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

Blog Post

Free Speech Caution Tape: Can We Trust Those Lines?

An easy mistake to make in any discussion of freedom of expression is to believe there is absolute certainty anywhere in the definition of that term.

By John Degen

Blog Post

The Supreme Court’s judgments on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation: Seven key takeaways

On September 10, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada released its highly anticipated decisions in two cases addressing the interpretation and application of Ontario’s “anti-SLAPP” laws.  The two appe

By Justin Safayeni

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Supreme Court of Canada Rules on Two Ontario Defamation Cases

September 13, 2020 - The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on two different defamation lawsuits: 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association and Bent v. Platnick.

News

Supreme Court upholds Ontario Anti-SLAPP Legislation

The Centre for Free Expression, along with co-intervenors Canadian Association of Journalists and CWA-Canada, welcome today's Supreme Court's unanimous

September 10, 2020

Podcast

CFE Virtual Forum Series: Platforms of Distortion – Can They Be Fixed?

Digital platforms are perfect delivery systems for gossip and entertainment. Unfortunately they now distribute most of our news.