The Liberal Party urged to revisit the commitment to free expression.
OTTAWA: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is concerned about a resolution passed by the Liberal Party of Canada at their National Convention in Ottawa last week. The resolution calls upon the government to censor the internet by finding ways to hold online information services “accountable” for the truth of what they publish and by limiting the publication of online information to material whose “sources can be traced.”
The resolution contains vague language that would allow decision-makers to censor online content which contains improperly traced sources. None of these terms are defined. Moreover, it is not obvious that the government or their appointees possess any special critical faculty beyond normal human discernment. Thus, there is little reason to believe that they are more qualified than adult Canadians to decide upon the legitimacy of news sources. Disturbingly, the resolution also does not distinguish between fact and opinion, so the authorities could exercise their power to regulate both news and editorials.
Decades ago, Canadian courts ruled on a law much like this resolution: the Supreme Court of Canada, applying the free speech provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, struck down a “fake news” law from the Criminal Code in a case from the early 1990s called R. v. Zundel. But even before the Charter, the Supreme Court also struck down Alberta’s “Accurate News and Information Act.” This legislation, which is eerily reminiscent of the Liberal Party’s resolution, required newspapers to print “clarifications” on stories the government deemed to be “inaccurate.” In his reasons for striking down the law, Justice Cannon stated that the foundation of a democracy is a free inquiry and free discussion on all matters affecting the state. There is no reason to think that free discussion on political issues is any less important to democracy today than it was in the past.
TDF believes that if this resolution were to become law, the result would be an unconstitutional suppression of free speech. Accordingly, we urge the Liberal Party of Canada to rescind the resolution and revisit its commitment to free speech.
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About The Democracy Fund:
Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.