The BCCLA has consistently, since its inception, championed the cause of expressive freedom and argued for its centrality to the democratic process. Freedom of expression has long been held to be a fundamental freedom necessary for a flourishing democracy. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), along with an illustrious line of case law has consistently found that freedom of expression is critical to the pursuit of truth, self-fulfillment, and the functioning of democracy. Section 2(b) of the Charter provides that:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
Within the sphere of constitutionally protected freedoms is a free press. The substantive protection of expression is content neutral, and includes speech, art, images, and violent content. Depictions of violence can also serve as forms of political and artistic expression. The justification for such broad protection is grounded in the recognition that humans are autonomous individuals who are capable of making decisions for themselves.
Empowering an agent of the state, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC” or the “Commission”) to make regulations limiting content based upon their perception of whether it is inappropriately violent in nature raises concerns of censorship, prior restraint on expression and gives rise to potential violations of expressive freedom. The proposed regime in Bill C-327 would censor protected speech in Canada. Worse still, it would do so without offering any effective remedy for Canadians. Bill C-327 creates an architecture that allows for the limitation of expressive freedom. In the past, when such an architecture has been set up, unjustifiable censorship has followed. The BCCLA opposes the passing of Bill C-327 due to its inevitable violation of legally protected expression.