Speech Restrictive Laws

The Issue

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.

Our Work

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.

Resources
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Guide/Advice

Ontario Anti-SLAPP Legislation: A Backgrounder

Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletins: The Quebec Press Act

March 10, 2019 - On February 18, 2019, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the Quebec Press Act does not apply to articles on the Internet.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: B.C. Legislature Considers Anti-SLAPP Bill

February 22, 2019 - In Victoria, the B.C. legislature heard the first reading of Bill 2 — the Protection of Public Participation Act — on February 13, 2019.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Your Ward News Publisher and Editor Convicted of Promoting Hatred

February 13, 2019 - In January 2019, the publisher and editor of Toronto’s Your Ward News were convicted in the Ontario Court of Justice of wilfully promoting hatred against Jews and women.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: 30th Anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's Fatwa

February 14, 2019 - This year, February 14 is the 30th anniversary of the day when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran ordered the death of author Salman Rushdie and his publishing associates for producing The Satanic Verses.