The recent terrorist attacks in France has had editorial staff at media outlets across Canada having to make the decision on whether or not to print the subsequent cartoons that depicted solidarity for freedom of expression.
Some did, some did not for various reasons. Some decided the cartoon was in poor taste and did not reflect the principles of the publications or had journalists in the field and needed to ensure their safety. Those that chose to print the cartoons did so because of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, both legislated in Canada and some of our fundamental rights.
Section 2 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows Canadians to have a voice without fear of prosecution and is something many people take for granted. We can freely express our opinions, peacefully assemble, and have freedom of assembly.
We can put pen to paper and write an opinion piece…or sketch a political cartoon without worry that we will be carted off to the slammer; something not permitted in many other countries and is a freedom Canadians should not take lightly.
Freedom of Religion also falls under Section 2 of the Charter, permitting all people to follow their religion of choice.
Because there may be times that individuals may try pushing these freedoms to the limit and beyond, the Charter includes limitations to these freedoms in order to discourage people from causing harm to other Canadians and groups. These limitations were put in place for very valid reasons.
Hate propaganda laws, child pornography laws, and defamation laws are there to protect all Canadians and hopefully, put a halt to the promotion of any form of hatred.
In a unanimous decision in 2013, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that flyers promoting hatred to gays and lesbians by a Weyburn, Sk resident. The ruling drew opposition from civil rights organizations that said the ruling impeded on Canadians’ rights. Human rights groups, however, applauded the decision.
Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein, wrote in the decision, “Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable groups that can range from discrimination to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence, and in the most extreme cases, genocide.”
The horrific attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris is a reminder to all that the rights and freedoms we enjoy in Canada are to be taken seriously. The Charter gives us the freedom of expression.
In specific cases, though, just because we can, does it mean we should?