TORONTO: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is in court September 14 and 15 arguing that s. 91(1) of the Canada Elections Act should be struck down as an unjustified infringement on free expression.
The law, which was amended in 2019, makes it an offence to attempt to influence an election by making or publishing certain types of false statements about political candidates and other public figures during the election period. The legislation does not provide an exception for statements the individual or publisher believed to be true.
“The vague language in this legislation creates a chilling effect in our democratic process. Freedom of expression is a pillar of a free and democratic society, and political speech – even false political speech – is entitled to protection,” said CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn. “Our Charter right to free expression is content neutral. It protects statements that are popular as much as it protects statements that are unpopular, and it protects statements that are true as well as statements that are false.”
The Act does not define ‘false statement’, but it is concerned with statements about criminal records and biographical information. It also carries significant penalties, including a fine up to $50,000 and up to five years in prison.
“The government should not be put in a position to act as the arbiter of truth. That’s why we are challenging this law, and why we believe it needs to be struck down as an unjustified infringement on free expression,” concluded Van Geyn.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is a registered charity, independent and non-partisan. We defend the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians in the courts of law and public opinion.