Is America Headed for a Tyranny of Nice?

G.K. Chesterton once observed that “When orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed.” With a new government about to be sworn into Washington, there is talk about implementing hate speech legislation similar to what we have in Canada. Unfortunately, as we have learned north of the border, tolerance and anti-hate legislation quickly becomes a euphemism for silencing orthodox Christian teaching.

Such is the case with Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals — state-established quasi-judicial tribunals in which Christians are regularly hauled to account for their Christian convictions. These commissions and tribunals have a 100 percent conviction rate against Christians. Several of these cases are documented in Tyranny of Nice, a book I recently co-authored with Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, which features an introduction by conservative columnist Mark Steyn — himself a victim of three Canadian human rights commissions and tribunals for his bestselling book America Alone. What follows is an excerpt from Tyranny of Nice detailing what Americans can expect if they adopt Canadian-style human rights tribunals:

No Freedom for the Printing Press

tyranny-of-nice-book-cover.jpgOne of the more controversial cases is that of Scott Brockie. The conscientious born-again Christian owns a printing shop in Toronto. Some of his customers are homosexual, and generally he has no problems serving them as he would his heterosexual customers.

However, Scott drew the line in 1996 when he charitably — but firmly — declined for reasons of conscience to print stationary for an organization promoting homosexual activism. The organization filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Board of Inquiry. On February 24, 2000, the board ordered Scott to pay the complainant $5,000.

Heather McNaughton, the adjudicator assigned to the case, acknowledged the sincerity of Scott’s religious convictions in her ruling. She then added: “In fact nothing in my order will prevent Brockie from continuing to hold and practice his religious beliefs. Brockie remains free to hold his religious beliefs and to practice them in his Christian community.”

Notice how McNaughton restricts Scott’s freedom to practice his faith to his religious community. She says nothing about Scott’s freedom to practice his Christian beliefs outside of his Christian community. (Actually she does: Scott isn’t free to practice, hence her imposition of a $5,000 fine upon the devout Christian). And what if Scott happens to visit another Christian community? Is he free to practice his Christian faith in a Christian community not his own?

Scott appealed the decision to a real court, which sided in his favor. The case then ended up before a divisional court that awarded Scott $25,000 in costs. However, his case was subsequently appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which in its March 30, 2004 ruling reversed the earlier divisional court ruling.

As reported by Tony Gosgnach in The Interim: “[The appeal court decision] put Brockie on the hook for more than $40,000, which includes legal costs — his, those of the [homosexual activist group that filed the complaint] and those of the Ontario Human Rights Commission — as well as a $5,000 fine that was levied against him in 1999. That’s in addition to almost $100,000 in legal fees previously expended.”

In Canada, one is still free (for now) to hold Christian opinions, but one is not free to practice them outside of one’s place of worship. Yet Christians often act on their beliefs in areas other than sexual morality. Many of Canada’s food banks, schools and hospitals were founded by Christians acting upon their beliefs. Back then Christians were considered heroes for feeding the poor, instructing the illiterate and healing the sick. Today they’re potential hate-mongers…

Trudeau: a Clandestine American?

The Christian Heritage Party (CHP) is Canada’s fifth largest political party. Its [former] leader, Ron Gray, is a former information officer with the CBC. The party appeals to fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants. While the party does not expressly forbid Catholics, it requires individual members to sign a declaration agreeing with the party’s five fundamental principles. One of these principles is recognition of the Bible as the final authority above men. (Catholics have great respect for the Bible as the inspired word of God, but believe that God is the final authority above men.)

Homosexual activist Rob Wells launched a human rights complaint against Gray, the CHP and a CHP riding association on November 27, 2007. This is the third time Wells has filed a complaint against Christians. As is typical of his complaints, the activist reportedly took umbrage with some of the material published on the party’s website and made his usual hate allegations. In particular, Wells objected to an article the party had republished from the U.S.-based news site World Net Daily.

The case would have followed the commissions’ usual pattern when persecuting Christians. However, three things stand out. First, this is the first time the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has afforded to itself the power to investigate a political party. Shouldn’t voters be the judge of a party’s platform? Second, the issue concerned an article published by the largest Internet news source in the United States. Thus the CHRC was de facto claiming jurisdiction over American content.

Third, Gray contacted Dean Steacy, the CHRC investigator assigned to the case. Gray expressed his objections to the investigation, appealing to the freedom of speech enjoyed by Canadians. Steacy reportedly dismissed freedom of speech as “an American concept” to which he does not give “any value”. At least that’s what Ron Gray says. Neither Steacy nor Mark van Dusen, a media consultant for the commission, would discuss the matter when contacted by one of the authors.

Given that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenches freedom of expression as a fundamental human freedom, if what the CHP leader claims is true — and Gray strikes the authors as an honest man — then the CHRC has dismissed our Charter as an unworthy extension of American jurisprudence. Someone ought to tell [former Canadian prime minister] Pierre Trudeau who fathered the Charter. Most conservatives in Canada feel that the former Liberal prime minister was a closet communist. But to the CHRC, Trudeau was a clandestine American.

Regardless, Steacy’s reported comment summarizes the key problem in every case raised in this book. Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunal act as though they are above the law. In the name of tolerance and multi-culturalism, these government agencies place themselves in judgment of the very democratic rights and freedoms that make possible a tolerant and multi-cultural society. Holding our Charter of Rights and Freedoms in contempt, as well as the principles of natural justice, these unelected star chambers have become the greatest danger to Canadian freedom, liberty and democracy. And this is why Canadians [and Americans] should care.

Augmenting Their Mandate

By now you are probably bored with stories of homosexual activists bringing Christians before the human rights tribunals. So let’s talk about plastic surgery. Margaret Wente tells the story of Dr. Robert Stubbs in the February 16, 2008 edition of the Globe & Mail. Dr. Stubbs is a plastic surgeon who specializes in augmenting his patient’s private parts. Wente happened to catch his human rights hearing.

Two transsexuals hauled Dr. Stubbs before the Ontario Human Rights Commission after he declined to perform a labiaplasty on one and a breast augmentation on the other. The doctor told them that transsexual women were medically different from biological women (they resemble men internally, imagine that!) Because the complainants used to be men, the doctor wasn’t quite sure what went where when performing surgery usually reserved for women. So he declined to operate.

The transsexuals accused the plastic surgeon of discrimination. Dr. Stubbs countered that his refusal was a professional responsibility; because of his lack of experience, the operations would prove too risky without proper medical training — which he lacked. Thus it was his duty to discriminate.

The good doctor was forced to hire a lawyer and endure hours of legal proceedings because political correctness clashed with medical reality. Think about the potential havoc on Canada’s health-care system should human rights commissioners aggregate to themselves the title of medical expert. The system is troubled enough without the government coercing cardiologists into delivering babies. Leave treating heart ailments to the former, and entrust obstetricians with the latter. That’s why they spent a decade in post-secondary education.

These are just a few examples of how Canada’s tyrants of nice have persecuted Christians just north of the border, and what American Christians can expect if they allow similar anti-hate legislation to pass in the United States.

To purchase a copy of the whole book — which retails at a modest $10 — please visit, or call the Steyn Line toll-free at 1-866-799-4500. The Steyn Line is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. eastern time weekdays.


Pete Vere is a canon lawyer, author, and Byzantine Catholic from Northern Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Sonya have six children. In his few spare moments, when he is not cooking or camping with his family, he enjoys hunting, reading, video games and scotch.

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