Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is part of the Fundamental Freedoms program. You can find more information about it on its main program page.

Trouble registering to vote in Quebec? Let us know

By on March 27, 2014

CCLA is very concerned about reports coming out of the province of Quebec that individuals, particularly students, are facing barriers in registering to vote in the upcoming provincial election.  Media reports suggest that people who are eligible to vote have been turned away when registering on the basis that they could not establish their domicile or an intention to remain in Quebec.  Many reports suggest these people have documentation that establishes their eligibility but are nevertheless turned away.  It is not the first time that CCLA has raised concerns about unclear voting rules resulting in disenfranchisement.

If you have encountered difficulty registering to vote in Quebec, but believe you meet the requirements, please contact Cara Zwibel, Director of the CCLA’s Fundamental Freedoms Program, at

Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture Curriculum Once Again Before the Supreme Court

By on March 17, 2014

CCLA has been granted leave to intervene in Loyola High School, et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec.  This case, scheduled to be heard by the Court on March 24, 2014, is the second time that the Court will consider an issue related to the province of Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum which was put in place several years ago when the province went through the process of moving away from a confessional system of education.  Loyola, a private Catholic high school in Montreal, sought an exemption from the Minister of Education on the basis that it taught a course that was equivalent to the ERC course but was in keeping with its mission as a Catholic school.  The Minister denied the exemption arguing, in part, that as a religious institution (and not an individual), Loyola could not make a freedom of religion claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.  

While CCLA recognizes that freedom of religion is often thought of as an individual right, it also has significant associational and expressive aspects.  Therefore, in certain cases, where a non-profit institution is primarily a vehicle through which individual members exercise their own freedom of religion, association and expression, the institution itself can make a claim under the Charter freedom.

Read CCLA’s factum in the case here.

CCLA Concerned About Detained Journalist Mohamed Fahmy

By on February 27, 2014

CCLA is seriously concerned about the detention of Mohamed Fahmy in Egypt.  Mr. Fahmy is a Canadian citizen and a journalist.

We commend the Canadian government for providing consular assistance, and for highlighting the rights to freedom of expression and the need to protect journalists.  Both Canada and Egypt are state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which protects not only freedom of expression but also fair trial rights.  Both of these rights are implicated in Mr. Fahmy’s situation.

As fellow state parties to the ICCPR, Canada has the right to insist that Egypt comply with its legal obligations under the ICCPR which includes upholding freedom of expression, the rights of journalists and all fair trial rights. We call upon Canada to continue to provide consular attention to Mr Fahmy, with particular regard to the specific observations of Justices O’Connor and Iacobucci regarding consular visits made in the two Federal Commissions of Inquiry.



CCLA Addresses the Right to an Independent Association Before the Supreme Court

By on February 19, 2014

CCLA recently intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in Mounted Police Association of Ontario et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, a case that revolves around the fundamental freedom of association protected by s. 2(d), and the limitations placed on the rights of members of the RCMP to organize and bargain collectively on behalf of the membership.  RCMP members are excluded from the labour relations legislation that governs most of the federal public service and has an alternative scheme in place.  Under this scheme – the Staff Relations Representative Program – is the only means by which RCMP members can address labour issues with management.  The Mounted Police Association of Ontario and the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association, were formed by members in the hopes of being a collective means of resolving employment disputes, but under the current law, this is not possible.

The associations sought to have the relevant legislative provisions declared unconstitutional, arguing that they impose unreasonable limits on the rights of RCMP members to associate and bargain collectively.  Since the SRRP was created by management and is not fully independent of it, the associations argue  that they cannot effectively bargain or represent their own interests though the SRRP.  CCLA intervened in the case to argue that the right to associate and to bargain collectively is only meaningful if individuals can choose an association that is independent from management.  Any restrictions on the right to associate within an association of one’s choosing must be narrowly limited and, in CCLA’s view, a compelling reason had not been established in this case.  The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in mid-February, 2014.

Read CCLA’s factum here.

Right to Protest Under Fire in Ukraine

By on January 23, 2014

Earlier this year, CCLA, in conjunction with partners from nine other countries around the globe, released a report on threats to the right to protest around the world.  The report, Take Back the Streets, documented case studies from ten countries that demonstrate the constraints being placed on the right to peacefully protest.  Unfortunately, the patterns documented in the report are once again in the news.  There are reports that protesters in the Ukraine are experiencing serious violence at the hands of police and the government has recently passed extremely restrictive anti-protest laws.

CCLA’s Opposition to the Quebec Charter of Values: Read our Brief

By on December 20, 2013

CCLA has submitted a brief to the Quebec National Assembly’s Committee on Institutions’ as part of its general consultation and public hearings on Bill 60.  Bill 60, or the Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests, is a deeply troubling law that would infringe basic rights and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.  In our submissions, CCLA argues that the Bill infringes freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the right to equality and to be free from discrimination.  CCLA also points out some concerning inconsistencies in the proposed law which would have a disproportionate impact on individuals from minority religious groups and, in particular, women from these groups.  We are urging the Quebec government not to move forward with the proposal and hope to have an opportunity to address the Committee in person in their public hearings, which are scheduled to start in mid-January, 2014.

Read CCLA’s brief here (English submissions follow French).

CCLA Asks McGill University to Improve Openness and Transparency

By on December 5, 2013

CCLA has written to the Secretary-General of McGill University regarding court proceedings that the University has initiated in light of a number of access to information requests made by McGill students.  The University first applied to the Quebec Commission d’acces a l’information (access to information commission) asking for permission to disregard a number of existing requests for information along with future requests that meet certain criteria.  The Commission denied this request and McGill is asking the Court of Quebec to hear an appeal from that decision.

CCLA is committed to the principles of openness and transparency in public institutions and wrote to McGill to lay out these principles and how they apply to the case McGill has started.  CCLA encouraged the University to take a more proactive approach to disclosure of information, arguing that this would provide students with information they are seeking and pose less of a burden on administration in responding to multiple requests.  We also proposed that the University organize discussions or forums where information about ongoing research work or corporate partnerships could be shared with students and feedback could be solicited.

Click here to read a copy of CCLA’s letter.  

CCLA Urges Ontario Attorney General to Pass Protection of Public Participation Bill

By on December 2, 2013

On November 29, CCLA joined 12 other organizations including Greenpeace, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Sierra Club Ontario and the David Suzuki Foundation, in writing to Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen to voice their support for Bill 83, known as the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2013.

Passing the bill would enact anti-SLAPP (strategic law suits against public participation) legislation, and help to protect freedom of expression in Ontario.

Read the full letter here.

Learn more about CCLA’s stance on Bill 83 and anti-SLAPP legislation here.




Cyberbullying is a problem – Bill C-13 is not the answer

By on November 26, 2013

The federal government recently introduced Bill C-13, a law it says is aimed at addressing the problem of cyberbullying and the tragic teen suicides that have resulted from this problem. If passed into law, the Bill would amend the Criminal Code and other laws in a number of ways; first, by creating a new offence around distributing intimate images; and second by giving police officers a number of new investigative powers and tools to deal with online crime.

Unfortunately, these changes are unlikely to address the very real problem of cyberbullying and will intrude into Canadians’ privacy in new and concerning ways.  Many of the proposed amendments are powers the government previously tried to introduce in their “lawful access” legislation, which was roundly criticized by the CCLA and other groups and which was ultimately abandoned.  While Bill C-13 doesn’t go as far as earlier cybersurveillance bills, CCLA remains concerned  about the new investigative powers and the impact they will have on personal privacy and freedom of expression.   We are also concerned that the new offence related to the distribution of intimate images may be unduly broad and would like to see the Bill amended to make malicious intent an element of the offence.

CCLA will be doing a thorough review of Bill C-13 so check back with us for more details on the civil liberties impact of this proposal.

CCLA McGill Law Chapter Presents Discussion on Charter of Quebec Values

By on November 25, 2013

WHERE: Moot Court, New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Rue Peel

WHEN: Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 5:30 PM


The Canadian Civil Liberties Association chapter at McGill Law is co-sponsoring a December 2nd round table discussion on the Charter of Quebec Values (also known as Bill 60). The event, organized by Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), will focus on legal and civil rights issues as they pertain to international and domestic human rights instruments, citizenship and labor relations. The panel will include legal and labor relations practitioners who have litigated or actively participated in legislation and public policy on these issues.

Alexa Conradi, President of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, will be the Opening Speaker.


The panel will include:

Vrinda Narain
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Shahad Salman

Dave Douglas
President, Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association

David Birnbaum
Executive Director, Association of English-Speaking School Boards of Québéc

For more information visit