TORONTO — Catholics in Canada and the United States are coming out in support of Basilian Father Alphonse de Valk, a Toronto-based priest being investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).
Father de Valk is the founding editor and publisher of Catholic Insight, a monthly magazine that promotes Church teaching on moral issues.
During Canada’s debate over same-sex “marriage” (Canada’s federal parliament legalized such unions in July 2005), the magazine published several articles critical of homosexual activists attempting to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions.
Homosexual activist Rob Wells filed a complaint against Father de Valk and Catholic Insight with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, a federal agency that investigates alleged hate speech complaints under Canada’s Human Rights Act.
Some of the allegedly hateful statements cited in the complaint were quotations from recent papal encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Father de Valk told the Register.
Canada’s largest pro-life news service, Lifesite News, ran several articles detailing the complaint against Father de Valk and asking its readers to donate to the priest’s legal defense fund.
“Father is one of the founders of Canada’s pro-life movement,” said John-Henry Westen, editor of Lifesite News.
Wells has also filed a complaint with Canada’s privacy commission and is trying to have an outside grant for Catholic Insight revoked, Westen said.
Additionally, Catholic Insight was forced to hire legal counsel to deal with another situation involving a former Catholic seminarian now living in a same-sex “marriage,” Westen said.
South of the Canada border, Catholic Answers President Karl Keating has sent out a fundraising letter asking his readers to support Father de Valk’s legal defense fund.
“Father de Valk and Catholic Insight deserve our support because they support Catholic teachings,” Keating wrote, adding that he had donated $500 to the fund. “I’d like to see Father de Valk have a kitty large enough for him to do whatever it takes to defend his magazine and, derivatively, the Church, because the complaint filed against him and Catholic Insight really is an attack on the Catholic Church and Catholic moral teaching.”
Canada’s federal and provincial human rights commissions have a recent history of prosecuting Christians for alleged discrimination against homosexuals:
• In 1999, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered Evangelical printer Scott Brockie to pay a $5,000 fine after he refused to print homosexual-themed stationery.
• A Knights of Columbus chapter in British Columbia was fined $2,000 in December 2005 for declining to rent its hall to a lesbian couple for a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.
• In April, Christian Horizons, a Christian ministry that cares for the severely disabled, was fined $23,000 by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for dismissing an employee who had signed a declaration of Christian moral living as part of her employment contract, but who later assumed an active homosexual lifestyle.
Refusal to pay such fines can lead to charges of contempt of court and possible jail sentences.
Should the Canadian Human Rights Commission proceed with the complaint against Catholic Insight, Father de Valk will be forced to defend himself before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body that adjudicates cases investigated by the Human Rights Commission.
“The social climate right now is that we’re into a new form of censorship and thought control, and the commissions are being used as thought police,” said Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, Alberta.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal operates without most of the usual legal protections afforded an accused party, said Bishop Henry, who described Father de Valk as “an orthodox, very straight-forward individual.” For instance, Canada’s human rights tribunals operate according to a reverse onus, whereby the accused is presumed guilty and must prove his innocence, said Bishop Henry and Father de Valk.
Moreover, Canada’s human rights tribunals have a 100% conviction rate when investigating complaints filed against Christians by homosexual activists, both men said.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission also covers the legal costs of the complainant, whereas the accused is solely responsible for the legal costs he incurs when a case goes before the tribunal.
Thus far, Father de Valk has incurred $20,000 in legal expenses, he said.
Mark van Dusen, a media consultant for the Human Rights Commission, denied the organization operates according to a reverse onus when investigating complaints.
Van Dusen also said the commission does not cover the legal costs of the complainant, but rather introduces individual cases with the tribunal, with the commission acting as a separate complainant.
Van Dusen denied that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rubber-stamps cases introduced by the human rights commission, but he was unable to name a specific complaint introduced by the Human Rights Commission in which the tribunal decided in favor of the accused.
“The commission only refers cases that it considers are of such a vilifying nature that they are likely to be upheld at the tribunal,” van Dusen said.
The spokesman refused to comment on the specifics of the commission’s investigation into Father de Valk, but said the commission had the power to dismiss the complaint.
When asked if the commission considers it hateful to oppose legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” because of sincerely-held religious belief, van Dusen replied, “We don’t set public policy or moral standards. … But the hate is defined in the Human Rights Act under section 13.1.”
That section of the act prohibits the electronic dissemination of “hate messages,” defined as “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
“Sexual orientation” is one of the grounds of discrimination prohibited by the act.
Keith Martin is a Liberal Member of Parliament who has introduced a motion to have section 13.1 repealed. As a visible minority and an immigrant of East Indian ancestry, Martin is well-known among Canadian parliamentarians as an anti-discrimination crusader.
However, he expressed concern that Canada’s human rights commissions and tribunals have overstepped their authority and are now trampling freedom of expression.
“Freedom of speech is a human right,” Martin said. “As a citizen of a free country, I am deeply concerned and disturbed by the fact that the bar of freedom of speech has been moved, quite significantly, in a way that is a serious violation in a serious democracy.”
Pete Vere writes from
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.