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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CCLA Intervening in Challenge to Sex Work Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 21, 2022
Should our elected representatives on a committee to oversee our national security agencies have the…

CCLA disappointed to see Ontario election ad restrictions upheld

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

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

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

Offensive Comedy ≠ Discrimination

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

SCC on Freedom of Expression – Accentuating the Negative

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

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

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

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

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

CCLA Seeks to Appeal Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

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While the injunction is no longer in force in the province, we remain concerned about…

Nova Scotia Attempting to Avoid Public Scrutiny

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

CCLA to Challenge Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

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

CCLA Taking Steps to Fight Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

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

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

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

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

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

CCLA Before Supreme Court on Free Expression and Democracy

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

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

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

Regulating Social Media: Into the Unknown

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

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

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

Playing With(out) Privacy

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

Social Media Smarts

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

Alberta’s Bill 1: Suppression of Freedom of Expression

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

On Mandatory Masks

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

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

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

Government Censorship and Pandemic “Mis”Information

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

CCLA to Northwest Territories Chief Public Health Officer

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

A G20 Victory Ten Years In The Making

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

Physical Distancing Shouldn’t Preclude Public Dissent

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

CCLA to Federal Attorney General and Federal Governor General

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

Misinformation: Is it Time For Social Media Distancing?

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

Can a Politician Block You on Twitter?

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

Breaking Down the “Digital Charter” – Part 1

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

CCLA at the Supreme Court: Journalistic Source Protection

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

CCLA Voices Concern Over Several Measures In Budget Bill

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

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

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

CCLA Letter to Ontario Government Regarding Carbon Tax Stickers

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

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

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

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

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

Young Voices, Youth Activism, and Social Change

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

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

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

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

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

This Public Consultation on Sex Ed is Keeping a Lot Secret

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

Money (That’s What They Want)

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

Dialing 911 On Hate Speech Against Women

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

Governing by Mercenary

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

Vice Media Appeal Could Spell Bleak Friday For Press Freedom

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

What The Vice Media Decision Might Mean For Press Freedome

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

March For Our Education

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

Thousands Protest Against G7 Summit by National Assembly in Quebec City

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

Victory For Free Speech In Supreme Court Decision: Groia

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

CCLA Follows Up On YorkU Strike

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

Supreme Court Case Upholds Order Against Google

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

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

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

Vice Media Ruling Raises Serious Questions About Press Freedoms

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

Canada Post Order Undermines Free Speech

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

CCLA & CJFE Mounting Charter Challenge Against Bill C-51

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

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

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