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.
Panelists: Carissima Mathen, Ravi Vatrapu
Moderator: James L. Turk
October 7th, 2019 - In British Columbia, a judge in the province’s Supreme Court has awarded author Steven Galloway access to messages that were emailed between a woman who accused him of sexual assault and staff at the University of British Columbia.
Premier Kenney’s promised assault on critics of the Alberta oil and gas industry has a disturbing resonance with the actions of right-wing populist governments around the world.
Sept 1, 2019 - In Toronto, the publisher and editor of Your Ward News have been sentenced in court for promoting hatred against women and Jews.
LeRoy St. Germaine, the paper’s publisher, was sentenced to 12 months of strict house arrest.
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