North American branch,due to the appointment of an openly gay bishop,who lives with his same sex common law partner.I believe some anglican churches are performing same sex blessings. In closing,priests do not marry same sex couples!

POSTED BY: joe on SUN, NOV 30, 2008 05:46 AM -0500