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Friday, March 03, 2000

Rights board fines printer for refusing gay business
Religion defence fails
Jonathon Gatehouse
National Post

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has fined a Toronto printer $5,000 for refusing to produce letterhead for a gay and lesbian charity, ruling that the businessman's religious beliefs do not give him the right to pick and choose his clients.

In a Feb. 24 decision, made public yesterday, a board of inquiry ruled that Scott Brockie, the owner of Imaging Excellence Inc., violated Ontario law when he declined to print letterhead, envelopes, and business cards for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in April, 1996.

Mr. Brockie, a born-again Christian, told the tribunal he turned down the order because he felt it was from an organization promoting the gay "lifestyle," something he believes the Bible has labelled as sinful. He had argued that his right to "fundamental freedom of conscience and religion," as enshrined in the Charter, should override concerns of discrimination against gays and lesbians, especially given that printing is not an "essential service."

The board and its adjudicator disagreed. "Brockie remains free to hold his religious beliefs and to practice them in his home, and in his Christian community. He is free to espouse those beliefs and to educate others as to them. He remains free to try to persuade elected representatives ... that the [Human Rights Code] protections currently granted to the lesbian and gay community, are wrong," wrote Heather MacNaughton.

"What he is not free to do, when he enters the public marketplace and offers services to the public in Ontario, is to practice those beliefs in a manner that discriminates against lesbians and gays by denying them a service available to everyone else."

Yesterday, Ray Brillinger, who filed the complaint when he was president of the Archives, applauded the decision as a significant victory for gay and lesbian rights.

"The days are long gone since a business can choose who they will do work for," he said. "The vast majority of companies are very well aware that if they are going to do business in Ontario, they must respect its laws."

Mr. Brillinger said the charitable organization, which is dedicated to preserving the historical records of Canadian gay and lesbian individuals and groups, will be able to put the $5,000 fine to good use.

But the printer and his lawyer are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Reached at his downtown Toronto offices, Mr. Brockie said he expected the Human Rights Commission to rule against him, and plans to launch a judicial appeal within the next three weeks.

"I didn't discriminate against the person. I discriminated against the philosophy, the lifestyle, the cause," he said.

Mr. Brockie, whose family has been in the printing business for three generations, said he doesn't care about his clients' sexual orientation, only the causes they espouse. He said his company has refused business on one previous occasion when it was approached by a pro-choice organization several years ago. "I'm not prepared to compromise my beliefs for the sake of a printing job," he said.

Philip McMullen, the lawyer representing Mr. Brockie and his firm, was critical of the board's decision, saying the adjudicator failed to balance the competing rights of gays and Christians.

"Mr. Brillinger can live his life the way he wants to, but my client has to take his religion off like a housecoat and leave it hanging behind the front door when he goes out in the mornings," Mr. McMullen said.

"We need to get in front of a court of law that will take the things into account that need to be looked at," he said.


(Each link opens a new window)

  • An Act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations

    Also known as Bill C-23.

  • Justice Canada


    Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, one of the prime lobbying groups for gays and lesbians in Canada.

  • Foundation for Equal Families

    Their proclaimed mandate is mandate is "to achieve equality and recognition for same-sex relationships and associated family rights through legal action and education." Look for updates on their court battles.

  • Focus on the Family Canada

    Off-line was an "Info-Pack" on Bill C-23 from the Christian family values group.

  • Xtra (Toronto)

    Get the gay male perspective on Bill C-23 and other pressing issues.

  • Citizen Impact

    Another Christian group's point of view on the bill. (They're against it.)

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