What is the Purpose of Freedom of Expression?
December 1, 2009
University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review, Vol. 67, No. 1, 2009
Since freedom of expression is a Charter right, its purpose (or purposes) must be understood in relation to the broader values of the Charter. This note considers whether the traditionally articulated purposes of freedom of expression actually cohere with the values of the Charter framework in which the right of freedom of expression arises. The Supreme Court of Canada conceives of freedom of expression as (1) an instrument for the realization of truth; (2) an instrument of democratic self-government; and (3) an aspect of self-realization or human dignity. The author finds that, of the purposes traditionally understood to underlie freedom of expression, only the dignity of persons relates the broader values of the Charter framework to the realm of expressive activity. The author formulates a dignity-based conception of freedom of expression, defends it from objections, presents its doctrinal implications, and applies it to a recent controversy between Maclean’s and the Canadian Islamic Congress.
Keywords: Freedom of expression, hate speech, dignity, truth, democracy
Date posted: April 7, 2010
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