Yesterday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association was asked why it was not standing up for free speech and arguing against Motion 103 (“M-103”).
The answer is simple. M-103 does not restrict free speech.
Not only does M-103 not restrict or censor speech, it is also not a bill and is not law. It is of no legal force or effect. It is a motion that has been introduced and has not passed.
So what is M-103? It is a motion with two main asks. First, it asks the government to condemn Islamophobia “and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Second, it asks the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to undertake a study on how the government could develop “a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”, and asks for data collection on hate crimes and “evidence-based policy-making”.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of speech in section 2(b), freedom of religion in section 2(a), and the rights to equality and non-discrimination in section 15. There is no rational argument that M-103 – an un-passed motion that has no force of law – restricts or constrains section 2(b).
The CCLA has a long history of defending the right to free speech, regardless of whether we agree with such speech, provided that the speech is not criminal. The CCLA has argued to protect speech that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic. CCLA has and will oppose government censorship and restraint of speech even when we find that speech reprehensible. When the government seeks to restrict or censor speech, we have demanded that the government discharge its burden of explaining why any restraint on speech is justifiable.
The CCLA continues to argue for freedom of speech of the most odious and heinous views because we recognize that freedom to express unpopular or controversial views is essential to a free democracy. For example, in this past year, the CCLA challenged the government in writing, when the Minister of Public Services sought to restrict mail delivery of a publication called Your Ward News – a publication that is racist and misogynist, insults visible minorities, and is pro-Hitler.
The CCLA continues to support people’s rights to disseminate content and messages, regardless of whether we support or agree with that content, and would call on the government to discharge their burden of proving that any restriction on speech is justifiable in a free and democratic society.
However, the CCLA rejects hyperbole and exaggeration that seeks to concoct restrictions to free speech where no such restriction exists.