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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.
Court Submission June 11, 2024

Governing Council of the University of Toronto v. John Doe et al., ONSC, Court File No.: CV-24-00720977-0000

CFE/CAUT/CFS(O) Intervener Factum – Ontario Superior Court. The issue is whether the University of Toronto’s request for an injunction should be granted against the encampment on campus. The factum argues the University’s common law rights as “fee simple owner” of its property are not unlimited or absolute and do not pre-empt or extinguish the Charter freedoms of those using its property for expressive purposes, as are members of the encampment. It further argues that the Province of Ontario’s decision in 2018 to regulate campus expression transformed an area of autonomous university governance into one of Ministerial regulation and control, making the University’s actions in relation to freedom or expression and freedom assembly subject to the Charter. It also argues against the claim that immunity from the Charter is necessary to protect academic freedom. To the contrary, they are complimentary values.
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.