In 1991, Delwin Vriend was fired from his job as a lab co-ordinator at a private Christian college in Edmonton, Alberta, for being an active homosexual, a “lifestyle choice” that contravened the college’s moral code.
Vriend took the Government of Alberta to court for not explicitly outlawing “sexual orientation” discrimination in its Individual Rights Protection Act (IRPA), an Act which explicitly outlaws discrimination on grounds of “race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income and family status.” (What else is missing? Ugliness? Obesity? Low IQ?)
Vriend’s case reached the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled (on April 2nd, 1998) that discrimination against gays violated Canada’s Constitution, specifically its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that Alberta must henceforth read “sexual orientation” into its IRPA.
While the ruling outraged some people, primarily certain religious people who regard gay sex as immoral, many Canadians hailed the ruling as a victory for “human rights” over bigotry, and dismissed all opposition to it as motivated by bigotry.
But the truth is that “anti-discrimination” laws destroy the fundamental rights of all citizens (including gays) thus paving the way for institutionalized bigotry and other evils.
The source of today’s rapidly expanding “anti-discrimination” laws in Canada — which currently extend outside of government institutions to private employers, landlords and beyond — is Section 15 of the Charter, under “equality rights,” which states: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination….” To interpret this as applicable to anyone other than government law agents involves a massive evasion of all that precedes it in the Charter.
According to Section 2: “freedom of conscience,” “freedom of thought, belief, opinion” and “freedom of association” are “fundamental freedoms” for every individual. It doesn’t say “freedom to think only what the government regards as true and good,” for that would entail censorship. If one is not free to regard gay sex as immoral (I don’t!), then by what right can a homosexual or anyone regard bigotry as immoral? Furthermore, Section 2 guarantees each individual (including gays) the right to not associate with — which means to discriminate against — anyone he or she regards, rightly or wrongly, as immoral. Denying these rights to some individuals, such as bigots, necessarily undermines these rights for everyone.
Section 7 of the Charter, under “legal rights,” stipulates: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person….” This means, and can only mean, that there is no right to a job (or guaranteed income), even if someone needs it, for that would violate the legal rights of those forced to provide it — a policy consistent with slavery, not liberty.
Although property rights are not mentioned explicitly in the Charter, they are logically implicit in these basic rights. It would be absurd to tell a person that he has the right to his life and liberty — but that the government (or anyone) can seize or destroy his property, or, as under fascism, dictate what he can do with it. Without private property rights, all other rights are empty verbiage, and there is nothing in principle to stop governments from committing or legalizing theft.
Since the employer pays the wages he should be free to set the terms of employment, including moral conduct. The employee is free to either agree or look elsewhere for a job. If the employer is not free to fire an employee for violating the terms of employment, the employer essentially has no right to his own property — and, by implication, neither does anyone else, including gays. (The same is true for landlords.) The alternative is for government to dictate the terms of employment, a practice consistent with fascism and communism.
Today’s “anti-discrimination” laws are a direct assault on private property rights, which necessarily undermines all legitimate rights, including the Charter’s “basic freedoms” and “legal rights.”
The Charter’s purpose is neither to control thought, nor legislate morality, nor destroy property rights. Its purpose, properly, is to protect each individual’s legitimate right to his own life, liberty and property from anyone who chooses to initiate physical force. The proper standard of criminal action is coercion. Laws protecting gays (or other targets of bigotry) from murder, assault, theft, fraud, physical threats or harassment, etc. — regardless of motive — already existed long before “anti-discrimination” laws appeared.
The essential gimmick behind any “anti-discrimination” law is to smuggle in a new “right” — the “right” not to experience discrimination — which necessarily destroys all legitimate rights. This gimmick involves shifting the criteria of criminal action from physical coercion to motive. Before “anti-discrimination” laws, physical assault was a crime because it involves the initiation of physical force. What “anti-discrimination” laws effectively do is make discrimination a crime regardless of whether or not physical coercion is involved, i.e., whether or not anyone’s legitimate rights are violated.
The net effect is to hand government the ominous power to proscribe ideas and morality at the expense of basic individual rights. To defend this in the name of fighting bigotry is an intellectual obscenity because it permits whoever seizes this political power the “freedom” to (among other evils) force irrational/immoral ideas, including bigotry, onto others.
In fact, today’s “anti-discrimination” laws are achieving just that. They are not aimed at fighting bigotry but at achieving the leftist/collectivist goal of subordinating individual rights to so-called group rights. Their weapon is Section 15.2 of the Charter (a monstrous clause that contravenes everything that precedes it in the Charter) which effectively permits government-enforced bigotry if it involves “any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
Hence, if a group is deemed “disadvantaged” by those in power — regardless of who or what is responsible — then that “fact” entitles the government to sacrifice individuals to that group, even if it involves bigotry.
For example, “employment equity” (or “affirmative action”) programs, an offshoot of “anti-discrimination” laws, institutionalize bigotry because they force employers to hire people on the basis of skin colour (or sex, or whatever). This involves punishing individuals for having white skin regardless of whether or not they personally committed acts of bigotry — a blatant policy of injustice and racism.
Also, efforts are now underway to outlaw discrimination on the basis of “poverty.” (Not “income,” for that would prevent legalized looting.) According to Michelle Falardeau-Ramsey, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission: “Poverty is a serious breach of equality rights which I believe has no place in a country as prosperous as ours.” So if someone wants to rent an apartment but can’t pay for it, the owner must not discriminate even if it harms him. Rather, it’s the government that must discriminate against “the haves” by sacrificing them to the “have nots,” a practice consistent with communism.
Today’s “anti-discrimination” laws are motivated not by anti-bigotry but by the morality underlying communism — altruism. According to altruism, the individual has no right to exist for his own sake, that self-sacrifice to others — particularly to those who need (or lack) something — is the only justification of his existence, and his highest moral duty.
As Ayn Rand wrote on altruism: “A morality that holds need as a claim holds emptiness — non-existence — as its standard of value; it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness, inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster, the lack, the fault, the flaw — the zero.”
This altruist morality is evident in the current trend of “anti-discrimination” laws. For example, dentists are being forced to treat AIDS patients despite their concern of getting infected. Landlords are forced to house mentally ill people who disturb other tenants with loud noises and even threats. (Keeping them in mental institutions constitutes discrimination!) Cases exist where the physical strength requirements for firefighting have been reduced — in the name of equality of the sexes and anti-bigotry — so that women who are physically unable to carry adults from burning buildings can become firefighters. (Who cares if the victims burn?) What’s next? Mentally disabled airline pilots?
Politically, altruism serves as a perfect rationalization for power lusters to destroy individual rights, seize dictatorial power, and thereby rule, loot and destroy us as they wish. To push altruism in the name of anti-bigotry is worse than intellectually obscene. The world’s most notorious bigot, Adolph Hitler, was a staunch champion of altruism. According to Hitler: “It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole.” Once individual rights are destroyed — via altruism, “anti-discrimination” laws, or whatever — there is nothing to stop power lusters from seizing power and institutionalizing bigotry and other evils.
Those who want to fight the bigotry that still exists today must first realize that the essence of bigotry is not discrimination as such but irrational discrimination. For example, racism, the most noncontroversial form of bigotry, involves making a moral evaluation of an individual not on grounds of his chosen, self-made, individual characteristics, but according to his skin colour — an unchosen, non-essential, collective characteristic. If an employer fires a good worker because of skin colour, the employer first and foremost harms himself. If morality is one’s guide to success in life, then racism is immoral because it is irrational and self-destructive.
But people cannot be forced to be rational. The government can force a man to hire a homosexual but it cannot make him believe it’s right.
What the government can do positively to fight bigotry is to leave those who are rational free from those who are not via full protection of individual rights. Rational people have a very powerful weapon against real bigotry — rational persuasion. And for those bigots who refuse to be rational — moral condemnation and voluntary economic boycotts. In this way the legitimate rights of all individuals are not destroyed under the guise of anti-bigotry or any other alleged “do-good” intention.