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.
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On July 30, 2018, the newly elected Ford government introduced legislation reducing the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 councillors. Bill 5 was enacted in haste on August 14, 2018, about two weeks later.
The coronavirus poses a threat to our individual and collective future. As governments attempt to deal with the pandemic, they face apparent trade-offs between collective wellbeing and individual human rights and civil liberties.
By James L Turk
CFE Joins 156 Other Organizations in Calling for Governments in Canada to Make Human Rights a Centrepiece of their Response to Covid-19 Pandemic
More that 300 organizations, academics, and public figures have called on governments in Canada to ensure that human rights are central in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 15, 2020
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