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Freedom of Expression & Its Limits

Freedom of expression, a fundamental freedom under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the right to express beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and emotions; to share information; and to seek and receive information and ideas without restriction. Limits on freedom of expression in Canada include Criminal Code and Human Rights provisions regarding hate speech, harassment, and discrimination; civil defamation actions; a variety of municipal by-laws; and both government and private restrictions on online access and content.

Blog June 13, 2024

Student Protest Encampments and Section s.2(c) of the Charter

In spring 2024 student encampments at Canadian and US universities provoked strong reactions for and against pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus property. While some Canadian universities called in police to disperse demonstrators, others looked to the courts for injunctions compelling students to disperse and abandon their encampments.
News June 6, 2024

CFE joins 13 other organizations in deploring government plans to rush the Countering Foreign Interference Act through Parliament without allowing meaningful study

In an open letter today to the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the Centre for Free Expression and 13 other civil society organizations expressed their deep concerns with the speed with which Bill C-70, the Countering Foreign Interference Act, is currently being rushed through the legislative process.
Blog May 21, 2024

The Ontario Government Extends Constitutional Protection to University Encampments

There is an ongoing debate about whether universities, when regulating speech on campus, are subject to the Charter of Rights. The Alberta Court of Appeal, in a 2020 judgment that concerned a prolife demonstration on the University of Alberta campus decided that the university was bound by the Charter and that the students had a constitutionally protected right to engage in protest. However, the courts in other provinces, including Ontario, have reached the opposite conclusion, deciding that the Charter does not apply to a university, even when it is regulating speech on campus. 
Blog May 11, 2024

Is an encampment protected expression?

On Thursday, Calgary Police forcibly dismantled the pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Calgary within hours of its formation. Those who advocate the same tactic at other Canadian universities, including University of Toronto, argue that an encampment is not a legitimate form of protest because it is disruptive and occupies space that should be open to all. A columnist in the Globe & Mail even argued that the encampment is not a form of expression and thus deserves no protection. 
Court Submission May 2, 2024

Working Families Coalition (Canada) Inc. v. Ontario (Attorney General), SCC, Court File No. 40475

CFE Motion Record for Leave to Intervene – Supreme Court of Canada The issue in this appeal is whether Ontario Bill 307’s amendments to the Election Finances Act violate the informational element of a citizen’s right to vote under s. 3 of the Charter. Bill 307 re-enacted third-party spending limits that were declared invalid under s. 2(b) of the Charter, and invoked s. 33 to protect those spending limits from Charter review. The question in this appeal is whether limits on third party spending that are unconstitutional under s. 2(b) are also an unjustifiable violation of s. 3 which cannot be overriden by s. 33.