The stately courthouse that houses the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Medicine Hat (Photo: Canadian Register of Historic Places, Creative Commons).

As was widely reported yesterday, a judge of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench will begin hearing arguments in Medicine Hat today in a legal effort by a social conservative group to upend the Alberta law that prevents schools from informing parents when students join a gay-straight alliance.

The claim by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the group bringing the court challenge on behalf of 25 of religious schools, that GSAs are nothing more than “ideological sexual clubs” certainly captured headlines in Alberta yesterday.

Lawyer John Carpay, former Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta director and candidate for right-wing political parties (Photo: Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms).

But the legal case it is advancing is arguably designed not so much to protect the rights of parents as to drive gay-straight alliances right out of all Alberta schools, since few students will join GSAs if they are at risk of being outed to their parents.

This befits an organization that is part of a network of social conservative groups that consistently supports the Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial offshoots, and attempts to push the window of acceptable discourse in Canada ever farther to the social conservative right.

Indeed, the law now being challenged by the JCCF was passed last year by Alberta’s NDP government in part in response to statements by United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney that he believed schools should be able to inform parents their children have joined GSAs, causing fears for the safety of such students.

The JCCF describes itself on its website as “a voice for freedom in Canada’s courtrooms,” and says its mission is “to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education.”

In reality, however, the JCCF only supports certain freedoms. For example, it would support the freedom of religious groups to engage in behaviour many of us would define as discriminating against members of the LGBTQ community, but not necessarily the right to be free from such discrimination.

Its social conservative leanings are quite clear from the types of cases it has championed since it was established in 2010, among them:

  • Defending campus anti-abortion groups that have been denied status as clubs at Canadian universities or that engage in actions deemed offensive by other students
  • Representing a “men’s rights” group that was denied club status at Ryerson University in Toronto
  • Supporting the unsuccessful effort by British Columbia’s evangelical Trinity Western University to force provincial law societies to admit graduates of its law program despite a policy requiring students to live a supposedly Christian lifestyle, as defined by the institution
  • Sued the Ottawa Public Library to allow a group to show a video described by opponents as Islamophobic on its premises
  • Forcing the St. Catherines Public Library in Ontario to distribute a community newsletter that accused “Apostates and Atheists” of trying “to install their undemocratic rule of terror”
  • Defence of physicians who wish to deny access to medical procedures, or even refuse to provide information about them, if they believe they violate their personal religious convictions
  • Representing a “human rights advocacy” organization that wanted to make controversial claims about the Islamic religion in transit advertisements in Edmonton
  • Legal support for individuals challenging public health insurance so they can have the right to pay extra to jump the queue for health care in Canada
  • Support for a Manitoba marriage commissioner who refused to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples

A significant number of the group’s current cases involve support for anti-abortion groups and individuals as well as for groups and individuals opposed to efforts to protect the rights of LGBTQ community members.

The group also publishes an annual document it calls a “Campus Freedom Index” that purports to measure the state of freedom of expression on Canadian campuses. The list makes a particular bugbear of student unions at Canadian universities for, among other things, adopting “political positions on issues not directly related to their mandates.”

The JCCF was founded by Calgary lawyer John Carpay, a former Wildrose Party and Reform Party candidate, as well as a former Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Mr. Carpay is beloved by right-wing publications like the National Post, which provides him with a prominent platform for his social conservative views.

The JCCF’s board and advisors listed on its website include the current president of the CTF, well-known right-wing journalists and academics, associates of market-fundamentalist think tanks, and a University of Calgary professor associated with the so-called Friends of Science.

The inflammatory term “ideological sexual clubs” could have been lifted straight from a Tweet by Donald Trump, as befits the JCCF’s right-wing heritage. Unsurprisingly, the JCCF and its work have been endorsed by Rebel Media.

In the case of Alberta school GSAs, it is fair to describe such outlandish terminology as extremist nonsense, intended to obfuscate and not illuminate.

In reality, as the government’s filing in the case states, “GSAs focus on creating a safe space where students can socialize, be themselves, make friends and help other students understand the importance of being respectful to LGBTQ people.”

NOTE: References to “ideological sex clubs” in this story have been amended to read “ideological sexual clubs,” the wording used for this inflammatory and inaccurate characterization of school gay-straight alliances in the JCCP’s court filings, which I have been informed were misreported by the Canadian Press. 

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  1. Since the current CTF president sits on the JCCF’s board, does that mean that the CTF supports an action that will cause the government to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees? Doesn’t that seem contrary to the CTF’s purpose?

    Given how slowly the wheels of justice turn, I am wondering if the court case will still be going on in 10 months, when we are in an election campaign. This could cause even more contortions for Mr. Grassroots Guarantee, when it would be fair game to ask if a UCP government would continue to defend the law.

  2. A window into what a Kenney led government would look like perhaps? Spending money on lawyers to try and change long resolved issues, only Kenney will be using our tax dollars.
    This bill in my view takes the pressure off teachers, if I told you I would go to jail is a pretty good response. Of course my response would be perhaps you should get to know your child and be a better more attentive parent.

  3. “Idealogical sex clubs” is a strangely Freudian way to talk about a safe place to eat lunch. It bespeaks a strange worldview in which condoms spread sex, medical care spreads abortion, and peer pressure can make a boy think, “what if penis is delicious?”

    I know people, I’m related to people, who oppose left of centre politics because secretly the NDP surely wants a Starbucks in every abortion clinic and an abortion clinic at every Starbucks. Those people would still have trouble justifying views like the JCCF.

    “Idealogical sex clubs” sounds like a wall sign giving directions at the Vatican.

  4. I think the “sex club” label was coined by none other than Ted Byfield, Alberta’s “Old Reliable” for homophobic bozo eruptions. Mr. Byfield recently blogged:

    “These clubs are not confined to the provision of information and a place of social congeniality for “sexual minorities.” They will pre-eminently serve as missions to foster and perpetuate the forms of conduct which those minorities represent, and which virtually all the great religious traditions of the world denounce unequivocally.”

    Mr. Byfield likes to tell people that Jason Kenney is his granddaughter’s godfather. As I write that I wonder if Mr. Kenney shares Gore Vidal’s famous lament: “Always a godfather, never a god”.

  5. John Carpay should be commended, not castigated for his past allegiances in the defence of liberty and freedom.

    Let’s go through the list:

    1. Anything can be “offensive” by anyone. It’s called freedom of expression and anti-abortion groups have this freedom as to pro-choice groups;
    2. What’s wrong with a “men’s rights” group? Do men not have rights?
    3. Shame on the Supreme Court for denying the basic freedom to private schools like Trinity Western;
    4. There are things published against Christianity every day and no one complains – why should it be any different for other religions? Treat all the same, please;
    5. What happened to the right of conscientious dissent? We shouldn’t be imposing popular morality upon minorities;
    6. Again, what happened to freedom of expression? It’s a charter right;
    7. We’ve seen time and time again that public health care doesn’t work and it’s time to move to a more market-driven, choice model of health care.

    We need more people like Carpay to stand up for freedom and liberty for all Canadians!

    1. Using my freedom of expression, I must say your laundry list of whinges, bleats and complaints are inimical to me personally. They reek of some blinkered ideology to which no thought or compassion has been given. And further, it’s merely a plea for return to the days when priests and local bigwigs held sway over what people were allowed to think or do. So if you lot came into power, I’d soon find my version of freedom was stomped into the ground, and I’be told how I can behave, or else. You right wing freaks won’t offer reciprocal rights to us, oh no, to speak our minds the way We want.

      The very definition of Conservative implies regression rather than vision for the future. In other words, you stop thinking, and expect everyone else to live by your deluded idea of social mores, dredged up from 1893. As if that were somehow better by definition.

      Screw that for a lark. Expect resistance.

    2. My responses:

      1. To paraphrase George Orwell, everyone can be equally offensive but some are more offensive than others (he was a lifelong socialist, btw).

      2. Sure…they’re in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all to see.

      3. The problem was that religious freedom clashed with personal freedom…sort of like why we don’t invoke religious freedom as a defense for stoning adulterers these days.

      4. What do you mean nobody complains? Plenty complain.

      5. Unless those minorities happen to be gay, right?

      6. It ends when you put other people in danger.

      7. Wtf does this have to do with the issue at hand?

    3. Point #1 – Irrelevant to anything in the post. The students are not being protected from being offended. They endure offensive comments at a rate that’s likely much higher than your or I have ever endured. Your straw man, on the other hand, is exceedingly offensive.

      Point #2 – There’s nothing wrong with a “men’s rights” group, as long as it advocates for equality for men (it would be welcomed! No more “but we won’t enjoy the same ability to dominate – we’re the real victims!”). However, it was nice of you to create another straw man to shoot down (I’m starting to think that you have a talent). The “men’s rights” group, Ryerson Men’s Issues Awareness Society, was not prevented from forming or operating, only from receiving money from the Student’s Union because of their support for anti-feminists. They do exist and continue to exist. I guess the Student’s Union shouldn’t have the freedom to decide who gets the money they dole out. Where’s John Carpay?!

      Point #3 – Again, you have a flair for propaganda that will serve you well during Jason Kenney’s run. Trinity Western is free to operate and grant degrees. That’s more than “basic” freedom. The attempt by the University to, and here’s the key point, FORCE law societies, against their best practices and “FREEDOM” to accept degrees from a University that requires their students to give up their own “FREEDOM” and to bend their life to the University’s dogma. Your choice of what you define freedom as and to whom it applies adequately displays your dishonesty.

      Point #4 – Done and done. By the way, “no one complains”. Hilarious!

      Point #5 – I assume that you don’t see how this very point destroys the whole basis of your response. If you assume that LGBTQ people are the majority, then this statement would make sense, but since they are likely only 5% – 10% of the population, then (although I actually agree with your point), I believe you meant for the aggrieved parties to be social conservatives demanding the right to know who to discriminate against, the so-called popular majority forcing itself on the conscientious minority. I believe you could list this as an “epic” fail… As for the social conservative’s ability to voice dissent over the policy/law, I believe your very comment puts the lie to that assertion.

      Point #6 – I assume that you think something has happened to it, but since you gave no examples of your concern I will take the Hitchen’s approach – “that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

      Point #7 – “that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. Not only that, the whole approach to health care since the 1990’s has been to introduce more market based reforms. Twenty years of reforms seem to have failed to make any impact on your assessment of the health care system, so it may be time for you to reconsider your position on this subject. Doubling down is the usual response. Perhaps a future comment about how countries with socialized medicine have populations demanding private, for profit, health care.

      Also, I find your definition of “all Canadians” to be horribly deficient!

      Thanks for getting me to go through your list! Straw men, propaganda, assertions with no basis and self-owning. I can’t say I enjoyed it though.

  6. We’re still able to play cutsie here in Canada. We can pretend that we’re fine folks because we’re so polite that we would never say a contrary word. That’s all likely to soon come to an abrupt end, with bloodshed and sorrow.
    For the record, I don’t stand for the alphabet soup of whiners and whingers going on about micro-aggressions and safe spaces. For those who want to stick their head up their arse – go for it – enjoy! There’s plenty of folks in these here parts who’ve done just that and seem to have a passably good life.
    But this nonsense of going along to get along is not right. Never has been. These creeps, these cretins, these lowlife bullies and charlatans who want to proscribe how we live have to be called out. Pretending that we don’t know what their next step is; that we don’t know what fascism is; that these are just, at heart, good folks is going to tear down the very basis of our society. And civilization, as we know it, is not going to go without blood in the streets.

    We got a taste of this with the incredibly ignorant and slow-witted Klien. But we had money flowing out of the ground for the taking so it wasn’t too bad.
    Now, we can see how the Champion of the Stupid and Ignorant is lifting the stupid, the ignorant, the mean-spirited, the feckless, the whole smorgasbord of lowlife humanity onto the stage. Now, these people, who thoughtful, intelligent, well-meaning people ignored, stepped around and tolerated while building a better functional society, are in the legislative assemblies making their impulses part of the decision process. These people never met a rule they didn’t like, never missed a chance to bully or to take credit for someone else’s achievement. These people are the mob. They are the worst of humanity.
    They do not make; they take. They do not build up; they tear down. They are not the beginning; they are the end.
    Do not think that being polite to Nazi’s or ISIS or conservatives of any stripe will get you any favours. It’s only a matter of time. They will come for you too.

  7. Ideological Sex Clubs sounds like something one would read about Ted Byfield’s defunct Alberta Report. I wonder if Mr. Byfield is coming out of retirement to support the legal case. These days it seems some more extreme Conservatives seem to favour more preposterous and outrageous statements. Is it a way to rally their more fervent supporters, or do they feel they are already dismissed as being kooks so they might as well go for broke? Do they feel it seems to work for Trump, so perhaps it will work for them too?

    I’m not sure this will help Kenney, but I suppose he will try to appear moderate by keeping a bit of distance from these ideological zealots and their imaginary sex clubs. They are probably even a bit more grouchy and cantankerous than usual after recently losing the Trinity Western University case. I suppose it is a free country and they are free to waste their money (and funds from their donors) on ridiculous legal challenges. However, you would hope someone formerly with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would be more concerned about the impact this has on public funds, to deal with such legal actions. I suspect he does not care, he has an ideological agenda to pursue and will not let the facts or logic get in the way.

  8. I think you should do an expository piece on Jason’s record as minister of Trumpian slavery. You’ll surprise many people. Jason believes that third world labour cost can be imported. He believes that child healthcare can be used to deter refugees. Get on it Boss!

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