On October 29, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of free speech in Ward v. Québec.[i]
At the heart of the ruling is the decision that rude and obnoxious speech – even though it may be offensive and hurtful – is still protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“It must be recognized at the outset that the Quebec Charter, which elevates freedom of expression to a fundamental freedom, was not enacted to encourage censorship,” wrote Chief Justice Richard Wagner. “It follows that expression in the nature of rude remarks made by individuals does not in itself constitute discrimination under that statute.”
“The judgment comes ahead of cabinet’s reintroduction of a bill that would threaten bloggers and Facebook users with $70,000 fines for hurtful online comments,” noted Blacklock’s Reporter.[ii]
As part of the CSSA’s mission to protect and defend the rights of all lawful firearms owners – hunters, target shooters and collectors – we exercise our right of free speech to share our positive message via a variety of means.
These include our weekly CSSA eNews, interviews and advertisements on radio, television and print outlets, as well as on social media.
We’re proud of our community’s long-standing culture of safety and personal responsibility and we will not shrink back from defending firearm owners from spurious and politically-motivated attacks on our members.
It’s a message many people dislike because they despise firearms and anyone who owns them. We vigorously defend our community from their spurious attacks where they conflate the actions of drug dealers and gang members with us.
In the process of defending ourselves on any of the venues mentioned above, should the Trudeau Liberals pass their Internet censorship bills (there are more than one), we could face renewed attacks by the hated Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – a law that was finally repealed in 2013.
The Trudeau Liberal government seems hell-bent on resurrecting that stinking albatross to wield as a weapon against those with whom his government disagrees.
“The purpose of the guarantee [of free speech] is to permit free expression to the end of promoting truth, political or social participation, and self-fulfilment. That purpose extends to the protection of minority beliefs which the majority regard as wrong or false,” wrote then-Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 1992 Supreme Court decision in R. v. Zundel:[iii]
“The view of the majority has no need of constitutional protection,” Justice McLachlin continued. “It is tolerated in any event. Viewed thus, a law which forbids expression of a minority or ‘false’ view on pain of criminal prosecution and imprisonment, on its face, offends the purpose of the guarantee of free expression.”
There is no ‘right’ to not be offended – especially in an age where people insist on being offended by every passing thought or Internet meme.
Our views – long considered mainstream – are sometimes now labelled ‘offensive’ and ‘hateful’, so it’s refreshing to see our highest court is still committed to defending the cornerstone of our democracy – the right to freedom of speech.
Let’s hope the current government does not insist on resurrecting Section 13’s abusive policies under the pretence of saving people from having their feelings hurt, but rest assured CSSA will be part of the fight to stop censorship should that occur.