An Screed: Denyse O’Leary

SCREED: Why change is so desperately needed in Canada –

Christiancrat vs. independent Christian journalists!

Denyse O’Leary


It’s painful for me to write this. But I am NOT asking for pity. I want action, and I want it soon.

First, who am I? An independent Canadian science journalist and longtime columnist for ChristianWeek. My first book, Faith@Science: Why science needs faith in the 21st century (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001) was largely a collection of my columns.

Last week I offered to quit my decade-long column at ChristianWeek. Why?

One, Janet Epp Buckingham, whom the ChristianWeek editorial director tells me is somebody important* in the evangelical Christian community sniffs this month, in her own column on the current civil rights problem in Canada created by misnamed Human Rights Commissions (hereafter “hrcs”), “Abolish human rights commission? Not so fast”:

She opines,

“Some people are using the mere fact that the commissions are considering the complaints to argue that they should be abolished. That is like saying that the courts should be shut down just because someone has sued me! Sure, it is a pain and it can be costly if you hire a lawyer to defend you. But that is what happens in a country where you have laws and courts. You may have to defend yourself against someone whose claim has little merit. Everyone deserves their day in court. “

Now I had to read her statement over a few times in order to grasp the full impact of its unreality and general awfulness, in relation to Christian journalists in Canada. Finally, I felt able to say something.

Here it is:

No. Everyone whose claim has “little merit” does NOT deserve their day in an “hrc” court, as they exist in Canada. I am appalled that – at this point – someone who apparently knows so little about the “hrcs” workings would even comment.

I get hate mail every day and have been threatened with reprisal in Canada, because at the Post-Darwinist, I defend the design of the universe and at the Mindful Hack I defend the case for the existence of the soul.

A Christian freelance (independent) journalist like me has already agreed to live on a low income, as I have done for many years, in order to pursue what I know to be true, against fashionable and profitable error.

Anyone can complain to an “hrc” about me (or you, reader) for any reason, if they feel dissed by something you said. You will not get anything like the justice you would get in a normal court.

So you can lose your pension or your house to lawyers’ fees – or you can accept unfair fines and unacceptable sanctions, like “apologies” for what you know is fair comment. All in a court that is not necessarily administered by judges or lawyers, but perhaps only by activists.

That’s all OKAY with Janet Epp Buckingham. It’s just a “pain,” as she puts it.

Not a pain for her, to be sure, but a pain for me – so I guess in that case it doesn’t matter, right?

In her column, Epp Buckingham frets about anti-Christian art. She wonders, shouldn’t people like me be really upset about that instead of about my loss of civil rights?

No. I shouldn’t. And here’s why:

I simply cannot believe that – in these times, when I struggle to get across basic facts about the world we live in – (Yes the universe shows evidence of design! Yes you DO have a soul!) that anyone (especially a lawyer!) would think I should trade my civil liberties for the right to persecute some troubled soul who purveys anti-Christian art.

But the situation is actually far worse than I have told you so far.

In the “hrc” hearing that Janet Epp Buckingham thinks is just a “pain”, I’d be paying a lawyer who couldn’t really even tell me what to expect to happen – because, so far as I can tell – the “hrcs” basically make it up as they go along. Not like a usual court where your lawyer can really advise you.

Yes, it’s bad enough that I must lose my savings or my home to pay a lawyer, just to go on doing my job. The Bible would say that was an injustice, but … who, oh, cares about that?

And that’s precisely what Janet Epp Buckingham – and, I must presume, the evangelical bigwigs she represents – apparently do not care about.

I think Janet Epp Buckingham owes every independent journalist in Canada an apology, but especially the Christian ones, who have – in many cases – sacrificed much and risked much.

But never mind these Christiancrats. They can preach to their own choir. In the REAL world, we need a Royal Commission on the way these “hrc” outfits work and whether they actually serve their intended purpose.

Denyse O’Leary
author of By Design or by Chance?.
Co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

*Here’s what I was told: Legal counsel and director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada for many years, and currently is director of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, affiliated with Trinity Western University. Given what has happened in the last twenty years, I do not know any reason at all to doubt her involvement. – d.

35 thoughts on “An Screed: Denyse O’Leary

  1. Oh God, I had to post on that. What is it about lawyers? Is there some form of Autism that enables them to pass the bar but leaves them unable to function above the level of a trained chimp in all other facets of life? Think about it, Cherniak,Kinsella, now this. Scary stuff.

  2. This controversy seems to have penetrated the consciousness of those who are completely ignorant of the law and courts, and aren’t interested in educating themselves on even the most rudimentary elements.
    People who attempt to misuse a “real” court for a specious claim will not advance their claim to trial, or if they do, will lose and have costs assessed.
    They will also be paying for their own lawyer.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of a Royal Commission. There seem to be far too manypeople who have been grotesquely victimized by these Star Chambers over many years. Their plight needs to be acknowledged and compensated. The Commission should also look into the abuse such as the fact that a huge proportion of the complaints brought before one the HRCs were made by one individual.

  4. blazingcatfur, thanks for your comment.

    I should clarify that I don’t actually “work with” Janet Epp Buckingham. We write for the same print publication (with limited online presence – she’s online, obviously, but I am not). People can write for the same publication and know little or nothing of each others’ existence. It’s not like a community blog.

    With respect to your comments re lawyers: I’ve thought a lot about this problem. In my own view, which I will develop later, there may be some benefit to professional classes from the loss of civil rights caused by the growth of nebulous “human rights.”

    I worked about 35 years as a freelance journalist and managed to avoid conflicts with the law without legal help.

    Why? Easy. You could figure out everything you needed to know by listening to about six or seven maxims from seasoned old hacks and reading maybe one or two lay-friendly articles on defamation law. It was common sense, right?

    I did once support and fundraise for a colleague who had a conflict, but the charges were later dropped. Again, it was all common sense and procedure.

    But in the new world of “hrcs”, there is no common sense.

    So there is an opportunity for a profession class that is UNBOUNDED by our traditional liberties. We will be their serfs and dhimmis, desperately hoping they take pity on us.

    If that’s not what’s happening, this is their chance to show it.

    In the meantime, like Louise, I want a Royal Commission to scour the land and find the inarticulate people who may have been unjustly treated and even harmed.

    As articulate people, we OWE them that. We can start to help ourselves, yes, but we MUSTN’T leave them behind!

    And yes, you may certainly quote me. – d.

  5. “What is it about lawyers”

    Aw, come on, catfur, I post on your blog and say nice things all the time. And this is the thanks I get? 🙂

  6. Hi, Denyse, You were posting about the same time i was posting my tongue in cheek comment to catfur.
    I suppose i’m defensive about it, but I think it’s the lack of law in these hrc’s that sickens me. They’re best suited for non-lawyers, or people who would like to “practise” law without reading all those stuffy, tedious precedents and such. Your theory about a new professional class is well taken; imagine the power and magic when you can just make it up as you go along. Wow, it’s just like being on the SCO!
    Interestingly, i was a journalist before going to law school, and indeed, it’s possible to keep out of trouble with a minimum of knowledge.

  7. Denyse, bear in mind that not all Christians are capable of coming up with the right political analyses or solutions – the fact that someone is a Christian doesn’t stop them from being completely and utterly wrong. You’re right, by the way!

  8. All these years gone by and Trudeau is still a great affliction on the country. I do believe the human “rights” things were spawned by him along with his misbegotten constitution. The man was a disaster and he is still flipping us the bird from the grave.

  9. Chris, forgive me for tarring the all members of the legal profession, my tail is too bushy at times;).

    I do find it odd that the most vocal defenders of Section 13(1) are lawyers, Kinsella,Warman, Eliadis etc. I can only infer that the CHRC’s attract a strange sort of self-appointed busy body, with even odder agenda’s to push and a penchant for dictating their worldview to the poor befuddled masses- like me. CHRC’s exist in cloud cuckoo land.

  10. Human Rights Commissions, in the beginning were perhaps, note I say perhaps a way of resolving more clear cut issues. Pay inequities for the same job – clear enough. Refused housing on racial grounds – clear right.

    But without even as much as legislation via Parliaments the regulations were broadened to include dubious areas of thought and opinion. And then even promotion or may incite hate – whatever that means. Vague language= bad law. I think lawyers should agree with that -even Janet.

    Lawyers too often think in black and white – that is sort of what law teaches. Human rights appointees, some who are not even legally trained, love to deal in notions and thoughts, especially when they have government given powers to advance THEIR thoughts and agendas over all other citizens.

    The autrocity in all of this – that Liberal, ND and Conservtaive governments all allow this kind of facist imposition upon citizens by government appointed tax paid agenda driven illogical and self absorbed individuals.

    In essence it is government that is doing these things to our fellow citizens. That reflects the caliber of legislators – sorry – politicians we allow to rule us.

    Denyse – be not afraid, truth will eventually gain its rightful place and without it – we are surely doomed.

  11. hrc’s. don’t go. see who shows up to shoot you. that’s what would have to happen before i would go before one. i would have to be dead.

  12. Re: Why change is so desperately needed in Canada –
    Christiancrat vs. independent Christian journalists!


  13. I reprint the following from the newsletter I had posted on No Apologies ( today. (NA is migrating to a new server over the next few days so may not always be available for viewing the complete article.)

    In light of this ongoing collection of examples of how dangerous and offensive these so-called “Human Rights Commissions” are, it was very troubling to see two articles last week defending these organizations. One was written by a prominent Christian lawyer and was published in the newspaper, Christian Week. I want to respond to the most troubling comments.

    Firstly, the author wrote, “In the midst of all the hoopla, another message came my way. Pro-life groups denied status on university campuses are considering complaints to provincial human rights commissions about discriminatory treatment. Maybe human rights commissions aren’t so bad after all.”

    Well, that’s nice in theory, but we know from the evidence that these Commissions are stacked against Christians. Hence it is very unlikely that they will accept these pro-life complaints. In Saskatchewan, the provincial HRC accepted a complaint by two homosexuals against a marriage commissioner who refused to perform their “wedding”. But when three (other) marriage commissioners filed a complaint against the provincial government for discrimination for telling them they should resign if they weren’t prepared to perform homosexual “weddings,” the Commission refused to accept their complaint. This has happened more than once.

    The fact is that the Marxist group rights model that is foundational to today’s “human rights” ethic exists only to advocate on behalf of “historically disadvantaged” groups. And these groups constitute pretty much everyone in society other than white, Anglo-Saxon, male Christians. So the fact that some well-meaning, but naive, pro-life groups want to file human rights complaints is hardly an argument for the ongoing existence of these commissions.

    The writer goes on to argue that “Christians have used these same commissions to ensure that they do not face discrimination.” No examples are given, and none come to mind. Whatever examples may exist are not likely to be from the cutting edge of the culture wars. Earlier in the article, the writer seems to make my point for me by noting, in the Saskatchewan case of Hugh Owens (who faced an HRC complaint for an anti-homosexuality ad he placed in a newspaper), that it was the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal – a real court – which vindicated him after he appealed a Human Rights Commission decision against him.

    This writer also objected that “Some people are using the mere fact that the commissions are considering the complaints to argue that they should be abolished. That is like saying that the courts should be shut down just because someone has sued me!”

    In fact, objecting to HRC’s accepting complaints is not at all like saying that courts should be shut down simply because someone has filed a lawsuit. As I noted above, there is a prior step when it comes to HRC proceedings. Commissioners have a responsibility to examine a complaint against various criteria to decide whether or not they will accept it. And I have noted that these Christian-haters like to reject complaints filed by Christians (particularly, pro-life, pro-family, conservative Christians).

    It has also been argued that some of the most offensive complaints which HRC’s across the country have recently been accepting have been beyond the technical parameters of the legislation that governs these Commissions, and, therefore reflect a Crusader mentality by these thugs.

    I submit, therefore, that it is not only logical and morally legitimate – but indeed a moral imperative and obligation – to demand the abolition of Human Rights Commissions simply for accepting these complaints in the first place. The very fact that these complaints have been accepted for adjudication shows how much these organs of the State truly hate liberty and Christians.

    The Christian Week article also says, “Sure, it is a pain and it can be costly if you hire a lawyer to defend you. But that is what happens in a country where you have laws and courts.”

    In reality, it’s not so much the inconvenience of having to defend oneself before a Human Rights Commission that critics object to. It’s the transparent bigotry of a 100% success rate for free speech complaints filed against Christians, primarily by homosexual activists. And it’s the discriminatory structure that, among other things, requires only the defendant to pay his legal costs while the accuser gets funded by the taxpayer. The comment I just cited from this Christian Week article radically minimizes these very serious – and militantly anti-Christian – systemic issues that are part of the very fabric of Canada’s “human rights” industry.

    In reality, it’s impossible to have a robust – Christian – commitment to ordered liberty and simultaneously support the ongoing existence of Canada’s Gestapo rights commissions. Christians should be able to articulate a united front on this foundational issue; such a united front is imperative to ensure the very survival of a democratic civilization.

  14. hi,

    very interesting comments. Good to see Christian Civil Rights advocacy shedding light on the double-speak of todays “human rights”. I’ve been looking for similar minded people in Australia, as I see civil liberties eroded around the “free” world, but my searches on civil rights have all ended up with the “land rights for gay whales” lobby groups…

    I would be so grateful for any nudge in the right direction here down-under. Surely there are some Christian journalists/lawyers/housewives etc who have organised some group?

    Living in hope

  15. The majority of the opinions voiced here , ignore the reality of what has become commonplace amongst the religious right in their campaign against homosexual persons. This, despite having been given ‘special’ rights that excuse them from having to perform same-sex marriages. No one has been called to task for voicing religious objections to an entire segment of humanity based on Biblical verses that are the aetiology of their beliefs. But in reality; we have seen the endless use of lies, slander,defamation , and innuendo ; against Canadian gays , imncluding statements that were disproven decades ago. The only concept of free speech accepted by conservative Christians is its availability to them.Free speech exercised by others that includes criticisms of fundamentalist Christian belief systems is always described as anti-Christian attacks.
    One writer says , in derision of Human Rights Councils ” And then even promotion or may incite hatred – whatever that means.” This is an example of what it means…….this incident is characteristic of the hate filled mindset that every study and informed opinion by law enforcement and criminologits agree; is largely religiously inspired .Recently , in Oxnard , California , a fourteen year old teen told his friends at school that he was gay.He was henceforth victimized with ridicule , harrassment , and taunts that were , by all reports ; endless and viscious. A few days ago ; a sixteen year old teen from the same school ; brought a gun onto the premises and shot the young gay teen with two bullets to the back of the head. He has since died .Source : CNN News .The same mindset is responsible for about one hundred murders of gay men in Canada over the last ten years. And I am not aware of even one syllable of objection or sympathy from anyone claiming to adhere to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

  16. “The best slave is one who thinks he is free” Janet Epp Buckingham is acting like a Christian “Uncle Tom” for those secularists who would like to keep us down on the plantation. Someone put a fork in her, she’s done. Her analogy to the courts also shows flawed logic: courts have much higher requirements for evidence and safeguards for the accused. Her analogy is absurd. I would not hire someone with such fuzzy thinking to defend me. Lenin called those non-communist apologists who served the revolution “useful idiots”. Maybe the HRC has found theirs.

  17. You would think that Denyse and I have never met but we have. In fact, Denyse has worked for me editing a publication. And yes, Denyse, if you have a problem with me or what I write, you can contact me directly. That is the Biblical approach.

    I don’t particularly appreciate the very personal attacks from all of you.

    Given that people seem to consider that I am an idiot with no idea what I am talking about, let me tell you how Christians have benefited from human rights complaints.

    In 1984, Mrs. O’Malley brought a human rights complaint against Simpsons-Sears because she was fired for refusing to work on Saturdays. She was a Seventh Day Adventist. She won her case and established the right for all believers to have their Sabbath day of rest.

    A Newfoundland hospital suspended a Pentecostal clerk for two days because she refused to sell tickets to a social event at which liquor would be served. A board of inquiry found this discriminatory on the basis of religion because Pentecostals are strict teetotalers. The Board found that she should have been accommodated.

    The Stouffville General Hospital required all obstetrics nurses who had religious objections to assist with abortions. Those who had religious objections were required to apply for transfers to other departments. This case settled prior to a hearing with the hospital agreeing to change its policies to accommodate those nurses who conscientiously object to participating in abortions.

    After much negotiation the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) accommodated bus drivers who objected to passing out transfers that advertised gay and lesbian organizations. The TTC had originally refused to accept advertising on transfers from these organizations and only did so after an order from the Ontario Human Rights Commission. When bus drivers objected, the TTC suggested they place the transfers on the dash of the bus. They finally agreed to give some drivers a leave of absence if the drivers produced a letter from their clergy stating that this was a legitimate religious objection.

    A Shoppers Drug Mart required a Jehovah’s Witness to arrange a display of poinsettas during the Christmas season. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not observe Christmas. A British Columbia Board of Inquiry found this to be a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code and required Shoppers Drug Mart to compensate the employee.

    These may seem like small matters to you but they establish a pattern of respect for religious freedom that protects all religious observers.

    As for the concern that Denyse O’Leary has about facing a human rights complaint at any time, I am one who vigourously defends freedom of expression. We must work together to make sure that journalists do not have to face spurious complaints. The Ontario Human Rights Act was recently amended to make it even easier for people to make complaints. I was one who made a submission to the Ontario government opposing this amendment.

    But where was the Christian community on this? I felt that I was the lone voice. That was the time to have a major push for reform but I certainly did not hear it.

    My commentary was arguing that human rights commissions serve a useful purpose in society. While they may need reform, they still have an important function.

    I currently have a complaint pending before the Ontario Human Rights Commission (in its pre-amendment form). The commission staff have said over and over that their purpose is to be ameliorative, not punative. They are looking for negotiation and agreement. I think that they have been very helpful and respectful to both sides of this issue and we are very close to coming to an agreement that makes both sides happy.

    I am very sorry that Denyse feels very threatened by the hrc and by my commentary. I, too, have received hate mail and even hate blogs (this being one of them). And no, Denyse, I will not make a human rights complaint against you even though I am very offended!

  18. Just to be clear, I agree with and would support amendments to remove all restrictions on free expression that are currently in human rights codes. These are overly broad and cause all kinds of problems. The Hugh Owens case in Saskatchewan is a case in point.

  19. Hugh, what does your post have to do with the topic at hand?? Are you claiming that a Canadian HRC can stop a gay american teen from getting a pair of bullets in the back of the head? That only an HRC can stomp out religious hatred for gays? That all recent hatred of gays is from religious folk?

    BTW, those so called special rights you seem to speak so highly of didn’t do much good for the Knights of Columbus now did they? I seem to recall an HRC ruling against the KofC for not renting their hall out to a gay couple for a wedding reception… to comment on that?

  20. Note when many many people made submissions to the Human Rights Commission that seeing Jesus having sex with a pig was hateful and wrong the HRC of the province of Saskatchewan. Imagine that.the cartoon was done in the Saskatoon univercity student newspaper.

  21. While the story about the young gay male is tragic bullying and cruelty isn’t isolated to JUST gays. They are not the only victims of bullying, to imply they are is a smoke screen. The HRC mandate hasn’t expanded to the Education Department has it? Ergo that story isn’t applicable. Most adults were bullied on some level when they were young, for being short, wearing glasses for being fat or short etc. Using a tragic incident as a reason to justify the HRC and section 13 is an example of how far the Non-Freedom of Expression troop will go to muddy the waters and confuse the public.

    Thought Crimes and the fact that this post could be deemed “Likely” to expose a person to hatred or contempt is absolutely astounding. The pro-HRC supporters are going to muddy the water and tell tales of woo alas it’s me to confuse the public on what Section 13 really is. It isn’t about protecting Gays from violence or bullying, it’s used to persecute Christians for quoting the bible. No one is immune or safe from persecution under Section 13, except special interest groups. The HRC is currently being used, at public expense, to further the agenda of illiberal organizations that seek to silence voices they don’t want to be heard. I ask those groups, what gives you the legal right to decide what I can read? The HRC has to much power and no accountability, it cannot be allowed to persecute individuals to benifit special interest finacially. I find that repulsive and a gross violation of my taxdollars.

  22. The same people who don’t want a two-tier health system are often the ones who are silent about our unjust, two tier legal system.

    As a lawyer, Ms. Eppingham should want a system that has the strictest evidientiary requirements possible and does not harm the reputation of the accused.

    HRCs don’t do that. Her anecdotal evidence of a few Christians or Christian organizations who benefited from using a philosophically flawed system is an insufficient argument as it does not address the fundamental flaws of the HRC system that Mr. Steyn, Mr. Levant, Bishop Henry, Bill Whatcott and others have had to face.

    A fistfight is also an adversarial of settling disputes in which some will prevail and others won’t but we don’t advocate that. Yet in HRCs the accused is a great disadvantage to his accuser. The burdens of proof we have taken centuries to refine are watered down greatly and the acccuser is automatically the stronger man.

    For the dearth of silly lawsuits and now activist driven claims of their human rights being violated for the most trivial of things – transgressions that would not even be criminal offenses – or would have a snowballs chance in hell of winning a civil lawsuit, we need to scrap this two tier system of presumed guilt immediately.

    If your complaint is legitimate ask the Crown to press criminal charges. If it is a civil complaint, pay your lawyer his retainer and roll the dice, taking your chances. HRCs are an easy way out and create frivolous complaints more than they are used by those to redress injustices they could use the civil court system for.

    Ms. Buckingham is defending an anachronism. A well-intentioned social engineering experiment that just grew and grew under provincial and federal budgets and the populace’s ignorance of the fundamental flaws inherent in them.

    She is embarassing the greater Christian community by throwing a few successful examples out there and not addressing the valid criticisms made of the HRC process by legal scholars, journalists and those victims of it.

    We don’t care how long you’ve known those opposing you here: Your argument seems to be is that the HRC has helped a few who could not afforded civil suits but omits the fact that it has the potential to erode the freedom of millions of Canadians and use a quasi-judicial tribunal to entrench anti-Christian, anti-life and pro-homosexualist ideologies by intimidating those who would conscientiously oppose them.

    In a hierarchy of rights, the right to express conscientiously oppose what one considers immoral behaviour must trump the legal right of those who consider such actions moral.

    Her argument is sliding towards relativism. We say that though certain behaviors are legal, the state can, in no way endorse the morality of those behaviours by cowing legitimate opposition to it.

    If HRCs had succeeded in interpreting Mr. Steyn’s comments as hate speech, it would have been a death blow for freedom in Canada.

    This is why I ask Ms. Epp-Buckingham to reconsider. I ask her to go into more detail about what the reform should entail or whether the Charter itself needs to be amended or even scrapped.

    I’d like to hear more about here ideas and less whining about what she perceives as personal attacks. It is a free an open marketplace of ideas Ms. Buckingham. Give us your solutions, not your excuses.

  23. “I think Janet Epp Buckingham owes every independent journalist in Canada an apology, but especially the Christian ones, who have – in many cases – sacrificed much and risked much.”

    quite a strange idea 🙂

  24. I have waded through most of the above, voluminous, comments, and am amazed to note that not one makes reference to the fact that the homosexual lifestyle is a lethal one. Even leaders of the group make this admission. No that is not quite accurate. They admit that AIDS is a homosexual disease, and as we have all learned, AIDS is an infectious, and fatal disease for which there is no cure. But that is not all. The lifespan of homosexual males is maybe 49 years, as opposed to 74 for heterosexual males. And we are supposed to be promoting this lifestyle among our children? It has always been the case that violation of the natural law carries its own penalty, and in this case it is a deadly one.
    What is unfortunate is that Canada has legalized the homosexual lifestyle. But Canada has no power to amend the penalties. She can only persecute people who keep reminding her of her massive ignorance.
    You think God cannot right this whole mess? Look what happened to global warming!

  25. I suppose no one is reading this old stuff any more, but for the record, the subsequent behaviour of the “human rights” commissions has completely discredited every argument for them, among non-fascists and non-totalitarians.

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