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

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.

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.

Podcast

Can social media hate, lies, and harassment be regulated? How?

The wonderful potential of social media has a dangerous and damaging dark side directed disproportionately to women and marginalized people. Solutions seem elusive given social media’s anonymity, the permanence of its record, and the capacity of cyberabuse to go viral.

Podcast

Defending Alberta – at What Cost?

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.

Podcast

CFE Anti-SLAPP legislation workshop

Presentation by Peter Jacobsen, one of Canada’s top media and defamation lawyers. Ontario Anti-SLAPP legislation ("Protection of