Canada v. Taylor, [1990] 3 SCR 892

John Ross Taylor and the Western Guard Party - Appellants v. Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Attorney General of Canada - Respondents

The appellants distributed cards inviting calls to a Toronto telephone number answered by recorded messages. The messages, while in part arguably innocuous, contained statements denigrating the Jewish race and religion. In 1979, complaints about these messages were lodged with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Commission established a tribunal which concluded that the messages constituted a discriminatory practice under s. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and ordered the appellants to cease the practice. The section makes it a discriminatory practice to communicate telephonically any matter likely to expose a person or a group to hatred or contempt on the basis, inter alia, of race or religion. Pursuant to the Act, the cease and desist order was filed in the Federal Court. No proceedings were taken by the appellants to have the order set aside. In spite of the order, the appellants continued their messages and were found in contempt of the order. The Party was sentenced to a $5,000 fine and T, the Party's leader, to one year of imprisonment. The sentence was suspended upon the condition that the appellants obey the Tribunal's cease and desist order. They did not and the suspension of sentence was vacated. The Party paid its fine and T served his sentence. In 1983, the Canadian Human Rights Commission filed a new application with the Federal Court, alleging that further messages were being transmitted and that these messages also breached the Tribunal's order. The Commission sought a new order of committal of T and a $5,000 fine against the Party. Relying on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the appellants argued that s. 13(1) of the Act violated s. 2(b) of the Charter, and that the Tribunal's order was of no effect. The Federal Court, Trial Division rejected the argument, confirmed the contempt, imposed the fine and made the commital order sought by the Commission. The appellants' appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal was dismissed. This appeal is to determine (1) whether s. 13(1) of the Act and the Tribunal's cease and desist order violate s. 2(b) of the Charter; and (2) whether the Tribunal's order is invalid because of bias. The allegation of bias, raised for the first time before the Federal Court of Appeal, arises from the fact that the Tribunal was appointed by the Commission, the latter being a body intimately connected with investigating and substantiating the complaint.