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Protecting Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression includes freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

When government actors are allowed to decide which opinions can be expressed and which cannot, an open, vibrant and diverse society quickly breaks down.

Similarly, when our court system is used to silence those with unpopular views or those who oppose powerful actors, we all lose the opportunity to hear all sides of an issue and come to our own conclusions. Freedom of expression is the right to speak, but also the right to hear.

Informed political debate requires that this right be strongly protected, and it is only through free expression that individuals can take action to ensure that our governing institutions are held accountable.

Restrictions on freedom of expression come in many forms including Criminal Code and Human Rights provisions limiting hate speech, municipal by-laws that regulate signage or where protests may take place, civil defamation (libel) actions, and restrictions placed on press freedoms.  With more and more communication taking place online, government restrictions on access to the internet and the content and filtering policies of private companies also place limits on free expression.

We work to ensure that any limits are reasonable and strictly necessary.

Our 2019 Supreme Court Win Protecting Press Freedom.

When attempting to shed light on possible political corruption in Quebec, Marie-Maude kept getting pressured by a former politician to reveal her sources, as he believed them to be government officials conspiring against him. She had appeared on television four times reporting on the possible corruption based on information she received from confidential journalistic sources.

This was the first time the Court looked at new rules to protect journalists’ confidential sources, and we were there to ensure press freedom was protected.

Protecting press freedom is crucial to democracy. We believe that the press should be able to protect confidential sources and the Supreme Court decision recognizes that protecting these sources should be the rule, not the exception.

 

A journalist can only be forced to reveal a source if it’s absolutely necessary and in the public interest.
Without this protection, whistleblowers exposing corruption and injustice might never be willing to come forward.
Marie-Maude_Denis
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Fill Up On Free Speech 

The Ontario legislature passed a law that forces gas station owners to put up stickers with the government party line on pollution pricing or the carbon tax. The government should not force anyone to share their message. If the station owners choose to not put up the stickers, they can be handed a new fine every day. That’s called “compelled political speech.” That’s unconstitutional.

VIEW CASE

COVID-19

Stay up to date with all the latest work that CCLA is doing to monitor the response to COVID-19, ensuring it’s based on science and is not unnecessarily intrusive to our liberties.

Bill 21

Bill 21 is a law which disproportionately impacts people who are already marginalized. New Quebec laws ban Canadians working as teachers, lawyers, police officers, and more from wearing religious symbols such as crosses, hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes. This not only affects people currently working in the public sector, but also the youth who aspire to those careers.

Racial Profiling

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

Reproductive Rights

Bill 21 is a law which disproportionately impacts people who are already marginalized. New Quebec laws ban Canadians working as teachers, lawyers, police officers, and more from wearing religious symbols such as crosses, hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes. This not only affects people currently working in the public sector, but also the youth who aspire to those careers.

Our Work Protecting Freedom of Expression

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Foreign Interference Bill: CCLA Warns the Senate Committee about Charter Issues that Must Be Addressed

On June 10, 2024, Shakir Rahim, director of the Criminal Justice program at the Canadian…
June 10, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA to Universities and Police Services: You Must Walk the Talk

On June 7, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, director of the Fundamental Freedoms program and interim…
June 7, 2024

Civil Society Should be Granted Adequate Time to Meaningfully Engage in the Public Consultations Around the Foreign Interference Bill

TORONTO — Yesterday, Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) Lawyers Anaïs Bussières McNicoll (Director of the Fundamental…
June 5, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Granted Leave to Intervene in the McGill University Injunction Proceeding

On June 4, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
June 4, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Granted Leave to Intervene in the University of Toronto Injunction Proceeding

On June 4, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
June 4, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Seeks Leave to Intervene in McGill University’s Injunction Proceedings against the Encampment on its Campus

On May 27, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
May 28, 2024

CCLA Reaction to the Introduction of Bill C-70

On May 7, 2024, CCLA joined a call by civil society organizations, academics and experts…
May 14, 2024

CCLA Calls for Investigation into Edmonton Police

TORONTO — Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil…
May 14, 2024

Student Protest Movement: CCLA Calls for an Investigation into Calgary Police’s Recent Conduct

TORONTO — Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil…
May 11, 2024

Know Your Rights: Universities Should Continue to Acknowledge the Rights of Students to Express Themselves and to Protest Peacefully

Now more than ever, it is important for individuals to understand their rights when they…
May 8, 2024

Online Harms Act (Bill C-63): CCLA Joins Civil Society Call to Separate Parts Two and Three from the Bill

On May 7, 2024, CCLA joined a call by civil society organizations, academics and experts…
May 8, 2024

CCLA Calls on the Ontario Speaker to Lift His Ban on Keffiyehs

TORONTO — Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of Fundamental Freedoms for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association…
April 25, 2024

CCLA Urges Substantial Amendments to the Online Harms Act

TORONTO — Following the Government of Canada’s reintroduction of the Online Harms Act (Bill C-63), Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive…
February 28, 2024

Emergencies Act FAQs

Why did CCLA take the federal government to court to challenge its use of the…
January 26, 2024

Emergency is Not in the Eye of the Beholder: Federal Court Grants Victory to CCLA in Emergencies Act Challenge

TORONTO — The Federal Court of Canada has just issued its decision allowing the Canadian…
January 23, 2024

CBC News: Ottawa’s use of Emergencies Act against convoy protests was unreasonable, violated Charter, court rules

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, executive director of the CCLA, said their win sets a clear and…
January 23, 2024

Freedom of Expression, the Right to Protest, and Academic Freedom in a Time of Crisis

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) recognizes that in times of crisis, it is all…
November 11, 2023

Litigation, Costs and Public Interest Groups – CCLA Intervening to Clarify the Law

The CCLA, in conjunction with the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) and Democracy Watch, were granted…
October 20, 2023

National Security and Parliament’s Role – CCLA Intervening in Ontario Case

Should our elected representatives on a committee to oversee our national security agencies have the…
October 3, 2023

CCLA Reacts to Peterson Decision

TORONTO —  Noa Mendelsoh Aviv, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties…
August 23, 2023

CCLA in Court to Address Regulatory Overreach and Defend Freedom of Expression

The CCLA spoke before Ontario’s Divisional Court on June 21, 2023 to address overreach by…
June 22, 2023

SLAPPs, Speech, and Standing Up for Equality

CCLA appears before the Supreme Court of Canada in key defamation case of Hansman v…
May 23, 2023

CCLA Fighting for Transparency and Openness before the Supreme Court

The CCLA is intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ontario v. Information and…
April 12, 2023

CCLA speaks out on guiding principles for Canada’s upcoming online safety proposal

CCLA has joined with 12 other civil society organizations to release a joint statement addressed…
March 21, 2023

Read our op-ed inspired by Freedom to Read Week by Cara Zwibel, Director, Fundamental Freedoms Program

Last Spring Sotheby’s auction house sold off a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale…
February 24, 2023

CCLA Intervening in Tik Tok Injunction Appeal to Protect Space for Digital Activism

TikTok teens and duet fiends, take note. The CCLA is intervening in an Ontario court…
January 11, 2023

CCLA Intervening in Challenge to Sex Work Laws

The CCLA recently filed its written argument in Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform…
August 16, 2022

CCLA Intervening at Ontario Court of Appeal on Importance of Political Expression and the Right to Vote

The CCLA continues to work to ensure that governments do not overreach in exercising their…
June 14, 2022

CCLA Moving Forward with Appeal of Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

The CCLA continues to work to ensure that governments do not overreach in exercising their…
April 8, 2022

CCLA disappointed to see Ontario election ad restrictions upheld

On December 3, 2021, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the constitutionality of recent…
December 8, 2021

CCLA makes its case against Ontario’s third party advertising restrictions

On November 22, 2021, the Ontario Superior Court will hear arguments in the Working Families…
November 18, 2021

Offensive Comedy ≠ Discrimination

The Supreme Court of Canada has released its decision in Ward v. Commission des droits…
October 29, 2021

SCC on Freedom of Expression – Accentuating the Negative

The Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision in an important freedom of expression case…
October 5, 2021

CCLA’s Submission on Canada’s Proposed Approach to Addressing Harmful Content Online

Prior to the election, the government of Canada initiated a consultation on a proposed approach…
September 28, 2021

Five Things to Know About Canada’s Online Harms “Consultation”

The federal government is proposing a new regime that would regulate social media companies and,…
August 3, 2021

CCLA Seeks to Appeal Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

While the injunction is no longer in force in the province, we remain concerned about…
July 19, 2021

Nova Scotia Attempting to Avoid Public Scrutiny

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned the Government of Nova Scotia is attempting…
June 24, 2021

CCLA to Challenge Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
May 28, 2021

CCLA Taking Steps to Fight Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is taking steps to fight an injunction obtained by…
May 18, 2021

Internet Regulation and Freedom of Expression – CCLA Monitoring Bill C-10

Canadians frequently upload audio and video content online as a means of communication with one…
May 4, 2021

Submissions Before Ontario Standing Committee on The Legislative Assembly re: Bill 254

When the Attorney General introduced these changes in the Assembly he framed them as putting…
March 30, 2021

CCLA Before Supreme Court on Free Expression and Democracy

On Tuesday, March 16, lawyers for the CCLA will be appearing before the Supreme Court…
March 15, 2021

CCLA to NB Speaker: Don’t Interfere with Protests on Legislative Grounds

Following concerning reports about the treatment of protesters during a demonstration at Parliament Square in…
March 2, 2021

Regulating Social Media: Into the Unknown

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
February 10, 2021

The Open Court Principle and the Importance of Public Access to IRB Hearings

We write on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) to express concern regarding…
October 27, 2020

Playing With(out) Privacy

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
October 15, 2020

Social Media Smarts

How much should we rely on social media when it comes to information that is…
August 10, 2020

Alberta’s Bill 1: Suppression of Freedom of Expression

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
July 8, 2020

On Mandatory Masks

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
June 26, 2020

Privacy, Access to Information, and You: The COVID-19 Edition

As we flounder about looking for ways out of the COVID-19 climate of fear, and…
May 26, 2020

Government Censorship and Pandemic “Mis”Information

Canada can flatten the curve without flattening free speech. Government censorship is hardly a public…
April 28, 2020

CCLA to Northwest Territories Chief Public Health Officer

We are concerned in particular with the prohibitions on public and private outdoor gatherings contained…
April 20, 2020

A G20 Victory Ten Years In The Making

The Ontario Court of Appeal has handed down an important decision in a case that…
April 17, 2020

Physical Distancing Shouldn’t Preclude Public Dissent

Remember protest and dissent? It is hard to believe that just six weeks ago the…
April 3, 2020

CCLA to Federal Attorney General and Federal Governor General

I am writing about the failure of Canada to disclose its Governor in Council orders…
March 26, 2020

Misinformation: Is it Time For Social Media Distancing?

The pursuit of the truth today is not an academic or recreational exercise – we…
March 20, 2020

Can a Politician Block You on Twitter?

Can an elected representative block a critical constituent on Twitter? What about suing another representative…
June 7, 2019

Breaking Down the “Digital Charter” – Part 1

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
May 24, 2019

CCLA at the Supreme Court: Journalistic Source Protection

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
May 16, 2019

CCLA Voices Concern Over Several Measures In Budget Bill

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
May 13, 2019

In the Fight for Free Speech, Where Does Facebook Fit?

As an organization with a strong commitment to freedom of expression, CCLA has traditionally focused…
May 10, 2019

CCLA Letter to Ontario Government Regarding Carbon Tax Stickers

We have put Ontario government on notice that we will challenge their unconstitutional, compelled speech…
April 30, 2019

Carbon Tax “Notice” Requirement is Provincial Government Propaganda, Plain and Simple

Forcing an opinion on someone, or putting words in their mouth, is a violation of…
April 15, 2019

Letter to Quebec Minister of Justice Regarding Child Pornography Prosecution Against Author/Editor

Letter to Quebec Minister of Justice Regarding Child Pornography Prosecution Against Author/Editor
April 12, 2019

Young Voices, Youth Activism, and Social Change

In these days of heavy-handed rhetoric from our leaders and political infighting, it is easy…
April 11, 2019
Activists Protesting Peacefully in the street

Student Walkouts: You’ve Got The Power, We’ve Got Your Back.

We are writing about the student walkout planned for Thursday, April 4, 2019, at public…
April 3, 2019

CCLA at The Supreme Court: When Can The Police Arrest You to ‘Protect’ You?

How far can police officers go when initiating a “protective” arrest? Can innocent protestors be…
March 21, 2019

This Public Consultation on Sex Ed is Keeping a Lot Secret

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
February 14, 2019

Money (That’s What They Want)

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that the collection of our private, personal…
February 13, 2019

Dialing 911 On Hate Speech Against Women

Equality rights need teeth. Criminalizing expression violates freedom of speech. Both ideals are true and…
January 29, 2019

Governing by Mercenary

As with the U.S. over-reliance upon private contractors to wage wars, in Canada, we too…
January 29, 2019

Vice Media Appeal Could Spell Bleak Friday For Press Freedom

A week after Black Friday may render Bleak Friday for press freedom if the Supreme…
December 3, 2018

What The Vice Media Decision Might Mean For Press Freedome

The Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc. is not the victory for press…
December 3, 2018

March For Our Education

On Saturday July 21st, hundreds of people gathered at the March For Our Education event at Queen’s…
July 23, 2018

Thousands Protest Against G7 Summit by National Assembly in Quebec City

Last weekend, protesters assembled in Quebec City to express their opinions on the G7 Summit…
June 13, 2018

Victory For Free Speech In Supreme Court Decision: Groia

The Supreme Court today has released its decision in Groia v. Law Society of Upper Canada, a case that…
June 1, 2018

CCLA Follows Up On YorkU Strike

The following letter was sent to Ms. Lucy Fromowitz on May 30, 2018.
June 1, 2018

Supreme Court Case Upholds Order Against Google

TORONTO, Ont. ̶ Today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision against Google permits Canadian courts to…
June 28, 2017

A Win for Online Privacy Rights at The Supreme Court: Douez V Facebook

CCLA’s voice was heard and recognized in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision released…
June 23, 2017

Vice Media Ruling Raises Serious Questions About Press Freedoms

TORONTO ̶ In a ruling today that raises serious questions about reporters’ ability to protect…
March 22, 2017

Canada Post Order Undermines Free Speech

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
June 10, 2016

CCLA & CJFE Mounting Charter Challenge Against Bill C-51

TORONTO (July 21, 2015) — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Canadian Journalists for…
July 21, 2015

On to The Courts: Bill C-51 Passed by Senate

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is deeply disappointed that Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorist Act, 2015)…
June 9, 2015
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