“A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. A free society is one which aims at equality with respect to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms…Freedom must surely be founded in respect for the inherent dignity and the inviolable rights of the human person.”
-Justice Dickson in R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects those freedoms that are considered fundamental in a democratic society. These fundamental freedoms include freedom of opinion, thought, belief and expression, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly. It is almost impossible to imagine how a democracy would work without protection for these most basic rights and freedoms, and yet they continue to be under attack in many ways.
CCLA’s Fundamental Freedoms Program aims to promote, protect and preserve these rights and freedoms. Since 1964, CCLA has spoken out on the most important issues affecting the fundamental freedoms of Canadians including censorship, hate speech, religion in the schools, and the right to protest.
CCLA, through its Fundamental Freedoms Program, has been involved in cases that defined the permissible scope of restrictions on expression in the form of hate speech laws, obscenity laws, and the laws of libel and defamation. In addition to challenging federal criminal laws that have the effect of curbing expression, CCLA has also challenged by-laws and actions on the part of municipal governments, school boards and university administrations that seek to silence dissenting or controversial views.
In efforts to protect and uphold freedom of religion, CCLA has challenged the religious indoctrination of students through the public school system, and advocated for broad protections of the rights of individuals to practice their religion in their way. CCLA has also staunchly supported the rights of individuals and groups to engage in peaceful protests and have their voices heard.