No free speech in Canada?

Listening to CBC Radio today, I heard a lawyer comment that free speech in Canada is not an absolute right. I was a bit surprised by that comment, so I did a little research. According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

But the Boston Globe pointed this out, somewhat tongue in cheek, but accurate:

How do you like your free speech — well chilled? Canada has no First Amendment and adheres to primitive British-style libel laws.

Here is a hilarious definition of defamation la Canadienne, from the Media Libel website: ”A defamatory statement exists if the publication tends to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the estimation of those who are commonly referred to as ‘right thinking’ members of society.” Allow me to reiterate my widely known position: Celine Dion is the greatest singer who ever lived.

Just this year, the Canadian Parliament passed what the religious right has branded a ”Chill Bill,” or ”The Bible as Hate Speech Bill,” effectively preventing churches from using the Bible to preach against homosexuality. ”With the passage of Bill C-250, Canada has now embarked upon a course of criminalization of dissent,” according to a statement released this spring by the Catholic Civil Rights League.

Fine, you say. Enough gay-bashing by Bible-waving Christian loonies. But remember John Ashcroft’s motto: Your rights are next.

Jeremy Patfield, a 15 year old student at John Dryden Public School in Whitby, was visiting the Canadian Governor General’s residence with his class when he caught sight of the Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, herself. He commented to a friend “Is that the lady who spends the money on the Queen when she comes?” Apparently she did not hear the remark, but the tour guide did, and asked the group to leave. As a result of the incident, Jeremy’s school planned to suspend him, though Ms. Clarkson intervened on his behalf to ensure that did not happen.

The Canadian Supreme Court recently decided to shut down free speech by citizens during elections, effectively limiting speech to only that of registered political parties, who are actually funded by taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3:

”While the right to political expression lies at the core of the guarantee of free expression and warrants a high degree of constitutional protection, there is nevertheless a danger that political advertising may manipulate or oppress the voter.”

For “free speech” there sure are an awful lot of rules.

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