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

Guide/Advice

Know Your Protest Rights

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Blog Post

Not Trampling on Anyone’s Rights: Doug Ford, the Better Local Government Act, and s.2(b) of the Charter

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.

By Jamie Cameron

Podcast

CFE Virtual Forum Series: Pandemics and Civil Liberties

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.

Blog Post

Making it illegal will not stop the spread of misinformation

As we have seen in recent elections and in the present pandemic, misinformation can do real harm.  But the Canadian government’s

By James L Turk

News

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