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Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression includes the right to express controversial and disturbing opinions and to criticize ideas and values without fear of reprisal. It is one of the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. 

While fundamental, freedom of expression is not absolute and does not take precedence over other rights guaranteed by the Charter: it cannot be used to justify racist, sexist or homophobic comments, for example.  Indeed, freedom of expression, even artistic or humorous, may be limited. This is the case if it harms a person's right to image and privacy or their right to dignity, for example.

English translations are provided when available.

2023 | La Commission émet une déclaration pour exprimer ses préoccupations concernant l’intention du gouvernement d’évaluer au cas par cas la tenue de certains évènements sur des lieux lui appartenant. Elle met aussi en ligne une foire aux questions (FAQ) sur la liberté d'expression dans son site web.

2021 | The Commission is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold the previous judgments of the Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) and the Court of Appeal and to dismiss Mike Ward's application in the case against Jérémy Gabriel. As a reminder, the comedian was ordered to pay moral and punitive damages for comments that had the effect of denigrating, humiliating and ridiculing Jérémy Gabriel on the basis of his disability or the means of compensating for his disability. By a five to four vote, the Supreme Court's decision overturned the judgments of the Human Rights Tribunal and the Court of Appeal concerning the discriminatory nature of certain remarks made by Mike Ward about Jérémy Gabriel.

Documents related to the Supreme Court's decision 

Documents related to the Commission's request to the Supreme Court

2015  |  In its brief on Bill 59, which addresses the prevention of hate speech or incitement to violence, the Commission makes 11 recommendations to the Government, urging it to expressly include freedom of expression in the bill.

2015  |   The Commission condemns the January 7, 2015 attack against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

2014  |  The Commission is an observer at the Forum sur la lutte contre l'intimidation (October 2, 2014) and submits a brief to Secrétariat du Forum sur la lutte contre l’intimidation on the issue, proposing a new provision against hate mongering in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

2012  |  The Commission finds that several provisions of the special law aimed at ending the student strikes in the spring of 2012 infringe on fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, including the freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

2008  | The Commission submits a brief to the National Assembly’s Committee on Institutions on Strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and its impact on rights protected in the Charter.

Did you know ?

The United Nations recognized freedom of expression in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Section 19).