Word.ca is a religious program hosted by evangelical Christian leader Charles McVety, who is also the president of Canada Christian College and Canada Family Action Coalition. The program (whose tag line is “Christian News Commentary”) features McVety talking about recent news events with a considerable focus on legislation being proposed by the Canadian and Ontario governments. The host sometimes has a guest on to discuss the issues with him. There are also promotional spots for Canada Christian College, the Evangelical Christian magazine, as well as DVDs that McVety has produced or recommends. At some point between July 19 and October 25, 2009, the program changed its name from Word.ca to Word TV. The format of the program, however, remained the same.
The CBSC received numerous complaints from a single complainant about a total of 14 episodes of the program which aired between July 19, 2009 and February 21, 2010. All of the episodes, which aired on CITS-TV (CTS – Crossroads Television, Ontario) at 11:00 pm, displayed a G rating icon.
The complainant expressed concerns about the program’s treatment of a number of different issues. Lengthy transcripts and descriptions of all of the episodes can be found in Appendix A and the correspondence from both the complainant and the broadcaster can be found in Appendix B to this decision.
The majority of the complainant’s letters identified concerns with McVety’s treatment of homosexuality, an issue that arose in a number of episodes. On the July 19, 2009 episode, for example, McVety discussed the case of a gay man who had filed a complaint against his Catholic church with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The openly gay man had been an altar server at the church who had been removed from his duties after some members of the church complained. McVety expressed his support for the church’s position:
And what he did was he was practising homosexuality. He’s openly spo-, homosexual. And now people complained that this is against the rules of the Church. Yes, the Catholic Church welcomes homosexuals into the Church. And I’m not a Catholic, I’m an evangelical. And of course you love the sinner, but you hate the sin. And the Catholic Church practises this. And they have loved this man into their fold and he has become a server of communion, an altar server in this Catholic Church. Well, when it became known to the Catholic Church that he’s a practising homosexual, they said this is not appropriate. Why? Because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a grave, depraved sexual act. So why would a homosexual want to practise a, a, a, a sacred ritual in the Catholic Church when he does not fit with the teachings of that Catholic Church? It’s hypocritical for someone to come forward and serve communion and say that they practise communion. [...] This is a sacred process. This communion is very, very sacred, so why would a homosexual even want to participate in this when he doesn’t believe what the Bible and Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church teach about homosexuality? That it is a sin. That is, it is a, a, a, grave, depraved sexual act. Of course it is hypocritical, so therefore the Catholic Church took a stand. Now this man has gone to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and he’s asked them to prosecute this church, prosecute the bishop, prosecute the priest and bring a heavy-handed sentence against them. Asking them to give twenty-five thousand dollars per parishioner, twenty thousand dollars from the bishop and penalize them for doing what? For practising that which they have been taught through the teachings of Jesus Christ.
McVety then alleged that “the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has a one hundred per cent conviction rate. [...] Everyone that they try, they convict. So we can expect that these parishioners will be convicted and have to pay twenty-five thousand dollars and this bishop twenty thousand dollars.” The claim about the 100% conviction rate was repeated on a subsequent episode of December 13. He also expressed his disapproval of same-sex marriage, saying that it was “immoral” for the courts to have redefined marriage in 2003.
Another news story involving homosexuality dealt with the revision of the Ontario school curriculum. A document produced by the Ontario Ministry of Education, Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, set out new guidelines for teaching tolerance and the acceptance of ethnic, racial, religious and gender diversity. When McVety talked about the document on January 17, 2010, he focussed on the aspects of the strategy that related to homosexuality and gender diversity. In his view, this new strategy would lead to the “homosexualization” of the curriculum and teach children “how to be” gays and lesbians. He accused homosexuals of trying to turn children into gays and lesbians, stating:
One of those changes is the homosexualization of our educational curriculum. This last week, our Ontario Ministry of Education launched a new four-year program to implement a pro-homosexual curriculum. They use wonderful, flowery terms to describe it. They call it the Ontario Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy. Now doesn’t that sound nice? “Equity” and “inclusive”. That just sounds so warm and fuzzy that you just want to give it a big group hug. But you know what? It’s all subterfuge. Why? Because when you read into the details, and I have this program in my hands [holds up copy of document], and when you read into the details, you realize that the focus is on homosexualism, lesbianism, bisexualism, gender issues, transgendered issues. All of these sexual practices to be taught to our children in our schools. When we send little Johnny and little Jane to school, not to learn to be homosexuals and lesbians. [sic] We send them there to learn reading, writing and arithmetic and history and all these wonderful things, but unfortunately there is an activist group that is afoot that wants to change our curriculum. Why? Because unfortunately they have an insatiable appetite for sex, especially with young people. And there’re not enough of them, so they want to proselytize your children and mine, our grandchildren and turn them into homosexuals. And they’ve seized our Ministry of Education and now they’re implementing this! Back when we led the campaign to defend marriage in, oh, in 2005, we warned that once they legalized same-sex marriage, then that will be the legal groundwork for them to change our curriculum and to start teaching this to our children. Well, here it is, my friends. Something that we said five years ago is now alive and well in the province of Ontario. [...] They continue on in this package and they say that we must go beyond diversity and move beyond tolerance to acceptance. To acceptance of the homosexual activity and lesbian activity. Acceptance of this sexual orientation activity. By the way, what is sexual orientation? You know, you have, you could have an orientation to commit adultery. You could have an orientation to commit pedophilia. You could have a sexual orientation to commit all kinds of things. It doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. It doesn’t mean that we have to teach it!
McVety then went on to say that the Christian Bible condemns homosexual activity because it is “self-destructive”, concluding that the insistence on tolerance and the acceptance of homosexuality actually leads to intolerance and the non-acceptance of Christianity. He also cited statistics allegedly obtained from a homosexual organization called the Rainbow Health Coalition to support the contention that practising homosexuality could lead to health problems:
According to the Rainbow Health someone who practises homosexuality has a, has a twenty-year less life expectancy. They have a 14 times greater risk of committing suicide. They have up to a three times risk of smoking. Seven times the risk of being an alcoholic. Nineteen times the risk of using illicit drugs. This is not me saying this. This is coming from the homosexual community themselves. They say that their depression rate is up to three times higher and then 76 per cent of AIDS cases are homosexual. This is why the Bible teaches 57 times that homosexuality, homosexual practice is wrong. But now our educational program is going to teach that it must be accepted in our school system. This is an outrage.
That “information” was repeated on the January 24 episode, when McVety also commented that the new curriculum strategy “plans to, to reform the thoughts of our children.” In both episodes, McVety encouraged viewers to visit the word.ca website to sign the petition against the curriculum changes
because our children deserve to be protected from this activist, homosexual activist agenda that is now going to change our curriculum to teach homosexuality to our children. Not just tolerance, but acceptance with a focus on homosexuality. This is an outrage because these sexual practices bring damage to our children and our friends. And we need to continue to teach against the practice. Not the person, but the practice.
Another subject that came up in multiple episodes was gay pride parades. McVety consistently referred to the parades in a disparaging tone as “sex parades”. On numerous occasions, McVety expressed skepticism that the pride events were as popular as the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered (LGBT) community claimed and whether something called the “World Pride Parade” (which the City of Toronto had apparently bid to host and won for 2014) even existed. McVety’s recurring message reflected outrage that the parades had received government funding and he again encouraged viewers to visit his website to sign a petition against the use of taxpayer money for such events.
McVety and his guest Brian Rushfeldt, the Executive Director of Canada Family Action, discussed their objection to the parades at some length on October 25. They argued that “sexual perversion” occurred on the streets during pride events. They also claimed that the City of Toronto’s tourism slogan had been changed to “As Gay as It Gets” and that advertising for the Pride events promoted sex with children. Part of their dialogue was as follows:
McVety: We were appalled when the Federal Government made that announcement, that Diane, Minister Diane Ablonczy went and handed out a four hundred thousand dollar cheque. And they’d even set aside a hundred million dollars. They were gonna, they were gonna start bankrolling these parades all across the country.
Rushfeldt: Exactly. And that’s, that’s, uh, a major concern. I mean, the fact that we’ve got people parading down any street in this nation, uh, nude, doing sexual perversion on each other is, is serious.
McVety: [?]. Yeah.
Rushfeldt: But the fact that we as taxpayers and the fe-, folks out there as taxpayers, are paying for this, is, ought to be even, uh, a bigger concern. And this four hundred thousand dollar cheque that, uh, that Diane Ablonczy stood up and said oh look at this, isn’t this wonderful. Um, using taxpayers’ dollars to promote supposedly something that brings in tourists to Toronto. First of all, I’m not convinced at all it does bring tourists.
Rushfeldt: Secondly, the fact they’re using tax money or giving tax money to such a, a, an unfriendly, unfamily, immoral event is just not acceptable.
McVety: And, and the reason, I mean, some people watching may say well, hey, you know, let them have their gay, gay revellers and, you know, who cares? But you know what? We care.
McVety: One reason is because this is criminal activity, to parade down the streets in the nude. There is the Criminal Code of Canada says that you can’t do that. This is a violation. It’s an abuse of public space, it’s abuse of our children.
Rushfeldt: Yeah. And, and there’s children always present there. I don’t know why anybody would take their children to such an event. But they, the children are there. It is criminal and it’s illegal and it, it –
Rushfeldt: – amazes me that the police were standing along that route, watching this stuff go on, no charges were ever laid against anyone during that whole parade.
McVety: And, and the reason we call it a “sex parade” is because it’s not just homosexuality. I mean, they’ve got these, this LGBT, uh, acronym, but they’ve expanded it –
McVety: – to about 23 letters I think. And they’ve got everything from, uh, from, uh, gay, lesbian, transgendered, transsexual, uh, –
McVety: Two-spirited. You know what? Transvestite. I don’t know. You, you’ve got the full gamut and all they do is parade sex down our main streets. And this is not, this is, what public good is it?
Rushfeldt: Well, and that whole title, whatever all those things are.
Rushfeldt: They’re all sex-related.
Rushfeldt: Every one of them are [sic] sex-related.
Rushfeldt: But they say oh no, this isn’t about sex parade, this is about celebrating our lifestyle. Well, your lifestyle is about, that you’re making it, is about sexual issues.
Rushfeldt: So they’re sex parades, period.
McVety: And, and, you know, to, you know, you love the sinner and you hate the sin. I mean, if, if you’re going to practise something that’s self-destructive, we’re going to teach that that practice is not good.
McVety: According to a city councillor, over a million dollars was given to the Pride Parade. And they also spent three hundred thousand dollars advertising Toronto as a sex tourism destination.
McVety: And they call, now Toronto, it used to be, uh, I know you’re from Calgary and I know it’s hard to swallow, but our motto used to be “Toronto the Good”.
Rushfeldt: Yeah. Toronto the Good, yes.
McVety: Now they’ve changed it. “Toronto, as Gay as It Gets”. [photo of a Toronto tourism advertisement that features photographs of the LGBT community]
McVety: Yes. And look at what they, look at how they advertise our, our city: “On any given day, hot boys and hot girls fill Church Street with” enerdy [sic], “energy, passion and opportunity.”
McVety: I mean what, they’re talking about prostitution!
Rushfeldt: Isn’t that a wonderful thing to be advertising to the world. That, come to Toronto and there’s boys, young boys and young girls and you can do whatever you want with them. I, that, that to me is, is criminal in itself –
McVety: And furthermore, you have, you advertise across the world that Toronto is a sex tourism destination, as gay as it gets, with, full of opportunity for sex with hot boys –
Rushfeldt: Yeah, with boys, boys and girls.
McVety: – and hot girls.
Rushfeldt: Underage people.
McVety: How many families are gonna say let’s go to Toronto for our, our vacation?
Rushfeldt: Well, if they listen to your mayor they’ll certainly come. Because the mayor was on TV just two days ago saying isn’t it wonderful we got these events? You know what I like best about it? he said. It’s because families come.
Video clip of Toronto Mayor David Miller: And a great thing for me, is when you’re marching in the Pride Parade in Toronto, you see families from every cultural background lining the parade route.
Rushfeldt: This is not a family –
McVety: Families to a sex parade? This is outrageous.
Rushfeldt: It is.
McVety: Nudity, sex acts, the full gamut. That’s how out of touch, unfortunately, our public officials have become.
McVety: And I want you to go to our website, word.ca, and I want you to sign the petition to stop funding these sex parades. Your voice counts.
McVety also returned to the issue of Christians’ inability to speak out against homosexuality on a couple other occasions. For example, on November 8, he stated that
it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality. Yes, I said a crime. Bill C-250 went through our Parliamentary system and made it a crime for anyone to speak against sexual orientation. [...] Yes, it’s a crime where you can be thrown into prison for two, up to two years! But, incredibly, the very same people on the, on the left of centre and on the extreme left, they also advocate for ridiculing and spreading hatred, hatred against discernible groups, which is the very definition of the hate crime in Section 319 and 320 of the Criminal Code of Canada. I am a free speech person and I believe that they should be free to spew their venom, but we should be free to take action. I don’t think it’s appropriate in a civil society to spew venom and hatred against other people. Yes, as Christians we are taught to speak against certain sexual practices. Not because you hate the person. You love the person, but you ha-, you love the sinner, but you hate the sin.
Then, on December 13, McVety commented on a case of a pastor who had been accused of writing a discriminatory letter about homosexuality:
Also in the news, an Albort-, Alberta court overturned a human rights commission hearing that put a penalty on a pastor in Alberta because he wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in Lethbridge, Alberta where he said that homosexuality was wrong. And he spoke against, not homosexuals, but homosexual activists. They want to ram homosexuality down our throat and teach our children and proselytize our children to become homosexuals. And he said this is wrong. And for that, he was fined five thousand dollars and he was given a lifetime ban against speaking against the sexual practice of homosexuality. He then appealed to the Alberta court and it went from this human rights commission, which is really just a M-, a reborn McCarthyism, a kangaroo court. There’s no judge, there’s no, uh, there’s no, there’s no rules of evidence. There, they violate every international rule and regulation on jurisprudence and they have found, by the way, they have a one hundred per cent conviction rate. And, yes, they can only fine you five thousand dollars, but they can put heavy impositions on you. You can end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. But our government, thankfully in Alberta, finally said in a real court with a real judge with real rules of evidence, they said this is nonsense. They said this is against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is against religious freedom. And they s-, they overturned that ban. Thankful, we are thankful for finally a victory.
And, on February 21, in a promotional spot for a documentary McVety had produced entitled Besieged: Democracy under Attack, he criticized the erosion of religious freedoms:
Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees this freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. But unfortunately those freedoms have been eroded. We now have hate crime legislation. Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada where if you say something that offends someone, then you can be prosecuted and even put in prison for up to two years. Back a few years ago, I testified in the Senate of Canada saying please do not redefine our hate crime laws and add sexual orientation to them. But they cited many judicial proceedings that say that this must be the case. So they wrote sexual orientation into our Criminal Code of Canada. And now that has criminalized many parts of scripture that speak against certain sexual practices. Our freedom of religion is being eroded. Our freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom to act as we see fit is being eroded. And now we are being persecuted because our freedom of speech is being eroded. [...] Our freedoms have been taken away. Our judges have criminalized prayer in the school. They’ve criminalized the Bible, so a teacher cannot teach or even use the greatest document ever written.
The complainant was concerned about the repeated characterization of pride parades as “sex parades”, as well as the suggestions that such parades constituted “perversion” and sexual exploitation of children. He also felt that McVety’s treatment of the gay altar server’s case against the Catholic church “would have the effect of exposing this individual to undue public scorn & may be a violation of his civil rights.” In addition, he wrote that McVety “referred to the gay community’s alleged need to sexually prey on children through active recruitment practices”. In general, the complainant could not “believe in this day & age that public airwaves are still being permitted as a hate speech vehicle for those who still see the gay community as a sex-crazed social scourge.”
The broadcaster responded that McVety had commented on these news stories from his Christian perspective, encouraging his viewers to support his efforts to petition various levels of government not to publicly fund pride parades and not to change the Ontario curriculum. CTS argued that McVety did not disseminate hate against gay people and was entitled to share his views on these issues, which were based on Christian definitions of sinful practices and immorality.
A second issue raised by the complainant was McVety’s comments about Muslims and Islam. Again, McVety used current news stories as a basis to mention his views on this subject. His overall message was that Christians should not be complacent and assume that radical Islam is only a threat to the Jewish faith because “Christians are in the crosshairs” of that conflict. He invited viewers to sign a website petition to encourage the Canadian Government to support Israel.
The July 19, 2009 episode included a promotional spot for The Third Jihad, a documentary that argued that Islam is a threat to America. The promo consisted of excerpts from the film, including an al-Qaeda leader saying “We believe that the entire world must be ruled by Islam”; images of an FBI document that allegedly “reveals the plans of the radicals in America” to perform “a kind of grand jihad”; and the president of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy saying “Is the Islamic state a threat to American security? Yes, it is.”
On November 1, 2009 McVety talked about a news story of a Toronto imam whose “hate-filled speeches” had been posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. McVety stated that he was not surprised
because I have known that this has been happening for a long, long time in this city. Why? Because I know what the Qur’an teaches. I know what Sura 9 teaches about the People of the Book and jihad and, and their call to fight. And I know that this goes on on a regular basis. Actually the imam is just preaching and teaching what he is supposed to according to his interpretation of the Qur’an. [...] Yes, this is a real danger to us here in Canada. We’ve had people convicted of terrorism charges with that terrible gang of 17 that was, that was broken up, thankfully, by good law enforcement tactics. But you know what? We tend to be lulled to sleep, that we are not in danger. But, yes, this danger is in our midst.
He then went on to explain the Biblical history of the conflict between Muslims, Jews and Christians, suggesting that Muslims “believe that there is a contest, a religious contest” between their god and the Judæo-Christian god. He did, however, also comment that “thankfully there are other Muslims that are not preaching hatred; they are preaching a message of love” and went on to describe an interaction he had had with one such Muslim.
On both November 22 and 29, McVety interviewed Frank Diamant, the Executive Director of B’nai Brith, about issues of concern to Canada’s Jewish community, including the advertisement outlining Muslims’ role in the Holocaust placed by B’nai Brith in a national newspaper. The ad had created some controversy, so McVety and Diamant discussed the message that B’nai Brith had been trying to convey. The discussion focussed on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s wartime relationship with the Grand Mufti (which is the title for the highest religious official in the Sunni Muslim tradition). In his introduction, McVety stated that, during Kristallnacht (literally “Crystal Night”, but figuratively, the “night of broken glass”, on November 9-10, 1938, the night when thousands of Jewish businesses and homes in Germany and Austria were ransacked or destroyed)
over a hundred Jewish people were killed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his thugs. [...] In fact, at the Nuremberg trials there’s testimony by the Nazis that said that, that Grand Mufti of Jerusalem played an integral part in the Final Solution, the Holocaust, the killing of the six million Jews, as he encouraged the Nazis to kill the Jews. He encouraged them with a hatred that we know that stems from radical Islam.
Diamant quickly corrected McVety, explaining that the Grand Mufti was not responsible for Kristallnacht, which was rather a “motivating factor for him to come to Germany” and express his support for Hitler’s actions. Diamant went on to suggest that the Muslims had been persecuting the Jews for 200 years, so the Grand Mufti readily supported Hitler’s Final Solution. At one point, Diamant said “radical Islam and Nazism are, are of the same mind and thought.” He added:
They want to kill Jews, but they also want to kill Christians. [...] They want to kill Christians and, and that’s something that somehow seems to be forgotten. Radical Islam isn’t an issue only for the Jewish community. Let’s forget that. Radical Islam is a threat to the safety of Canada.
Another issue discussed by McVety and Diamant was United States President Obama’s declaration that, if Israelis were to build homes in Jerusalem, it could aggravate the Palestinians and jeopardize world peace. McVety and Diamant expressed the view that this position was discriminatory towards Jews and that telling Jews where they could and could not build homes was equivalent to the Jewish ghettos and ethnic cleansing of World War II. McVety stated that he thought Obama’s remark could incite Palestinians, specifically Hamas, to be violent against Israel. He immediately clarified that he was referring more to Hamas (the Palestinian political group which is classified as a terrorist organization in Canada and the United States) because “there are many good Palestinians that live very peaceably.” The two men further discussed Hamas’ goals, which they described as “to wipe out Israel” and prevent Jews from returning to Jerusalem, the latter prospect being “something that the radical Islam simply won’t tolerate.”
McVety and Diamant also talked about the case of the shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas in November 2009. A military psychiatrist of Muslim-Palestinian ethnicity had gone on a shooting rampage at the base, killing 13 people. He had apparently shouted “Allahu Akbar!” during the shootings, leading to an investigation into whether he had links to violent radical Islamist groups. McVety criticized the mainstream media for downplaying the Islamic angle of the story:
McVety: And they said, “Oh, it’s just a man who snapped, just like school shooters and, and he just snapped and killed a few people.” I mean, nonsense! This was a man who subscribed to jihadist principles. He went around the campus [sic] yelling “Allahu Akbar”, which means that “Allah is –
McVety: – greater”. Not just “great”, but “greater”.
Diamant: I know that’s [???], yes.
McVety: And, and he, he, he advocated, apparently, for, uh, uh, uh, the, uh, uh, the, uh, the, he advocated for suicide bombing. He advocated against the, the, uh, uh, America’s war, uh, to defend itself. And there’re e-, there’re even reports that this man had connections and communications with al-Qaeda.
McVety: But we didn’t hear that. “Oh, it’s just like the, the Virginia Tech shooting.” This is nonsense. This was a terrorist act. And, and, Frank, I believe it was heavily planned and executed because this was a psychi-, psychiatrist, not some kind of Navy Seal. And this guy with two handguns, not even automatic weapons, he went onto a military base and took down forty-three GIs. Not, not like the Virginia Tech where some guy with automatic everything for half an hour went into classrooms of children with, like a turkey shoot. This was in a military camp and he took down forty-three GIs. That had to be very carefully executed.
Diamant: But Obama told you, don’t jump to conclusions. Obama was very clear. His first pronouncement on the issue was “don’t jump to conclusions.” If you’re going to deal with issues like building homes in Jerusalem, you can jump to conclusions. But a man who walks in, follows all of the things that you’ve just said, don’t jump to conclusions. He didn’t even say it appears to be an alleged terrorist attack. And I would certainly say it’s an alleged terrorist attack. Maybe he was acting as a lone wolf, but still it could be an alleged terrorist. Uh, but certainly as you so clearly indicated, to walk in and to murder these innocent individuals on an, on a military base.
Diamant: I think it’s political correctness. And I think that many of his colleagues now admit it and say that we were afraid of being accused of being Islamophobic so we kept our mouths shut.
McVety: And that put them in danger.
Diamant: And that put –
McVety: It puts us in danger. Political correctness, I mean, this, this, this is not unlike other societies that have forbidden the truth to be told and our media won’t tell us the truth and upset at them.
Diamant: Well, I think we’re doing a disservice to society when you have a case like this, when all the indicators appear to have been there, appear to have been there and the intelligence services are afraid to act because they’ll be accused of being prejudicial. I, I’m sorry to say that, that national security has to -- and I know I’m going to put myself as a revolutionary – trump, trump personal freedoms, if you will, in that case.
McVety: Well, well, we need to speak the truth and some people may get upset. Alleged nothing. This guy was a terrorist. He w-, had all the, the hallmarks of a terrorist.
McVety: We don’t understand the hatred that drives –
McVety: And unfortunately it is taught. We need to stop the teaching of it. It is not free speech. It’s the incitement to terrorism and we need to act against it.
Diamant: And Tarek Fatah says that it’s being taught here in Ontario, under our nose in the public school system.
McVety: Well, we’ve already heard it. All you have to do is go online and go to YouTube and you can hear it taught. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago on this program. And people can even go and watch that program and they can see the imam in North York teaching the same thing that he praised that you and I and all of the rest of us will be destroyed from within.
McVety dealt with the Fort Hood shooting again on the episode of January 24, 2010 when he mentioned that the U.S. military’s report on the shooting had been released. He criticized the 86-page report for not mentioning “Islam or Islamic terrorists or radical Islam once” when, in his opinion, the shooter “did this under the impetus of al-Qaeda.” McVety stated, “This is outrageous and the people know, they know that it’s appeasing evil. Sitting down with evil and saying hey, we’ll cover it up.” In that episode, McVety also expressed the view that individuals charged with terrorist acts should be tried as war criminals, not as common criminals, in military courts “where it is all done under secret rule, where secrets don’t have to be divulged, and where there is no massive spending of money to give to the terrorists’ lawyers.”
On the February 14 and 21, 2010 episodes, McVety projected that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is planning to do in eight minutes what Hitler did over eight years,” that is, wipe out the Jews, only this time using nuclear weapons. McVety expressed concern that Iran had announced that it was developing nuclear weapons and that North American leaders had done nothing to stop Ahmadinejad. McVety labelled Ahmadinejad “crazy”, a “madman” and “Ahmadine-whackjob”. He compared the situation to the Holocaust, in that Western leaders sat down and struck a peace agreement with Hitler, without stopping World War II. In McVety’s opinion, if the leaders had fought Hitler at the beginning, the Holocaust could have been prevented. McVety also played a videoclip of a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which Netanyahu talked about the Biblical figure, Amalek, who had sought to destroy the Jews. The speech suggested that the Nazis were “Amalek’s heirs” because they had the same goal and that the Israelis must remain vigilant against other groups who might wish to destroy them. McVety then described Ahmadinejad as an “Iranian Amalek” and told viewers to sign another petition on the word.ca website to “Stop Iran”.
The complainant asserted that numerous episodes of Word TV contained “offensive comments” about Muslims and objected to McVety’s comments “that terrorism suspects deserve to be denied due process of law.” The broadcaster responded more generally to these concerns, indicating that the host provided commentary on current affairs from his faith perspective and that the station did not believe that any Canadian laws, rules or regulations had been violated. The station also wrote that it had shared the complainant’s concerns with the host and producer of the program and provided the complainant with the producer’s mailing address in case the complainant wanted to contact him directly.
The topic of euthanasia was discussed on three episodes in light of Bill C-384, which would have legalized euthanasia and was moving through the Canadian Parliament at the time of the broadcasts. McVety had as his guest Alex Schadenberg, who was the executive director of an organization called the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to talk about the issue. McVety described the Bill as giving doctors permission to kill someone who was deemed to be under physical or mental distress, an act that he characterized as “barbaric”. Schadenberg also explained that, under the Bill, euthanasia would be performed by lethal injection in order to “directly and intentionally” cause someone’s death. McVety and Schadenberg both argued that it is difficult to define the concepts of “pain” and “suffering”, particularly when it comes to depression and mental distress, so it would be too easy to convince ill people that they wanted to die. As McVety put it during the November 8 episode,
What this bill promises to do is give access for death for people who want it if they are suffering from physical or mental distress. I mean, that is outrageous. This is really not euthanasia. This is giving other people the permission to kill you. Do you really want to have your doctors gain permission to kill you? Do you really want to have our society, our government especially, get permission to kill you? You may say, Well, you know what? This could never happen to you because you would not allow them to do it. Therefore it wouldn’t happen. Well, no, if this bill passes, you, two doctors can come into your room. When you’re under mental or physical distress you don’t know what you’ll do. And all they have to do is convince you that you are, you are a, a strain on the medical system. You are causing pain to your loved ones and yes, then they ask you to sign the document and then you’re done.
They also broadcast a clip from a documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which featured a segment on the euthanasia practised by the Nazis in Germany before and during the Second World War. The clip pointed out that handicapped people were selected for euthanasia because they were a drain on society and this practice was eventually extended to other “undesirable” groups in society, such as the Jewish people. McVety used the clip to bolster his argument that legalizing euthanasia in Canada could create a similarly “slippery slope” which would ultimately permit doctors or the government to decide who should be killed.
On the November 22 episode, McVety also pointed out that the law would allow for people as young as 18 to be euthanized, which could lead to “children” being unnecessarily killed because many young people get depressed:
Schadenberg: A lot of people experience mental pain.
Schadenberg: But they’re not terminally ill and they’re not actually sick and if they get proper treatment. But then, you combine the mental pain issue with the fact that it says if you’ve, uh, either expressly refused medical treatment, if you’ve expressly refused medical treatment for your mental pain, you could have euthanasia.
McVety: And further to that, this says that they can do it to eighteen-year olds!
Schadenberg: Well, eighteen and up.
Schadenberg: But you know what’s interesting? What’s interesting about that, that’s the only real safeguard she has in the bill, but it’s unconstitutional. If this were to pass, what the bill would say is if you’re above the age of eighteen, we can euthanize you if you, let’s say you had cancer. You can have euthanasia if you’ve got terminal cancer if you’re eighteen years old. What if you were seventeen? If you’re seventeen and you had terminal cancer, the Supreme Court would strike that down in a second. They would say –
McVety: That, that, that’s how ridiculous, but –
Schadenberg: They would say someone who’s seventeen obviously could have euthanasia then ’cause someone who’s eighteen can have euthanasia. Why would you be denied it because you’re seventeen?!
McVety: But to have, uh, --
Schadenberg: It’s, it’s ridiculous to, to say that.
McVety: To have a bill, a law, to say that doctors could kill an eighteen-year old if that eighteen-year old is suffering from mental anguish.
Schadenberg: It could be. That’s right. Yeah.
McVety: That’s what this law says. I mean, that’s, that is barbaric. I mean, --
McVety: And, and, and, I mean, everyone at some point in, of their life, they get upset, they get down. I mean, whatever you call it, whether it’s depression –
Schadenberg: Well, consider first year university students. Very common. Very common.
McVety: If it’s, if they go through mental anguish.
McVety: Uh, and most people go through severe pain.
McVety: And, I mean, where you’re in that severe pain, you, you could easily make a decision to end your life.
The two men also expressed concern that legalizing euthanasia in Canada without putting any residency requirements into the law would mean that people would come to Canada from other countries to undergo euthanasia, something Schadenberg termed “suicide tourism”. He noted that this phenomenon had already occurred in some European countries where euthanasia was already legal. Schadenberg pointed out that, if foreigners could come to Canada for this service, the Canadian health care system could become more motivated by money than ethics in deciding to administer euthanasia. McVety also mentioned that he had heard from Dutch people that elderly people in Holland were now afraid to go to the hospital because euthanasia was legal in that country and they feared they would be convinced to choose that option.
McVety and Schadenberg emphasized that the health care system should focus on living up to the Hippocratic Oath of healing people rather than killing them and helping people with terminal illnesses remain pain-free and comfortable while allowing them to experience a natural death.
The complainant’s concern about the program’s treatment of euthanasia was that “people suffering from mental duress [sic, distress] have repeatedly been equated with the perception of mental incompetence.” CITS-TV did not address that specific concern in its letters to the complainant, but, in speaking of the program generally, it noted that the program “provides commentary by the host on current affairs from his faith perspective” and that the episodes did not contravene any Canadian laws, CRTC regulations or the broadcaster’s own code of ethics.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced a very large earthquake that resulted in massive destruction of homes and buildings, as well as many injuries and death. Government organizations and NGOs in both Canada and the United States initiated fundraising efforts to provide aid to Haiti. McVety mentioned the situation briefly on his program of January 17 and in more detail on January 24.
On the January 17 episode, McVety stated, “We need to pray that God will send the appropriate relief, that God will touch the hearts and the minds of these people.” He also declared that “Haiti is an unfortunate country. It is the, the world capital for corruption. It has the highest rate of voodoo and witchcraft, of Satan worshippers in the whole world. These people need help and now their buildings have crumbled in a horrific way and they’re suffering terribly.” He suggested that some of the aid money may not actually reach the people who need it, and recommended to viewers that they donate to an organization called the Arms of Jesus, which is run by one of the professors from Canada Christian College, because money donated to that organization would go straight to the people in need in Haiti.
McVety revisited the topic on January 24 and again noted that Haitians were in need following the earthquake. The focus of his comments on this episode, however, was a statement made by American journalist and political commentator Keith Olbermann on the television news channel MSNBC. American Christian evangelist Pat Robertson had publicly made the comment that the earthquake was the result of a curse inflicted upon Haitians due to the “pact with the devil” that they had made in the 1800s to free themselves from slavery by the French. Olbermann criticized Robertson’s view in a televised editorial, accusing Robertson of being insensitive and going so far as to say “because of your [...] dripping, self-satisfied, holier-than-thou senile crap, I am now likelier to believe that you are the devil” and “your lives [those of Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, who had also made negative comments about Haitians] are not worth those of the lowest, meanest, poorest of those victims still lying under that rubble in Haiti tonight.”
McVety played a video-clip of Olbermann’s editorial and then criticized Olbermann for insulting Pat Robertson. McVety argued that Robertson had done much more charitable work over the years than Olbermann had and accused Olbermann of uttering lies. McVety also defended Robertson’s position regarding Haiti in the following terms:
Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, he came out and talked about Pat Robertson’s statement about Haiti where Pat Robertson did talk about the deal with the devil that Haitians did about two hundred years ago. And the result of that deal has been that Haiti is the world capital for voodoo, the world capital for Satan worship and those people need help. They are desperate. They are desperate in this time of this earthquake. Keith Olbermann has attacked Pat Robertson and all the care that he has offered to Haiti and called Pat Robertson horrible names.
He [Robertson] doesn’t want to see them return to Satanism and witchcraft and all the calamity and curses that they have been under. Unfortunately, Haitians are in trouble. When you practise such Satanism, you end up with a horrific government. They are the most corrupt government in the Western hemisphere. [...] Satan worship is flourishing. And on this one island that is shared, half Democratic Republic [sic, Dominican Republic] and half, half Haiti, you have a tremendous disparity. Democratic Republic [sic] is doing quite well with a lot of tourism and a lot of economic development, but the Haitians are in trouble. We need to see the Haitians turn to God. [...] We need to pray for the Haitians. We need to pray that God will move in that country and bring them to prosperity, bring them out of their squalor. Bring them a good government that will not be so corrupt and have them turn from worshipping Satan. I want you to stand with us as we stand for the truth.
The complainant mentioned this issue in one of his February complaint letters. He complained that McVety “has lowered the level of debate about Haiti’s need for aid with his poor handling of the CNN [sic, likely CBN]-Pat Robertson issue.” With respect to this complaint, CTS wrote that “It is clear that the host of this program, Word TV, doesn’t want the comments in the media about Pat Robertson to detract from Christians giving to the need in Haiti.” The station also went on to acknowledge that the complainant clearly did “not share the beliefs of the host of this particular Christian program”, but that CTS offers a “balanced religious service” on which other programs had offered other points of view on this subject.
Another issue raised by the complainant in one of his communications was the inclusion of video clips of a comedy program on the November 8, 2009 episode. On that episode of Word TV, McVety discussed the program Curb Your Enthusiasm, which was being broadcast on HBO. He suggested that one episode of the program had “preached hatred against Jesus Christ”, while another had been anti-Semitic because it had used the Holocaust as a point of humour. McVety aired clips of the Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes taken from the video-sharing website YouTube to illustrate his points.
In the first Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, it was implied that the main character accidentally got a drop of urine on an image of Jesus while using the bathroom of a house he was visiting. The homeowners did not realize this is what had happened and instead interpreted the drop as a miraculous tear that had appeared on the holy image. In the second episode, a Holocaust survivor was told he would be meeting another survivor, but this second survivor was in fact a young man who had been a contestant on the reality show Survivor. The two “survivors” then compared their respective hardships for intentional comedic effect.
McVety expressed his outrage over these two depictions and encouraged viewers to his program to cancel their subscriptions to the HBO channel if they received that station in their cable or satellite television packages. He also argued that if speaking out against homosexuality was a crime in Canada, then this type of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish material should also be deemed unacceptable. He complained that “Hollywood producers can spew their venom all over the small screen. And they can spew their hatred with impunity.”
The complainant’s concern about this broadcast was that McVety had “violated copyright by showing an uncleared internet clip of the show Curb Your Enthusiasm to decry HBO Canada.” In its response to this complaint, the broadcaster made the general statement that the program did not violate any Canadian ethics, rules, regulations or laws.
The CBSC Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaints under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, as well as the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA – The Association of Electronic Journalists) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics:
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 2 – Human Rights
Recognizing that every person has the right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation
It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 8 – Religious Programming
Broadcasters should endeavour to make available to the community adequate opportunity for presentation of religious messages and should also endeavour to assist in all ways open to them the furtherance of religious activities in the community. Recognizing the purpose of the religious broadcast to be that of promoting the spiritual harmony and understanding of humanity and of administering broadly to the varied religious needs of the community, it shall be the responsibility of each broadcaster to ensure that its religious broadcasts, which reach persons of all creeds and races simultaneously, shall not be used to convey attacks upon another race or religion.
CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 2 – Human Rights
Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 3 – Negative Portrayal
In an effort to ensure appropriate depictions of all individuals and groups, broadcasters shall refrain from airing unduly negative portrayals of persons with respect to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. Negative portrayal can take many different forms, including (but not limited to) stereotyping, stigmatization and victimization, derision of myths, traditions or practices, degrading material, and exploitation.
CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 6 – Derision of Myths, Traditions or Practices
Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of content that has the effect of unduly deriding the myths, traditions or practices of groups on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, Article 11 – Intellectual Property
Plagiarism is unacceptable. Broadcast journalists will strive to honour the intellectual property of others, including video and audio materials.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the challenged episodes. The Panel concludes that the program violated Clauses 2, 6 and 8 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Clauses 2, 3 and 6 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, but not Article 11 of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.
A Preliminary Matter: The Relationship between Opinions and Facts
CBSC Panels have consistently decided that hosts on radio and television talk shows, including shows of the nature of Word TV, are entitled to espouse and broadcast their opinions. As the Quebec Panel recently concluded in CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (community organizations) (CBSC Decision 08/09-1506, September 23, 2010), in a similar circumstance,
While few holds are barred, there are some limitations. One of these is the requirement not to mislead the audience regarding the facts on which the opinions are based. There cannot be “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial”, as required by Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics if the presentation of the host’s opinion is based on faulty information.
In a much earlier decision, namely, CKTB-AM re the John Michael Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0170, February 15, 1994), this Panel dealt with a series of inaccurate statements made by the host, all of which are clear in the following quotation from that decision. As this Panel observed, John Michael’s opinions were fair game; his distortion of the underlying facts was not:
The CBSC is conscious of the importance of free debate and the entitlement of a host to express politically contentious points of view on air. That liberty does not, however, extend to the expression of gross and multiple misstatements of fact which are calculated to distort the perspective of the listener. Mr. Michael expressed his opposition to the official government policy of bilingualism and stated “nor could I give a damn if Quebec stays in this country or not.” He added, among other things, that “We no longer wish to kneel and bow to this one province.” With these political perspectives, the Council takes no issue. The host also opined that Quebeckers control the civil service and generally wielded enormous political power within Canada. These opinions may or may not be sustainable but they are at least legitimately debatable.
The CBSC does, however, not believe that the public debate in Canada is furthered in any way by the broadcast of such accumulated misinformation as was emitted by Mr. Michael on June 1. To provide an inexhaustive list of such misinformation, it is not true, as Mr. Michael alleged, that: Canada alternates Prime Ministers from English-speaking Canada to French-speaking Canada; all of Canada's government buildings are in Quebec; Canada's civil service is all in Quebec; this country's headquarters is not in reality in Ottawa; English is not spoken in Cabinet meetings (much less that it is not spoken “in the inner circles of the [other] governments of this country”); ninety per cent of Cabinet Ministers are French-Canadians; ambassadors of Canada going abroad do not speak English; ambassadors to “important” countries are always French-Canadian; and so on.
It is the view of the Council that accumulated misinformation, and collective unresearched and inaccurate statements constitute […] a breach of the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial”.
In the broadcast dealt with in CILQ-FM re John Derringer’s “Tool of the Day” (CBSC Decision 02/03-1465, February 10, 2004), there was a regular segment, during which the host criticized a specific person, whom he designated as “Derringer’s Tool of the Day”. On the May 29, 2003 episode, Derringer’s target was a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice and the host based his criticism on the allegedly lax sentence handed down by that judge in a case involving the possession of child pornography. The CILQ-FM commentator based his justification, at least in part, on the fact that “we don’t have laws similar to those in Britain and the United States where, to the best of my knowledge, what this guy did would be an automatic ten-year sentence in the States or in England.” On the point of accuracy underlying a broadcast opinion, this Panel found the station in violation of Clause 6. The Panel’s explanation:
By simply using the phrase “to the best of my knowledge”, he cannot duck responsibility for the bold assertion that “what this guy did would be an automatic ten-year sentence in the States or in England.” Despite his focussed statement, he did not look at Section 2252 (b)(2) of Title 18 of the (federal) United States Code. Had he done so, he would have learned that a person convicted under Section 2252(a)(4) “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.” Had he verified the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, 2000 of the United Kingdom, he would have found that 5 years is also the maximum sentence in that jurisdiction. The same is true under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998 in Ireland, where, like Canada, there is the possibility of conviction either as an indictable offence or as the less punitive offence punishable on summary conviction. Now, the Ontario Regional Panel has no more sympathy for the criminal offender than the judge or Derringer had but the broadcaster’s approach was not reasoned; it was unduly exaggerated. Before flailing his verbal arms, he owed it to his listeners to have presented his underlying legal facts with greater accuracy.
In CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1380, May 18, 2006), this Panel was once again called upon to deal with an episode of an open-line radio program that discussed issues related to Islam and the Qur’an. The host talked about a news report relating to the arrest of men linked to al-Qaeda who were living in Canada. He also read a letter by a university professor that had appeared in the National Post. That letter stated that the Qur’an and other Muslim religious texts proclaim that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion should be killed. The letter was written in light of a case in Afghanistan where a man had been sentenced to death for apostasy. Green pointed out that there was no such similar advocation of violence in the Christian Bible’s New Testament. Green suggested that all Muslim immigrants be asked if they believed in that provision of the Qur’an. Eventually in the course of the program, Green obtained a copy of the Qur’an and claimed that it indeed stated that apostates should be killed. This Panel concluded that Green was free to criticize the religious “policies” of Islam but the Panel did find a breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics for Green’s reliance on a misquoted portion of the Qur’an.
The issue is [...] that the “quotation” from the Qur’an is incorrect. The words “Kill him who changes his religion” are simply not in the Qur’an. The broadcaster had its own obligation to be certain, at material times, of the accuracy of the material on which it was relying. Its failure to do so resulted in a construct of an argument or position that appeared to be more defensible than it was. The Qur’an has an authoritative cachet, as it should, as the Bible does. Building an argument on the apparent content of Islam’s holy book puts callers and listeners in a defensive, behind-the-8-ball position from the get-go. The host either knew or ought to have known that his position would appear stronger in such reliance. He or someone on the broadcaster’s staff ought to have verified such an important point before using that provision as the foundation for almost the entire episode. Their failure to present the audience with accurate information about the content of the Qur’an was misleading and unfair. They loaded the dice without disclosing the fact that they had done so, even if that choice was unintentional. In the end, the broadcaster’s constant reliance on misquoted text from the Qur’an and refusal to bend when advised of the error by Muslim callers rendered the presentation neither full, fair nor proper, and consequently in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
Finally, in terms of previous CBSC jurisprudence, the Panel refers to CHRB-AM (AM 1140) re an episode of Freedom Radio Network (CBSC Decision 05/06-1959, January 9, 2007), which dealt with an episode of a right-wing talk show. The two hosts discussed a complaint that had been brought against them and their sponsor organization, Concerned Christians Canada, at the Canadian Human Rights Commission; the complaint alleged abusive remarks on the basis of sexual orientation. The complaint received by the CBSC came from the individual who had filed the Human Rights Commission complaint. He was concerned that the hosts had uttered abusive comments against homosexuals, insulted him on air and made inaccurate statements about the Human Rights Commission case. For example, the hosts alleged that they had been accused of a “hate crime” and that the courts had given them the right to publish information about the case. On this point, in finding the broadcaster in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, the Prairie Panel said:
Among other things, they distorted the nature of the acts of the complainant in a serious way. They said that they had been accused of a “hate crime”. By that, a reasonably informed individual would have understood one of the two crimes under the Hate Propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, likely, that entitled “Public Incitement of Hatred”. The reality is that complaints were made to the Alberta Human Rights Commission and to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Neither complaint, if pursued to its logical conclusion, would be characterized as a crime.
In the matter at hand, not only was there no assertion of a crime by the complainant, but there was also misinformation provided by the co-hosts regarding the substance of what they had “won” and where. Leaving aside the ill-informed references to the legitimately constituted federal and provincial Human Rights Commissions, the co-hosts said that they “fought and won in court the right to actually post the information about the ongoing Commission and then the hearings on the website and the courts, the courts, the real courts […] not the kangaroo courts.” They did not. Unless there is some other decision to which none of the parties had referred in this dossier, the only decision in question was that rendered by the Human Rights Panels of Alberta and issued by the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, not a court at all in the sense that the co-hosts had been distinguishing commissions or tribunals from courts.
It was not, however, a court, as represented by the co-hosts. Nor was the application related to a hate crime, as intimated. Nor did the application give the respondent any entitlement to post material other than that of the human rights complainant, as also intimated.
The Panel also found problems with claims by the hosts that medical studies had demonstrated that men who have anal intercourse suffer more medical problems than heterosexuals. In this respect, the Panel added: “As to AIDS, it has long since been proved to be an affliction of both heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Anal intercourse is hardly exclusively limited to one of the foregoing communities. Nor, for that matter, is sexually transmitted disease.”
In other words, this Panel has no issue with the entitlement of Mr. McVety and his guests to hold opinions on the manifold subjects he and they discussed on the challenged programs. When, however, the basis for their points of view is, as will be apparent in certain instances discussed below, inaccurate or badly distorted, the Panel considers that the conclusions of the Quebec Panel in the CHOI-FM decision are apt.
In the end, the Panel is troubled by the allegedly factual observations since they were made frequently and from an apparently authoritative perspective. They represented a barrage of seemingly trustworthy information. It is on the basis of such assertions that M. Dupont and his colleagues built their structure of opinions. While they are entitled to hold and broadcast their own derogatory and disparaging opinions regarding social welfare and aid recipients, they owe it to their audience that the basis for their argument be based on sound, rather than misleading, information. [...] The Panel concludes that the broadcaster was in breach of Clause 6 for broadcasting opinion that, because of the false and misleading underpinnings, was neither full, fair nor proper.
Comments relating to Issues of Sexual Orientation
Of the several categories of concern raised by the complainant, arguably the most troubling (to him) relates to the broadcaster’s comments about homosexuals. The Panel will group and review the various types of those comments but it will first provide a context for the range of issues the CBSC has previously dealt with in this area.
In general, the underlying principle of freedom of expression permits comments by broadcasters on all subjects, even sensitive ones, provided they respect the numerous codified standards administered by the CBSC. In the area of human rights, this even protects discriminatory comments, provided these do not rise to the level of abusive or unduly discriminatory comments. There have been many decisions supporting this principle since CHTZ-FM re the Morning Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0148, October 26, 1993), in which this Panel noted that adjudicative responsibility in the following terms: “[I]t [the Panel] must balance the right of audiences to receive programming which is free of abusive or discriminatory material [...] with the fundamental right of free speech in Canadian society.” In the ensuing 17 years since CHTZ-FM, that principle has been restated and refined on many occasions. The bottom line is that all CBSC Panels are continually faced with the obligation to balance the fundamental right of freedom of expression with the equally fundamental right of audiences to receive programming which is free of abusive or unduly discriminatory material.
In previous decisions interpreting discriminatory comments about gays and lesbians, the CBSC has explained that religious programs (indeed, all programs) breach no standard by merely objecting to homosexuality. Furthermore, Panels have found no fault with broadcasters characterizing homosexuality as a sin [see, e.g., two earlier decisions of this Panel, namely, CHCH-TV re Life Today with James Robison (CBSC Decision 95/96-0128, April 30, 1996) and CFYI-AM re Focus on the Family (CBSC Decision 99/00-0724, June 28, 2001)]. Nor have Panels found any breach of standards when program participants have criticized policies that involve sexual orientation issues, such as same-sex marriage, gay adoption, representation of LGBT issues on school curricula, and government funding for LGBT events [see, e.g. CITV-TV re “You Paid for It!” (Arts Funding) (CBSC Decision 95/96-0091, December 16, 1997), and elements of the broadcasts in CITS-TV (CTS) re John Hagee Today (“Diamonds for Successful Living”) (CBSC Decision 04/05-0177, April 19, 2005), OMNI.1 re an episode of the Jimmy Swaggart Telecast (CBSC Decision 04/05-0097, April 19, 2005), CKYE-FM re an episode of the Harjinder Thind Show (CBSC Decision 07/08-1229, October 23, 2008), and CHOI-FM re comments made during a segment of Le Retour de Radio X (CBSC Decision 08/09-0492, March 17, 2009)]. Even the criticism of homosexual activists on the basis of their political actions, but not their sexual orientation alone, has been found acceptable under the Human Rights Clause [see CHRB-AM (AM 1140) re an episode of Freedom Radio Network (CBSC Decision 05/06-1959, January 9, 2007)].
Where, however, programs include extremely negative, insulting, nasty generalizations about the group of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation, the comments will be found to violate the Human Rights clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code. Examples include the labelling all homosexuals as “devils”, the suggestion by an evangelical that he would kill a homosexual if he made romantic advances to him, the characterization of a person wishing a sex-change operation as “some sick demented obviously mentally disturbed homosexual”, accusing gays and lesbians of an insidious agenda to recruit children to the homosexual lifestyle in the schools, the characterization of the sexual behaviour of gays and lesbians as “abnormal”, “aberrant”, “deviant”, “disordered”, “dysfunctional”, “an error” or the like, as well as numerous others not cited here [see, e.g., Vision TV re Power Today (CBSC Decision 01/02-0617, September 13, 2002), OMNI.1 re an episode of the Jimmy Swaggart Telecast (CBSC Decision 04/05-0097, April 19, 2005), CJRQ-FM re Opinion Poll (CBSC Decision 94/95-0135, March 26, 1996), CKRD-AM re Focus on the Family (CBSC Decision 96/97-0155, December 16, 1997), and CFYI-AM and CJCH-AM re the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show (CBSC Decision 99/00-0005 & 98/99-0808+, February 9 and February 15, 2000)].
There were several issues discussed by program host McVety that fell into the category of acceptable comments within the parameters outlined above.
In the first case, the host expressed his support for the position of the Catholic Church in dismissing an individual from his position as altar server on the basis that he was living in a same-sex relationship. The individual described himself as a celibate homosexual who had been living with a same-sex partner for twenty years. Whether or not the Church was right in its choice is not a matter for consideration by this Panel. What is, however, fair and reasonable was that McVety took a position on the Church’s stance on the subject. That was his right.
A second instance involved the new guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Education for teaching tolerance and the acceptance of diversity. In general, the Panel accepts the host’s entitlement to oppose those new guidelines although, as will be seen below, not every choice of language has passed this Panel’s muster.
A third instance involved the host’s staunch position against the use of Government funding to support Gay Pride parades. Here, too, the Panel does not accept material components of the broadcast descriptions, as will be explained below; however, the Panel does support the host’s broadcast disagreement with the use of Government funding to support LGBT parades.
None of the foregoing three instances constitutes a breach of any of the above-cited standards.
The Problematic Comments
The problematic comments regarding sexual orientation issues can be grouped into two main categories; namely, errors of fact and errors of characterization.
Errors of Fact: Human Rights Tribunal “Conviction” Rates
In dealing with both the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC), host McVety has either carelessly or purposefully misled his audience when he referred (in both cases) to the “one hundred per cent conviction rate” of both regulatory bodies. The Panel assumes that the host was, on that basis, attempting to impugn any decision emanating from those tribunals as unfair, biased, distorted and unworthy of the public’s trust. Leaving aside the host’s mistaken (and judgment-laden) use of the words “convict” and “conviction” in this context, whatever his motivation, his allegation of an undisputed, unmarred “conviction” record is incorrect and misleading to Word TV’s viewers.
In the case of Alberta, the decision record of the AHRC was, to pick the three years prior to the December 2009 broadcast, as follows: in 2007, three complaints were upheld and five were dismissed; in 2008, five were upheld and six were dismissed; and in 2009, two were upheld and two were dismissed. In other words, of the 23 Commission/Tribunal decisions in that period, 43% were sustained and 57% were dismissed. This is far from the 100% McVety had posited, and constitutes a serious distortion of the facts.
In the case of Ontario, the decision record of the HRTO is not dissimilar. In 2007, six complaints were upheld and three were dismissed; in 2008, seven were upheld and 27 were dismissed (of these, 21 could be characterized as procedural or jurisdictional dismissals, but they were dismissals nonetheless); in 2009, for reasons unknown to the Panel (likely procedural or administrative), the number of decisions jumped significantly; however, a review of a random block of 78 of these resulted in seven complaints upheld and 71 dismissed. As in the case of the AHRC, this is very far from the 100% McVety had posited, and constitutes an equally serious distortion of the facts.
Errors of Fact: The Criminalization of Commentary
The single most egregious and misleading assertion by host McVety was his November 8 assertion that, in his words, “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality. Yes, I said a crime. Bill C-250 went through our Parliamentary system and made it a crime for anyone to speak against sexual orientation.” That is wrong. All Bill C-250 did was to add to the list of protected categories of identifiable groups in Sec. 318(4) (namely, “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin”) and, by reference, Sec. 319(1) and 319(2) of the Criminal Code, the words “or sexual orientation”. In other words, the substance of the Criminal Code provisions dealing with the advocating of genocide and the public incitement of hatred remained unchanged. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Bill C-250 only renders the genocide and hate provisions consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which, nearly ten years before, had read “sexual orientation” into Sec. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its decision Egan v. Canada  2 S.C.R. 513, in which Mr. Justice La Forest stated:
I have no difficulty accepting the appellants’ contention that whether or not sexual orientation is based on biological or physiological factors, which may be a matter of some controversy, it is a deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable personal costs, and so falls within the ambit of s. 15 protection as being analogous to the enumerated grounds. [Emphasis added.]
In any event, it is not a crime to merely “speak against” homosexuals, or members of any of the other groups identified in Sec. 318(4). Crimes are a serious matter. In order for Sec. 319 to be invoked, an accused must be found to have intended, in making the offending statements, to incite or promote hatred, or must have had knowledge that making the statements would have created a substantial certainty that hatred would be promoted. It cannot be forgotten that, as the Supreme Court said in R. v. Keegstra  3 S.C.R. 697,
The word "hatred" further reduces the scope of the prohibition. This word, in the context of s. 319(2), must be construed as encompassing only the most severe and deeply felt form of opprobrium. [Emphasis added.]
On the issue of freedom of expression itself, the Court also stated in that decision:
Section 319(2) of the Code does not unduly impair freedom of expression. [...] This section does not suffer from overbreadth or vagueness; rather, the terms of the offence indicate that s. 319(2) possesses definitional limits which act as safeguards to ensure that it will capture only expressive activity which is openly hostile to Parliament's objective, and will thus attack only the harm at which the prohibition is targeted. [...] [W]hile other non-criminal modes of combating hate propaganda exist, it is eminently reasonable to utilize more than one type of legislative tool in working to prevent the spread of racist expression and its resultant harm. To send out a strong message of condemnation, both reinforcing the values underlying s. 319(2) and deterring the few individuals who would harm target group members and the larger community by communicating hate propaganda, will occasionally require use of the criminal law. [Emphasis added.]
It is the view of the Panel that the host’s statement that “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality” is factually incorrect and misleading to the audience. It is a gross distortion of the serious reason for the creation of a protection in the criminal law in order to give effect to the Parliamentary goal of prohibiting the incitement of hatred against identifiable groups. Any broadcaster may disagree with the adoption of such a criminal remedy by the Government, but, once adopted, no broadcaster ought to distort its meaning or effect. It would be correct to assert that “it is now a crime to incite hatred against homosexuals” (in the circumscribed conditions of the Section); it is not correct to assert that “it is now a crime to speak against homosexuality.”
Mis-characterizations: What the Curriculum Teaches Children
The host is, as noted above, entirely free to disagree with the proposed Government curriculum changes favouring openness and diversity. That would be fair enough, but apparently not far enough to suit him. He has characterized the school issue in the following way on the January 17 program: “All of these sexual practices to be taught to our children in our schools. When we send little Johnny and little Jane to school, [it’s] not to learn to be homosexuals and lesbians.” He then attributes the curriculum modification proposals to “an activist group”, whose members “have an insatiable appetite for sex, especially with young people.” There is not a shred of evidence offered in support of this clearly excessive characterization of the Government’s motivation and the alleged criminal practices of the proposers of the curriculum changes. On the January 24 episode, he again refers to “this activist, homosexual activist agenda.” Overall, the McVety comments go a considerable step beyond those dealt with by the Prairie Regional Panel in CKRD-AM re Focus on the Family (CBSC Decision 96/97-0155, December 16, 1997). That Panel said:
While Focus on the Family is free to describe the homosexual lifestyle as sinful, as did Life Today with James Robison [see CHCH-TV re Life Today with James Robison (CBSC Decision 95/96-0128, April 30, 1996)], the program under consideration here has gone much further. It has treated support for the movement as “flimsy” and has disparaged that support (see, for example, the dismissal of a study authored by a gay activist with the general statement that “like all gay science, it really has very flimsy foundations”). Moreover, it has attributed to the gay movement a malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose, a so-called “agenda”, which, in the view of the Council, constitutes abusively discriminatory comment on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to the provisions of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
In sum, the Panel finds that the characterization of the revised curriculum as one designed to teach homosexuality is utterly wrong. The proposed curricular revisions are intended to teach tolerance. McVety is entitled to disagree that such teaching of tolerance should be tolerated but his twisting of the purpose of the revisions is wrong-headed, unfair and improper.
Mis-characterizations: Gay Pride Parades
The Panel notes that the Gay Pride events, including the parades associated with Pride Week, have become quite mainstream. This hardly means that homosexual activities are, or need be, everyone’s cup of tea. Once again, the Panel has no difficulty with the broadcast of a critical position regarding the funding of LGBT events, but the constant accusation of “sexual perversion” levelled at the parades, the labelling of the parades as “sex parades”, and the argument that advertising for Pride events promotes sex with children (and specifically “there’s boy, young boys and young girls and you can do whatever you want with them”) and “underage people” are disparaging and unacceptable. The latter is another important recurring implication, if not an outright accusation in the dialogue between host McVety and his guest Brian Rushfeldt, namely, that gays prey on young boys and girls, on “underage people”. McVety may not like homosexuality. That is his entitlement, but to leave the totally unsubstantiated impression that gay and lesbian adults have a predilection toward young, underage people is insidious and unacceptable.
In all, the Panel finds the McVety mis-characterizations as excessive, inappropriate, disparaging, and abusive and consequently in breach of the Human Rights Clauses of both Codes, as well as Clauses 6 and 8 of the CAB Code of Ethics. It also considers that, given the central role that the manifestation of gay pride plays in the LGBT world, the immediately preceding comments constitute a derision of the traditions and practices of that community, and hence a contravention of Clauses 6 and 3 of the Equitable Portrayal Code.
Comments about Islam
The principles discussed above regarding comments relating to sexual orientation are generally applicable to the review of content relating to religion. And comments about religious matters are equally susceptible of consideration under Clause 6 (full, fair and proper presentation) and the Human Rights Clauses. Various CBSC Panels have had the opportunity to consider complaints made about the treatment of Islam and Muslims on the airwaves.
In CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (Islam) (CBSC Decision 07/08-0916, October 22, 2008), for example, this Panel dealt with an episode of an open-line radio program dealing with the following “question of the day”, namely, “Is there something inherent in the Muslim faith that promotes violence and oppression of women?” The majority of callers answered “yes” to the question, but a few disagreed. Green adamantly expressed his own view that “almost every act of terrorism around the world today [...] is carried out in the name of Islam. [...] Don’t tell me this is the work of a few fanatics.” Despite the fact that Green said that not all Muslims are “like that”, he reacted negatively to any caller who answered “no” to his question, including those who were Muslim or had personal knowledge of Islam and attempted to clarify some of his points. In one instance, Green responded to a Muslim caller with the word “Baloney!” and, in another, told the sympathetic, apparently non-Muslim, caller that she had “abandoned common sense” and was being “silly”. The CBSC received a complaint from a listener who was concerned about Green’s depiction of Islam and Muslims. The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clauses 2 and 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics and found a violation of both. With respect to Clause 2, it stated:
There were many examples of anti-Islamic comments that the host was willing to accept from callers at apparent face value. The Panel will not quote them all. Readers may, of course, find those additional examples in Appendix A. There is, however, one further exchange that the Panel views as a particular reflection of the host’s monolithic, broad-brush, uncompromisingly discriminatory commentary on Islam. Caller Nicole doubted whether it has “anything to do with the religion. I think it’s just the fanatics blaming it on the religion.” Green argued that “this obviously is more than just a few fanatics. This is a widely-held belief throughout the Muslim world.” He then moved the discussion to the oppression of women by all Muslim nations. Nicole countered that there are lots of things which are protested by “hundreds of thousands of people” but “if they’re not Muslim, we don’t blame it on religion.” Green retorted: “What we’re dealing with today is the bare fact. And here it is: that with very rare exception, the acts of terrorism and brutality that just plague us are being carried out almost exclusively in the name of Islam.” Nicole said, “that’s just a bunch of bad people blaming it on Islam.” And Green argued in his consistent negative approach to the religion on this episode, “I’m sorry. It’s being carried out in the name of Islam. Widespread.” He referred to the example of the Danish cartoons. And then the teddy bear incident. Removing any doubt, if any there was, of his broad view of Islam, he added: “Obviously the great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world support widespread terrible, brutal oppression of women. [Emphasis added.]”
In the view of the Panel, the host has mounted a sweeping, abusive and unduly discriminatory criticism of Islam. It was uninformed and unfair. It conceded none of the diversity that exists in Islam or among its adherents. Attempting to disguise his attack on Islam in the feeble “Some of my good friends are ...” clothing or “It’s not all Muslims ...,” he consistently made it entirely clear that his issue, from the opening premise of the show (framed as a question, but clearly of a rhetorical nature) was: “Can you not conclude that there must be a problem within that faith?”, something he time and again argued during the episode was not the work of a few fanatics, but rather a reflection of the religion, problems and attitudes that he attributed to the “great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world.” Moreover, he brooked no contradictory observations of persons who were admittedly Muslim, informed about the religion, or of a different viewpoint. The Panel considers that the episode was abusive and unduly discriminatory and consequently in breach of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel raises this example for the purpose of indicating that, in comparison, it finds no examples in any of the episodes of Word TV that are at all of such a nature. The assertion that radical Islam is as much a threat to Christians as to Jews is a perspective that McVety is entitled to support on the air, as is the notion that radical Muslims represent a threat to the United States. There is, as expected, a point of view expressed by the host, as well as guests such as Frank Diamant, the Executive Director of B’nai Brith. Even in that dialogue there was a clarification of the role of the Grand Mufti in the events associated with Kristallnacht. There was also discussion of Israeli home-building in Jerusalem and Hamas’s goals, as well as the shooting rampage at Fort Hood and Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Panel finds, in those discussions, a defensible perspective on Islam and some distinction drawn between Islam and radical Islam. The Panel finds no breach of any of the above-referenced Code provisions in connection with those discussions.
Due Process for Terrorists
The complainant put his concerns about the discussion of judicial fairness for the treatment of terrorists in the following terms: “I would like to add my objection about assertions that terrorism suspects deserve to be denied due process of law.” Here, too, McVety expressed strong views. Based in part on his reference to 23 Canadians having been killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the arrest of the 17 suspected terrorists in the Toronto area, he warned, “We tend to be lulled to sleep, that we are not in danger. But, yes, this danger is in our midst.” He expressed his opposition to what he characterized as the soft approach to, or the appeasement regarding, terrorist activities. He gave the example of the Nigerian Umar Abdul Mutallab, who was accused of plotting to blow up an airliner at Christmas 2009. He objected to the offer of the rights accorded to American citizens, including due process, the provision of lawyers, the assurance of the accused’s Miranda rights, and so on. His view was:
Well, what’s wrong with that? This is an act of war by al-Qaeda that is waging war against America. And you cannot fight international terrorists and international war-mongers with criminal applications. That is appeasing evil.
That perspective was repeated on other occasions during the challenged broadcasts. That, though, is an issue that is entirely open for the broadest possible discussion. There is not a right and a wrong in terms of the legitimacy of the discussion. It is a matter of policy that must be susceptible of broadcast debate in the most open way. There is no breach of Clause 6 on account of the broadcast treatment of this issue on any of the challenged occasions.
Discussion of Euthanasia
The topic of euthanasia was discussed on three of the challenged episodes, since Bill C-384 was then moving though the Parliamentary process. Those discussions included Alex Schadenberg, who was the executive director of an organization called the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. While the two men expressed their concern about the legalization of euthanasia, it was entirely reasonable that they hold and broadcast an opinion on a matter of such societal importance, whatever their viewpoint. Nor does the Panel consider that any of that discussion in any way disparaged persons on account of their disability. The Panel finds no breach of any of the above-referenced Code provisions on that account.
Comments re Haiti
The Panel considers the program’s comments regarding Haiti and Haitians generally immensely sympathetic. On January 17, host McVety implored his audience to “[p]ray for the people of Haiti. They are in desperate need.” He sought donations for the people of Haiti to relieve them from their devastation. It is also true that he observed that “Haiti is the world capital for voodoo, the world capital for devastation.” McVety also referred to Satanism and witchcraft in other observations. Those may or may not be correct appreciations, but the Panel doubts that they are easily assessable conclusions. Moreover, the Panel appreciates that the observations were made on a sympathetic basis and speculatively linked to “the deal with the devil that Haitians did about two hundred years ago.” If anything, the discussion of the policy conflict between Pat Robertson and Keith Olbermann provided divergent points of view on aspects of the Haitian issue. In any event, the Panel concludes that the expression of those opinions was made in a positive context and did not reach the level of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment based on religion, nationality or ethnicity. Nor does the Panel find those comments to be unfair or improper in the context of the discussion of the suffering on that Caribbean island.
A Copyright Violation?
Finally, for these purposes, the complainant alleged that the broadcaster “violated copyright by showing an uncleared internet clip of the show Curb Your Enthusiasm to decry HBO Canada.” Simply put, the CBSC does not administer the Copyright Act and has no jurisdiction to determine whether a clip has or has not been cleared for broadcast, nor, needless to say, can it enter upon any determination regarding payment for the use of copyrighted material. In the past, the CBSC has relied on Article 11 of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics in order to determine whether a broadcaster has attempted to pass off any broadcast content as its own. In that connection, the CBSC has required that broadcasters give credit to the source of photographs or videoclips, which has been extended to the requirement that a broadcaster must provide the name of the content creator if it knows it, or at least where the broadcaster obtained it.
In the matter at hand, host McVety identified the source of the clip used. The CBSC requires nothing more of the broadcaster. If there is any private law issue regarding the broadcast of the clip, in terms of compensation, that is a matter to be regulated directly between the broadcaster and the owner of the copyright. The CBSC has nothing to add in that regard.
In all CBSC decisions, the Council’s Panels assess the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant. In the present instance, the Panel notes that the broadcaster’s Program Manager responded on four occasions to the complaints raised by the complainant. While none of the responses prevented the complainant from filing a Ruling Request, the Panel considers that the responses of the Program Manager focussed directly on the issues that concerned the complainant. It is of course the case that, when any complainant does not share the broadcaster’s perspective and so advises the CBSC, the result is that the complaint file is referred to either the Secretariat or a Panel for adjudication. In the end, it is the thoughtfulness of the response that determines whether the broadcaster has met the CBSC membership responsibility of responsiveness, and the Panel considers that CITS-TV has fully met that membership obligation in this instance.
Announcement of the Decision
CITS-TV is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which Word.ca and Word TV were broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CITS-TV.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that the broadcast of various episodes of Word TV between July 19, 2009 and February 21, 2010 breached provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code. By airing abusive or unduly discriminatory comments about persons on the basis of sexual orientation, CITS-TV breached the provisions of the Human Rights Clauses of both Codes. By so doing, CITS-TV also broadcast material which had the effect of conveying an attack on gays and lesbians, contrary to the terms of the Religious Programming Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics and Negative Portrayal Clause of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code. In its observations about Gay Pride parades, CITS-TV also broadcast derisory comments about the practices of gays and lesbians, contrary to Clause 6 of the Equitable Portrayal Code. By making inaccurate statements about various issues relating to human rights and hate speech, and by mischaracterizing the purpose of the revision of the Ontario school curriculum and Gay Pride parades, CITS-TV also breached Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires full, fair and proper presentation of opinion, comment and editorial.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.