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.

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By Lara Karaian

News: CFE and 44 other organizations welcomes BC anti-slapp commitment

The Centre for Free Expression joined with 44 other organizations in welcoming the BC Attorney General’s commitment to enact legislation to protect British Columbians from strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP suits. 

Guide/Advice: Legal Restriction on Hate Speech in Canada

Centre for Free Expression

Submissions: Submission to The House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Hearings on Bill C-51

Submitted on behalf of the Centre for Free Expression by: 

Dr. James Turk, Director

Professor Jamie Cameron, Osgoode Hall Law School

Professor Lisa Taylor, Ryerson University