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In December 2001, a coalition of 12 equality-seeking groups in Ontario presented arguments in Brillinger v. Brockie, a case before the Ontario Court of Justice. The case was on appeal from the Ontario Board of Inquiry (Human Rights Code).
Scott Brockie, the owner of Imaging Excellence, a Toronto printing shop, refused to print business cards for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Brockie says that he finds homosexuality detestable and that providing a service to a lesbian and gay organization offends his religious principles. The Ontario Board of Inquiry ruled on February 24, 2000 that the printing service was denied to the Archives on the basis of sexual orientation and ordered Brockie to do the printing and pay damages of $5000. (Brillinger v. Brockie,  O. H. R. B. I. D. No. 3 (QL)). Brockie’s appeal to the Ontario Court of Justice was heard in December; the decision is now reserved.
In taking on the case, the Equality Coalition’s concern was that human rights protections would be substantially undermined if service-providers could refuse service to minority religious groups, people of colour, gays, lesbians and bisexuals, people with disabilities or other disadvantaged groups on the basis that providing equal service would offend the service-provider’s personal beliefs. The Coalition argued in the Court of Justice that the case affects not only the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities, but also raises the broader question of whether there are circumstances in which service can be refused to members of a disadvantaged community.
The issues addressed in this appeal encompass the interpretation and interaction of rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically freedom of religion, conscience, expression and association, and the right to be free from discrimination as provided for by the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“We take certain things for granted in our society, like the right to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination in the public marketplace. Those rights are guaranteed by law,” says lawyer Susan Ursel of Green & Chercover, legal representative for the Coalition. “This case is an important opportunity for the court to re-affirm the values of human rights, equality and fairness which are the foundation of our society.”
The Equality Coalition is made up of EGALE Canada Inc., the National Association of Women and the Law, the Canadian AIDS Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Foundation for Equal Families, the Metro Tor onto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Minority Advocacy and Rights Council, and the 2-Spirited People of the First Nations.
For more information, please visit http://www.egale.ca.