By Ian Peters


Out of all the countries listed on Reporters Without Borders, Canada ranks a solid 20 out of 179 in this year’s study. However in the 2011-2012 study, Canada ranked at an impressive 10. Researchers believe that the decrease was caused due to an obstruction of journalist during the titled “Maple Spring” student movement and it was also affected by the continuous threats to journalists’ confidential sources and internet users’ personal data especially the C-30 bill on cyber-crime   Similar to the SOPA act in Congress, the C-30 bill would allow the Canadian government to track real time activity on behalf on the Canadian internet service providers. The bill was later struck down after the bill’s creator Vic Toews made a statement saying, “You either stand with us (the government) or the child pornographers.” Since the C-30 bill, Canada is free from cyber legislation.

Historical Background

Canada is to the north of the United States and borders the Arctic Ocean to the north. Canada is slightly larger than the United States, but it only holds about 34,500,000 people which is roughly the population density of California. Canada’s population by age is made up of 28.6% of people ranging from 0-24 years old, 41.8 % between 25-54 years old, and 29.6% 55 years or older. Canada has one of the highest longevity ratings, one of the lowest infant mortality rates, and it is one of the healthiest countries in the world. Canada is also the largest importer and exporter with the United States distributing a lot of crude oil, car parts and cars themselves, coal, lumber, gold, and even maple syrup. Canada also has one of the world’s best healthcare systems and best community resources for its citizens.

The first people to discover Canada were the Inuits who crossed the Bering Straits from Asia. After a while, the Vikings also discovered Canada from Scandinavia. In the mid-1600s by the time the French had discovered Nova Scotia and Quebec, they remained in Canada and called their new country New France. The British also had interest in Canada as well and succeeded in conquering the French during the Seven Years War. Up until the end of the War of 1812, the Canadians were still controlled by the King of England, but Canadians in all parts of Canada desired a more democratic form of government. Canada succeeded in doing so in the 1860s when Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were joined together as the Dominion of Canada. The later provinces joined in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since then, the nation went through a large gold rush in the Yukon region in 1896 and the population increased drastically in the 1950s and 1960s with the population going from 16 to 18 million. Most immigrants migrated from South Asia.

Canada has a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system of government. The monarchy of Canada controls the judicial, executive and legislative branches all under Elizabeth II. Instead of a president, the prime minister is elected by being the leader of a party with the most representatives in the House of Commons and is asked to personally be Prime Minister.  Being a Prime Minster means you have to be a head of government as well as the leader of the National Party.

Free Speech

Canada was granted its freedom of speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under Section 2, which states that every Canadian citizen is granted freedom of religion, freedom of press and other media communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. Even though Section 2 states these rights, Section 1 states that the government may or may not be allowed to pass laws that infringe on free expression as long as the reasons can be explained and justified. One of the hottest areas of free speech in Canada is hate speech. Under the provinces, human rights legislation says only five areas remain forbidden with publications being the strongest. The legislation states that no one is allowed to publish, print, broadcast, or display through any sort of media or any sort of representation noting the intent to discriminate against a person or any class of people. Since the creation of the legislation, every province has a different form of free speech standards and free speech legislation. The Criminal Code of Canada also prohibits hate propaganda on all terms.

A recent example of speech in Canada was the Supreme Court v. Whatcott. Whatcott is a prominent and outspoken figure on anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion topics. He is in the best words a Canadian version of the Westboro Baptist Church. In 2011, Whatcott went before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend his free speech rights after being ruled by the courts in Saskatchewan as “unethical”. As of February 2013, Whatcott’s case defaulted with the Supreme Court ruling that Whatcott’s speech exposed certain groups to hatred. The government fined Whatcott $17,500 and was told that he needed to stop spreading anti-homosexual hate speech or that the actions would result in jail time. While in the United States, the Westboro Baptist Church may be acceptable because they are not harming anyone, in Canada, words are taken very differently and interpreted much more strictly.

Many Canadians today see their hate speech laws as too strict or too imposing. A lot of Canadians would prefer a more open or flexible way of expressing their means through free speech without having to worry about being unethical or offensive to any certain class of people. Whether it is neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or anti-homosexuality advocates, these messages in Canada are illegal and will be until the law is changed to allow for speech up to extreme circumstances.

Free Press

Free press issues in Canada follow a similar or identical pattern to free speech issues. People in Canada have a lot of ways in expressing themselves through the press whether it might be a zine, local school papers, the internet, radio, television, or a major newspaper. Freedoms of the press in Canada seem to be upsetting the public more than ever. Canadians feel that opinions and strong feelings should have no boundaries when it comes to published work in books or magazines. In 2006, Mark Steyn faced charges and a banning of his book in Canada after anti-Islamic statements made in the book. Some other published works have faced bans under the factors or obscenities and vulgarity.

Television in Canada is very relaxed. Some TV stations have been known to show and depict explicit images on TV during primetime hours and some channels even show soft-core pornography after 9:00 p.m. sometimes as Canada’s Association of Broadcaster’s Code of Ethic states that any sexually explicit content after that time is allowed and permitted. User advisories are required, but in some countries, sexually explicit material and vulgar language on television is a major issue at such an early hour of the night.

Another interesting tidbit about Canada is that employers and owners of businesses can fire or dismiss workers on the behalf that the worker writes a letter to a newspaper. The same applies to most roles in public administration. The government of Canada wants the work environment to be free of bias, close-mindedness and prejudice. However, when taking away the ability to write a simple letter to a newspaper, it starts to expound on what freewill might be. The government is so worried about keeping the workplace sterile and bias-free that they are actually creating a tense environment for the worker. It infringes on the simple principle that free press is and should be accessible by all and that opinions of individuals are nothing more than their values or beliefs. The law violates that and makes it uncomfortable for the worker to state his or her opinions openly. If the internet in Canada is not regulated, then the press should be a little less strict.

Country Comparison

The United States and Canada are close allies. Canada is much stricter on hate speech issues, but overall has the same policies as the United States does. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms seem almost like the same thing. The United States has more restrictions on press it seems and I never recall turning on NBC and seeing soft-core porn after 9:00 p.m. The two countries have interchangeable issues and ever changing landscapes. The Canadian population is becoming younger by the day which may result in different censorship and free speech legislation to change the strict laws that are in place now which many agree are too intense.

I don’t know if “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” would go well with Canadian Supreme Court, but when I look at Snyder v. Phelps, it really shows how much the Canadian government is sheltering and censoring its own people. It’s hard to really pile together all the events the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed with their derogatory signs that spew anti-homosexual phrases and non-traditional statements. If the Snyder v. Phelps case would have taken place in Canada, I’m sure Snyder would have won by a long shot but that’s because they don’t allow extreme or hate speech that categorizes a certain grouping of people. In some cases, people think it’s good to regulate hate speech and that most of it is unappealing or just plain wrong. However, as stated before, it infringes on the freewill to state one’s opinion and beliefs.

Whether it is restricting workers to write letters to newspapers or banning books because of anti-Islamic ideals, there are some things about Canada that are definitely not commonplace in the United States. Big economic powers like the United States and Canada will always pass new laws and legislation that will make their rankings go up and down like a roller coaster  The United States and Canada may not meet on the border when it comes to First Amendment rights or Section 2 rights (if you’re Canadian), but we meet in the middle on almost everything else. Hopefully in the future we will see progression towards a more open and opinionated Canada not held down by government restricting their speech and written press.


“Press Freedom Index 2013 – Reporters Without Borders.” Reporters Without Borders. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

Lambert, Tim. “A Brief History of Canada.” A World History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

A consolidation of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982. Ottawa: Dept. of Justice Canada, 1999. Print.

“Canadian Heritage – Section 2 – Fundamental Freedoms.” Ministère du patrimoine canadien | Department of Canadian Heritage. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

Darling, Graham, and University of Alberta LL.B. student. “Centre for Constitutional Studies – Freedom of Expression Background.” Faculty of Law Home – Faculty of Law – University of Alberta. University of Alberta, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

“Criminal Code.” Justice Laws Website – Site Web de la legislation (Justice). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

Brean, Joseph. “Canada’s hate speech laws upheld by Supreme Court | Canada | News | National Post.” National Post | Canadian News, Financial News and Opinion. N.p., 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

CBC. “Free speech, eh? Why is Canada prosecuting Mark Steyn? – World – CBC News.” – Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. N.p., 13 June 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

“CAB-Code of Ethics.” Canadian Association of Broadcasters. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.


This post was last updated on April 30, 2013


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