Speech Restrictive Laws
Despite the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizing freedom of expression as a “fundamental freedom”, it faces serious challenges. Among troubling restrictions are the creation of the new offense of encouraging the "commission of terrorism offences in general"; continuing use of criminal defamation against critics of public officials; broadening the definition of hate speech; failure to curtail abuse of civil defamation; and unwillingness to remove archaic laws such as the Criminal Code offences of defamatory libel and seditious libel.
Why It Matters
Freedom of expression is the foundation of a democratic society and is essential to virtually all other freedoms. Only through the opportunity to hear different perspectives can we formulate our own views to share with others. When governments inappropriately limit what can be expressed and when courts restrict unpopular or controversial viewpoints, the public’s right to hear and form their own conclusions is lost, and democracy imperilled.
The CFE defends free expression rights. We promote public discussion of what are justifiable limits on free expression. We press for the repeal of antiquated and inappropriate speech restrictive laws, such as blasphemy and criminal defamation, as well as for the repeal of anti-terrorism laws that undermine basic freedoms and democratic rights. We advocate for the introduction of anti-SLAPP legislation that effectively prevents the use of civil defamation to intimidate and silence critics. We monitor and, where appropriate, seek to intervene in court cases that will shape free expression rights in Canada.
July 18, 2021 - The news reports in this bulletin focus on speech conflicts that have happened recently in British Columbia.
July 4, 2021 - In Toronto, the editor and publisher of Your Ward News have lost their appeal to overturn their convictions for promoting hatred against women and Jews.
In early June, the New York Times ran a piece by Michael Powell entitled “Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the ACLU Faces an Iden
Panelists: Julie Macfarlane, Dan Michaluk, Ifeoma Ozoma, Emma Phillips
Moderator: Anna Myers
April 8, 2021 - Beverly McLachlin, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has called for the creation of an independent regulatory agency that could order the removal of hate propaganda and harmful misinformation from social media.
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