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Freedom of Expression: Fleming v. Ontario

By | on Feb 15 2019

From Cases, Past Cases

The CCF is intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada in the important case of Fleming v. Ontario in order to provide unequivocal support for the right to freedom of expression, and in particular, the right of all Canadians to express controversial views regarding social issues in a peaceful manner in the public square.

Randy Fleming was violently arrested by the OPP in 2009 on his way to a counter-protest against the Aboriginal occupation of the Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, Ontario. He was carrying a Canadian flag while walking on the shoulder of a public highway when unmarked police vehicles drove directly at him. He left the shoulder of the road to avoid being hit and incidentally entered the Estates. Once he did so, a number of Aboriginal occupiers began to approach him, some quickly. The police responded by arresting Fleming, not the occupiers, to avoid the possibility of a violent confrontation.

Freedom of expression exists in order to protect the expression of unpopular opinions. And while protected expression may be controversial and at times spark hostility in others, if the police do have the power to arrest speakers merely to prevent a possible future breach of the peace by offended listeners, the police are effectively granting a “heckler’s veto.” Further, the mere fact that controversial, yet legal, expression may provoke a response in listeners that causes the police to become apprehensive about public order cannot in itself justify the curtailment of the a speaker’s right to freedom of expression.

At its core, the CCF believes providing a rigorous defence of freedom of expression is exceedingly important so that hecklers and offended listeners cannot use the threat of their own violence to silence their opposition and thereby undermine the right of Canadians to express unpopular or controversial opinions.

CCF Launch: February, 2019
Legal Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of Canada
Next Key Date: Supreme Court of Canada protects the right to publicly express controversial opinions (Oct 6, 2019)

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