Thursday, January 17th, 2019

A Canadian’s Perspective: Freedom of speech laws in Canada

Posted on April 22, 2018 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Maverick Lynes, Staff Writer

As a Canadian, I have experienced some people’s surprised faces when I tell them “hate speech” is a legitimate law in Canada. Canada still provides freedom of speech, just to a different extent than America does.

Many Canadian officials have been quoted saying that freedom of speech is an American concept. This point is reinforced by section one of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom which states free expression is limited by, “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The modern era is seeing a dramatic shift regarding freedom of speech, meaning that free speech is no longer entirely absolute. It has become more debated regarding what is classified as hate speech and what is still protected by free speech.

In Canada, hate speech is criminalized by section 319 The Criminal Code of Canada; it is meant to counter racism and bigotry. The law was put in place to prevent the incitation of violence and the promotion of hatred. Cases regarding section 319 are relatively rare and even require the consent of the attorney general to press charges, which is something very few other sections require.

However, there is still plenty debate within the country whether the law has made Canada a more harmonious nation or if this law has farfetched hopes. Nonetheless, this law promotes compromise and even a more communal country.

In America the most vile and hateful speech is protected under the constitution. American’s have absolute freedom, from fighting for their right to new legislation to voicing your displeasure regarding a particular group, both are protected.

This particular debate on which is better, absolute freedom or controlled freedom, will continue to be prevalent for a long time.

I would not put myself firmly on either side of the debate; I believe that both realities are essential. The discussion for absolute freedom is apparent, you live in a free country and you do have the right to your own opinion and views. The debate over hate speech is that every citizen, despite race, sexuality or spiritual beliefs deserves to feel safe in their country. I do believe that hatred can cause people to feel as though they are in significant danger and these laws help impede that.

When it comes to hate speech and the controlled freedom it insinuates, where is the line drawn? That is the grey area that is hard to differentiate. I believe that is why requiring the attorney general’s permission to lay charges is a crucial feature of the law.

I will admit that I am biased to my home country and I support the law of hate speech. While you live in a free country, it is free for all the citizens surrounding you as well. Freedom to express is an essential component of both countries that we take for granted. If you feel as though implementing hate speech into your own countries laws would impose on your rights, I believe you need a different outlook on the real values of free speech. Why would taking away the power to promote hatred and encourage violence make your country less than others?

Primarily, I believe you have the right to a peaceful protest of an issue you are passionate about; do you need to be passionate about hatred? With all the hate that seems to be in the world today, enforcing something that would help eliminate just a bit of that hate does not come off as such a bad idea

With that being said, when it comes to hate speech and the controlled freedom it insinuates, where is the line drawn? That is the grey area that is hard to differentiate from, but I believe that is why it is so crucial to require the attorney general’s permission.

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