EDMONTON, AB (March 15, 2014): The PC government should support Motion 502, which would repeal problematic speech laws contained in the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA), since Premier Alison Redford promised to enact similar reforms in 2011, Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw said today.
Saskiw’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on Monday. As recently as 2011, Redford promised to make changes to the AHRA. She specifically stated “freedom of expression must be shielded and Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act should be repealed.” In 2011, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis also supported repealing this contentious section of the AHRA, but has also done nothing to see this through. In 2012, the federal government voted to repeal a similar section in the Canadian Human Rights Act, saying it violated Canadians’ right to free speech, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Saskiw said the problematic act has exposed countless Albertans to long and costly Human Rights Tribunals, which regularly spiral into subjective witch-hunts that would never hold-up in a court of law. He said the Premier can deliver on her 2011 promise by supporting Motion 502 now. “Wildrose believes in free speech without the state prosecuting Albertans for their beliefs,” Saskiw said. “There is a limit on speech, however, which has been in the Criminal Code of Canada since 1970.” Saskiw said investigations done by the Alberta Human Rights Commission often rob the accused of his or her basic legal rights. “The system is flawed,” Saskiw said. “Albertans are being burdened with the full cost of legal representation and lengthy legal processes so they can face allegations that would never hold up in court. If allegations are serious enough, the RCMP should investigate, charges should be laid under the Criminal Code, and the punishment levied by the courts should be severe.” Saskiw is calling on members of Redford’s PC government to support his motion, and help fulfill the promise she herself made in 2011. He said the fear of being brought before the Human Rights Tribunal over baseless allegations, which would not withstand the scrutiny of a court of law, has put a chilling caveat on all Albertans’ fundamental right to free speech.