This case looked at whether “opinion” could be hate speech. 

LEAF intervened before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, and before the Human Rights Panel in Alberta. 

Facts 

Harvey Kane and the Jewish Defence League of Canada filed a complaint under the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act after Alberta Report, a magazine, published antisemitic content in one of their articles. A Human Rights Panel (the Panel) was eventually appointed to hear the complaint. Before hearing the case, the Panel applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench for its opinion on several legal questions related to the case. It then made its decision on the complaint. 

Arguments 

Before the Court of Queen’s Bench, LEAF argued that rights protected under human rights legislation should be given a broad interpretation, while exceptions and defences should be more limited. Where competing rights were in issue, there needed to be a balance that fully respects the importance of both rights. An individual could not establish a defence to a hate speech complaint by saying that they were simply expressing an opinion. Instead, there needed to be full consideration of the context of the expression.  

After the Court of Queen’s Bench released its decision, LEAF argued that the Panel was required to follow that decision.   

Outcome 

The Court of Queen’s Bench agreed that individuals could not defend themselves against a hate speech complaint by saying that they were only expressing their opinion. While freedom of the press is of great importance, it must be balanced with the goal of eliminating discrimination.  

The Panel found that the content published by Alberta Report was discriminatory, although this decision was later set aside on appeal for procedural reasons.  

LEAF is grateful to Jo-Ann Kolmes, counsel before the Alberta Human Rights Panel and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in this case. LEAF is also grateful to Sheila Greckol and Renée Cochard, counsel before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in this case.  

Download the Human Rights Panel factum here.

Download the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench factum here.

Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].