Category: Freedom of Expression

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Crouch v Snell or: How Adults Ruined It for the Kids

The tragic suicide of Rahtaeh Parsons as a result of relentless cyber-bullying in 2013 elicited the sympathy and concern of not just Canadians but also the international community. Only three weeks after her death, the Nova Scotia legislature enacted the Cyber-safety Act, SNS 2013, c 2 [CSA]. The CSA aimed to address cyberbullying and was the first standalone act to do so in Canada. This past week, two years after its enactment, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court struck down the law on the grounds that it violated the Charter. It is a sad reality that many children experience bullying when...

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Individuality and Community: Expounding the Fundamental Freedoms’ Normative Antinomy

I It has been said that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a liberal document. On this view, the Charter presupposes an individualistic conception of the rights-bearer. It conceives of persons as having pre-politically discrete identities and as being free, autonomous, and independent of the community. Its function is to “police the boundary that separates the political and the collective from the pre-political and the individual” (Allan C Hutchinson & Andrew Petter, “Private Rights/Public Wrongs: The Liberal Lie of the Charter” (1988) 38:3 UTLJ 278 at 284). Although individualism permeates the Supreme Court of Canada’s section 2 jurisprudence, notions...

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SCC Continues to Navigate the Tension Between Labour Relations and Privacy: Bernard v Canada

Last November, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) decided that Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, SA 2003 c P-6.5, which, inter alia, had the effect of preventing unions from filming individuals crossing a picket line, was an unjustifiable violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression (for more, see the commentary by Avnish Nanda and Brock Jones). The SCC’s recent decision in Bernard v Canada, [2014] 1 SCR 227 [Bernard], dealt with the relationship between a union’s representational duties under the Public Service Labour Relations Act, SC 2003, c 22 [Public Service Labour Relations Act], and restrictions on disclosure of government-held personal...

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Appeal Watch: Religiosity in Government to be Deliberated by SCC in MLQ v City of Saguenay

Over the past couple of decades, there have been calls to remove God from Canada’s national anthem, ban the wearing of religious symbols by public servants in Quebec, and abolish the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer (Freitag v Penetanguishene (Town) (1999), 47 OR (3d) 301 [Freitag]) during town council meetings in Ontario. The Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation in Quebec recommended that municipal councils abandon the practice of reciting prayers in their town halls. However, municipal politicians in Ontario and Quebec continue to commence their meetings with a “non-denominational” prayer, modeled after the prayer which begins each sitting of the House of Commons....

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Rob Ford’s Trial by Media and the Innocents Caught in the Undertow

These days, the pen (or, perhaps, the keyboard) is truly mightier than the sword. Pens shape public perception, and that power endures beyond borders and beyond lifetimes in our digital age of information. But as the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. The international media frenzy surrounding the Rob Ford saga has intensified over the past week to levels never before seen by Torontonians, and the power of the pen in this sordid affair has become ever more prominent. By now, the video of Rob Ford’s reply to allegations of sexually harassing a female staffer – which he...

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BULLETIN: SCC Declares Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act Unconstitutional, Affirms Freedom of Expression in Labour Context

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada in Alberta v United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 2013 SCC 62 declares Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) to be unconstitutional, as it breaches a union’s freedom of expression, protected under s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedom, and cannot be justified under s. 1. Despite finding PIPA to be unconstitutional solely in the labour relations context, the court declares the entire statute invalid. However, a 12 month reprieve is granted, allowing the Alberta legislature time to enact legislation that is constitutionally compliant. The case centres around the extent of a...

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Citizens United Did Not Equate Money with Speech—But McCutcheon Will

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission (McCutcheon). At issue are provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 USC § 431 (the Act), that impose a biennial limit on individual campaign contributions. This lawsuit—brought by Shaun McCutcheon, a wealthy Alabama businessman and serial Republican donor, with Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republican National Committee (RNC) as amicus curiae—challenges this law’s constitutionality on First Amendment grounds.

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Privacy trumps the press: The Supreme Court grants anonymity to victims of cyberbulling in AB v Bragg Communications Inc

We have all seen how Facebook can shine a global light on local events with the help of news media. Posts that attract enough attention are reported, creating an even bigger splash online. This feedback can even amplify the impact of these events, turning a small protest into a revolution and a politician’s indiscretion into a downfall. In AB v Bragg Communications Inc, [2012] 2 SCR 567, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) unanimously decided to prevent this process from further harming victims of cyberbullying who turn to the courts. The SCC held that victims of cyberbullying are entitled to...

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Amici Curiae: Three Newsmakers from the US Supreme Court, the Canadian Courts Are A’Tweetin’ and Julian Assange’s Asylum News

Obama 0, US Supreme Court 2: Supreme Court Refuses to Revisit Citizens United Decision For political and legal enthusiasts in the United States, this was a real behemoth of a week. The Supreme Court of the United States started it off with a bang – or, really, three bangs. It released three decisions on Monday, each one reverberating in courtrooms and legislative chambers around the country: Arizona immigration law (Arizona v. United States, 567 US __ (2012)); juvenile sentencing Miller v. Alabama, 567 US __ (2012)); and third-party political fundraising (American Tradition Partnerships, Inc. v. Bullock, 567 US __ (2012))....

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A Valiant Attempt to Fight the Court’s Contempt: R v Gibbons

Linda Gibbons is no stranger to the law, and to the fact that it can be a harsh teacher, given that she has spent a fair amount of time in prison for her anti-abortion picketing activities.  Labeled by the media as “peaceful but relentless,” Gibbons has served a total of nearly nine years behind bars, giving her quite the reputation as a lawbreaker. Her latest run-in has resulted in a loss before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).  By a resounding majority, the Court ruled that by repeatedly violating a civil injunction order that was issued in 1994, she could,...