Human Rights Tribunal orders Montrealer to pay $8,000 in damages to panhandler because of email

So far it looks like this has only been covered in the French press, I’ll post a more reputable link when the Gazette or the local news picks it up:

SAQ = société d’alcools du Québec, a government-owned corporation with the exclusive right to sell liquor in the province.

So this guy writes an angry and hateful email to the manager of an SAQ for allowing a woman to panhandle near the premises, calls her human trash, and makes charming suggestions like napalm or a shot to the back of the head (then billing the family for the cost of the bullet) as a way of dealing with her ‘kind’. The manager shows the woman the letter, and in response she petitions the human rights commission, who sues the man. The tribunal awards the panhandler $8,000 out of a possible $20,000.

So I what do you all think? Was this a legitimate threat, or just a guy being a jerk? Is that the point even? Is the unstated purpose of the law to identify violent people or simply to punish people who choose to express hideous opinions?

In Canada, hate speech is not protected. Is this a valid restriction on freedom of speech, and if so, do you think this letter constitutes hate speech?

The dude that got fined is a grade-A certified douchebag, that’s for sure. With a side of total dumbass for a minimal upcharge.

I don’t think the fine is appropriate though. It’s not like he went up and insulted the woman directly. He wrote a (profanity laced and inappropriate) letter to the manager of a storefront he went to - that the storefront is government owned in irrelevant. That, in and of itself, should not be a crime IMHO.

I don’t understand why the manager showed the woman the letter. That was a big WTF to me “Hey lady, you can beg here, but look at this letter I got complaining about you!” I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite.

I also think $8,000 is way overboard. I mean, I think any amount would be too much, but how was this lady damaged to needing $8,000? If this is to be a crime on the books, community service seems more appropriate than a monetary fine.

Maybe I should stop showering, bother people in front of a liquor store, and then sue anybody that mutters “get a job, ya bum” under their breath.

Why in the world did the manager show the letter to the panhandler?

It sure sounds like something else was going on than just a simple letter.

I don’t have a problem with the fine, the dude needs to get the message that his reaction is way way way over the line. He needs to learn how to control his emotions and not make explicit threats in reaction to normal public interactions.

I would say the store owner showed the email to the woman in sympathy and to alert her that there was a kook making threats against her. The store owner likely has regular interaction with the woman and considers her part of the community.

What a well said and reasonable post - /thread

The fine is just going to piss him off. Community service would have been better. That’s assuming you think those kinds of restrictions on free speech are ok. What the guy did was contemptible, but I don’t want someone restricting speech like that.

And the store owner considers a bum outside his store part of the community? Somehow I doubt that.

Assholes should have their right to free speech protected too, or else there’s no such thing as free speech. I understand Canada doesn’t really care about protecting the freedom of speech as such, but my opinion remains unchanged regardless of the country. And this is absolutely a free speech issue.

Threatening letters are not protected speech.

It’s not a threatening letter. If it was, he would have given it to the homeless woman, instead of the store owner. Who, as far as I can tell, had no good reason to show it to the woman.

The article says that the letter author suggested a series of hyperbolic ways to deal with the beggar issue in that part of town, not a series of hyperbolic ways to deal with that particular beggar.
It really doesn’t sound like he threatened the woman per se, but rather wrote a tirade about her / inspired by her, and this judge is just basically fining him for being an asshole

i’m not going to debate this - he wrote a very nasty letter with specific threats/wishes of harm to the person in question - based on the content of the letter, the store owner felt that the object of the letter needed to be ‘warned’ or ‘advised’.

Threatening and hate speach is not ‘protected’ - especially when it is directed at a distinct individual - period.

In this case - the judge and/or the store owner did not feel it was hyperbolic or non-specific - it was clear who the intended target was.

Of course not. That, after all, is precisely the problem with your side: You have your orthodoxy, and that’s that. And, if your side happens to find itself in a position of power, your side has no compunction about using the coercive power of the state to enforce your orthodoxy.

Comrade, we both know that nobody has ever been harmed by over-the-top fantasies set forth in emails. But then, that is beside the point — which is to ensure that nobody feels safe when they go about contradicting the approved politics. The offense is not to the homeless woman; it is to the Human Rights Establishment.

Except it was not directed at a specific individual. Read the linked story: it’s clearly a hyperbolic response to homeless people in general, not this one specific woman. And the store owner overreacted.

Just because a judge agreed with you doesn’t mean the judge was right. Judges decided the Dred Scott decision also, and I imagine you don’t think that was the right decision.

based on the quick read of the link - the person that wrote the letter was ‘specific enough’ - the store owner knew exactly who the writer was addressing.

Where did I say that I agreed with the judge? I am simply stating the reasoning behind it - I have not stated my agreement or not - understanding (and acceptance) of the reasoning does not equal agreement.

To kimmy_gibler - perhaps you should back off the caffeine.

Mighty fine hairs you’re splitting there.

Exactly. It’s a basic “Don’t Be A Jerk” rule and many (not all) Canadians like the rule. I happen to love it. I don’t imagine the jerk will be writing any more letters calling for a bullet in the back of the head of low-income seniors any time soon.

Eh,[sup]*[/sup] at a shop I used to work in, most of the staff were on first name terms with the guy who begged outside on a regular basis- pain in the arse though he was. I think the guys used to give him cigarettes in exchange for helping sort out the bins and the magazine returns at the end of the day.

If someone had sent us an email threatening to shoot him, we would have told him about it.
[sup]*[/sup] not Canadian, just getting into the spirit.

Is there a place to read the actual letter? I’d like to see the actual content-- not a journalist’s description, and definitely not a messageboard poster’s fantasy.

Perhaps they should have charged him with that, then. (Not that I agree with “hate speech” laws, but I can get behind punishing certain specific threats – though I don’t think that’s what this was, and if it’s close we should err on the side of protecting free speech.)

The article states he was ordered to pay for “moral and punitive damages”. So it sounds to me like a civil suit? I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer, but it doesn’t sound like he was charged with a crime for making death threats.