Yesterday, I wrote in celebratory tones that the human rights law in Canada that had been used by over-zealous prosecutors to suppress freedom of speech had been found unconstitutional by Canada’s Supreme Court. This was inaccurate.
In fact, the decision was issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which is a judicial body of national appellate jurisdiction. The appeals sent to the CHRT come directly from the Human Rights Commissions which have been the focus of criticism. The CHRT’s decision is limited on its face to one dimension of the human rights law, although its reasoning would apply to other provisions with equal force, calling into question the whole tribunal system and the monetary punishments it can mete out to those convicted under it.
Most importantly, that same system has been found constitutional by other panels of the CHRT in the past, creating a conflict between this new decision and older ones. Apparently under Canada’s legal procedures, this is good grounds for an appeal to the Federal Court of Canada, which is a trial court of national jurisdiction, and potentially from there to the Federal Court of Appeal and only from there could the decision proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada. An organizational chart of the Canadian judicial system, from the Canadian Department of Justice, appears to the left. The CHRT and Human Rights Commissions are classified as administrative tribunals, and organized at both the federal and provincial level.
Not A Potted Plant regrets the error.