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

Podcast

Does Confidentiality Work Against Justice?

Panelists: Julie Macfarlane, Dan Michaluk, Ifeoma Ozoma, Emma Phillips

Moderator: Anna Myers

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Former Chief Justice Proposes Regulation of Social Media in Canada

April 8, 2021 - Beverly McLachlin, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has called for the creation of an independent regulatory agency that could order the removal of hate propaganda and harmful misinformation from social media.

Past Event

Does Confidentiality Work Against Justice?

Panelists: Julie Macfarlane, Dan Michaluk, Ifeoma Ozoma, Emma Phillips

Moderator: Anna Myers

BPC Bulletins

BPC Bulletin: Federal Bill to Purge Internet of Illegal Expression Coming Soon

March 16, 2021 - In Ottawa, Steven Guilbeault, the federal minister of Canadian heritage, will soon introduce a bill that seeks to reduce illegal expression on the Internet.

Podcast

Ag-Gag Laws & the Public’s Right to Know

Panelists: Robert Cribb, Jodi Lazare, Richard Moon

Moderator: Cara Zwibel