Update on Anti-Hate Provisions of Human Rights Legislation

On October 28, 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission leave to appeal the decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in the Whatcott case. In this appeal, the commission will be asking the Court for guidance on where the line should be drawn between extreme speech and the right of citizens to express their beliefs freely. You can read more on the case and topic in previous Slaw posts here and here.

A date for the hearing hasn’t yet been set.

In the meantime, the Saskatchewan government say they plan to introduce amendments to human rights legislation that will dissolve the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal in favour of having a court hear the complaints. The intent is to send complaints directly to the Court of Queen’s Bench. This change is among several other upcoming reforms to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.


  1. The other (another?) Saskatchewan human rights case of interest is Nichols v M.J., which deals with the right of a marriage commissioner to refuse to marry people whose marriage offends the commissioner’s religious beliefs. The trial decision upheld the SK tribunal, which found against the commissioner. According to this newspaper story from June 2010, the Court of Appeal has heard arguments but has reserved its decision.

    Should the commissioner’s freedom of religion allow him to refuse his public service responsiblities to marry someone whom his religion would not marry? The Nichols case involves a same-sex marriage, but why would the same principles not extend to a refusal to marry people who had been divorced, or people of different religious beliefs, or possibly for some religions, people of different races?

    Does this raise the same issues as whether medical staff in hospitals should have to participate in abortions that are scheduled while the staff is on duty, when the staff do not approve of abortions on religious grounds?

    Should the religious beliefs of someone on the public payroll be accommodated at the expense of the human rights of the people they are paid to serve? Should all such beliefs be accommodated? What happens if an accommodation mechanism has not yet been devised?