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4 min

Stephen Boissoin on free speech, porn and his anti-gay letter

Xtra chats with the former pastor who was recently cleared of hate speech

Stephen Boissoin

It’s been seven years since Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the Red Deer Advocate titled “Homosexual Agenda Wicked.” The letter, which accused “homosexual educators” of brainwashing children, was deemed hate speech by the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) after University of Calgary professor Darren Lund filed a complaint. Boissoin, a former pastor, was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages and was banned from making “disparaging remarks” about gays.

But on Dec 3, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the AHRC ruling. In his decision, Justice Earl Wilson wrote that Boissoin’s views may be “jarring, offensive, bewildering, puerile, nonsensical and insulting,” but that the letter isn’t hate speech. Many are calling Justice Wilson’s ruling a victory for freedom of expression. (Read the entire ruling here – PDF)

In editorials, Xtra has also defended Boissoin’s right to free speech, arguing that although Boissoin’s views are appalling, censorship does not solve the problem of homophobia.

In the spirit of free speech and the free exchange of ideas, Xtra wanted to find out what Boissoin thinks about hate-speech laws and censorship, so we called him up and asked him.


Xtra: The Court of Queen’s Bench recently overturned a ruling by an Alberta human rights panel and ruled that a letter you wrote to the Red Deer Advocate about homosexuality in 2002 is not a hate crime. What are your views on free speech?

Boissoin: Obviously, I believe that free speech is a fundamental right for all Canadians — all human beings, actually — and I believe when it involves controversial, socio, moral or political issues, we especially need the right to be able to air our opinions, even if those opinions offend other people. In my case, I believe that my opinion was valid, was warranted. I believe it’s actually more true today than it was in 2002 when I wrote it. I believe that it needs to be understood in my context and there should have been further dialogue about it without frivolous and malicious government involvement, which, of course, is attributed to Darren Lund’s desire to control speech and turn it into his version of freedom of speech, which has limits that have been proven throughout time to be detrimental to freedom as well as freedom of speech.


Xtra: Why do you think your letter — and, more generally, statements that some people find offensive — should be tolerated and legally permissible?

Boissoin: Well, that’s two separate questions. I mean, if we don’t permit offence and freedom of speech, then whose speech is permissible? I’m asking you that question back. What type of speech do we have? Who gets to determine — what is the evolutionary process of freedom of speech, then? Are we allowed to debate social moral issues?

I spent 45 minutes speaking to a gay man yesterday named Aaron — fantastic guy. We had a great conversation. Both of us understood that the one significant factor is still being debated by scientists and that is, is a person born gay? Is there a genetic link to homosexuality? These things have not even been settled in the scientific community. Yet, politically, people like me are forced to — or there was an attempt to force me to not have an opinion.

There’s these buzz words — these manipulative labels — that we instantly put on people like me, such as hate-monger, bigot, to try to disarm me, to humiliate me. It doesn’t work. I’m a big boy, and I’ve been around a little bit, but that’s the attempt, and a lot of people buy into that — “yeah, he has this opinion, he must be a bigot, a hate-monger,” etc, etc. So, again, back to your question, you would have to discard half of the books — or, I don’t know what the percentage would be — in every public library if you held to the standard that Lund wants held. How would you ever have Mein Kampf in a library? Now, I can email you numerous quotes by homosexuals that say that they did not feel that my letter propagated hatred or discrimination for any homosexual individual.

Xtra: Section 3 of the Alberta law prohibits the publication of materials that “is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt.” Some of your supporters said after the Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that it didn’t go far enough because this law still exists. Do you agree with them?

Boissoin: Yes, I believe that the legislation needs to be struck down. I mean, let’s look at what occurred in my case. Anybody can file a human rights complaint against anybody for hurt feelings. And somebody at the human rights end who is not an expert in constitutional law can then bring this person before a panel, and what was my choice back then? Was I to show up alone without representation when the decision that can be made at the panel level can be legally binding? Of course I was going to bring a lawyer to something so important as an attack against my fundamental right to freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. Human rights commissions — having the power that they have in section 3 is very, very dangerous, and I certainly hope the government in the future will strike it down or remove those powers from the commission. I think there are certain things that the commission can undertake in housing and employment, etc, which they were mandated to do from the onset, but crossing over into policing thought is a very, very dangerous thing.


Xtra: In response to the ruling, you’ve said in the media that this is a “victory for freedom of speech and religious expression in Canada.” Do you support free speech and freedom of expression for all citizens?

Boissoin: Absolutely. Without a doubt, I believe that those that oppose my opinion can air their beliefs — they do — and I believe that all people should have equal rights in that area. And sometimes speech is going to offend me. I have a right to rebut it if it’s publicly aired, and on we go.


Xtra: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this as well, but there have been incidents of border guards flagging gay films as obscene at the Canadian border. I’m wondering, what do you think about the censorship of gay films and gay porn at the Canadian border?

Boissoin: I guess I’ll say personally what I believe. I believe that we do not live in a theocratic society, meaning that I do not believe that my religious views should be forced on anybody. I personally believe that homosexual pornography is gross perversion and whether it’s men with men, women with women — I absolutely believe it’s disgusting. Whether someone has the right to view it or not, as much as I hate to stomach the thought of it, I think that if there’s going to be equal rights, then there needs to be equal rights all the way around. In other words, if there’s going to be heterosexual porn permitted, then obviously homosexual porn must be permitted. If I had it my way, no porn would be permitted.