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

The “Consultation” Racket: A Report on the National Islamophobia Summit

In the aftermath of the latest mass killing of Muslims in Canada, Muslim communities were subjected to yet another specious “anti-Islamophobia” consultation by the federal government; this one cond

By Azeezah Kanji

Blog Post

Violent Hate Groups Must Be Held To Account — Using Rights-Violating Anti-Terrorism Laws Isn’t The Way To Do It

The violent attacks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 6th were, in large part, a culmination of four years of a political regime that incited violence and hatred based on racism, white

By Tim McSorley

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