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

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Federal Government Committee Considers Hateful Expression on the Internet

June 12, 2019 - In Ottawa, a federal government committee is considering ways to stem the tide of hate propaganda and incitement to hatred on the Internet.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Defamation Lawsuit News Roundup

June 6, 2019 - The following news reports about Canadian defamation lawsuits appeared in the Canadian news media.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Your Ward News Update

June 4, 2019 - In a Toronto courtroom, the sentencing of a convicted hatemonger has been postponed a second time.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: The Christchurch Call to Action and Canada's Digital Charter

June 3, 2019 - The Canadian government is taking new steps to counter hate speech, misinformation and other threats on the Internet.

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Kevin J. Johnston Fined $2.5 Million

May 18, 2019 - In Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, a judge has fined a videographer $2.5 million for making hateful, defamatory remarks about a Lebanese-Canadian restaurateur.