Freedom of speech, our right to say what we please without the fear of being censored or persecuted, one of the most essential conditions of any free society. Protected by laws, constitutions, and in Canada by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the freedom of speech is considered an integral concept of modern liberal democracies. As the years have progressed our freedom of speech has seen limitations put on it by bodies of power, using these restrictions for personal gain rather than for the betterment of our nation(s).
True freedom of speech does not exist in today’s world, simply because the parties that control our nation(s) have put restrictions upon it in the name of “national security”, “national interest” and “civilian safety”. Freedom of speech mustn’t be restricted in any way unless their speech exposes themselves or others to harm. The government often limits freedom of speech to silence domestic protest groups such as environmental and social activists for financial gain. Silencing domestic protest groups not only is a violation of our freedom of speech, but it goes against everything a modern liberal democracy should stand for. These violations have mostly gone unnoticed by the greater population as they have not been directly affected by these actions. Until recently, when the government decided that it would veto previous a treaty agreement with a First Nations group and build the Trans Mountain pipeline that would cross through the land previously promised to the First Nations people. This is when the greater population took notice as protesters were being beaten for standing up for what is rightfully theirs. Soon enough the situation was being broadcasted worldwide as more and more people witnessed the government attempt to silence the voice of innocent people. As the situation continued more people from around the nation began to protest in solidarity with the people of the First Nations group and to stand against the government for its wrongdoings. This was the moment when the true colours of the governments were shown as people began to see what the government was willing to do in order to make a financial gain. However, sometimes freedom must be limited in order to allow for the existence of a functioning, chaos-free society.
Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms permits government interference and restriction upon the freedom of speech of citizens through the policies of the Reasonable Limitations Act. Such policies allow for the government to enact definite, legal constraint upon the freedom. For example, it is prohibited to claim “fire” in a crowded theatre, or any public place for that matter; this limitation is set to ensure the safety of civilians, as such an exclamation may create a panic ensuing in the injury and/or death of citizens. Another example of an acceptable governmental limitation is speech containing racial slurs or discriminatory language may be considered hate speech and is punishable by law. Such conditions upon the freedom are legally reasonable and justified, as the government has used Section 1 of the Charter to implement reasonable limitations for a more secure and stable society, Freedom of speech means an individual has the right to express their opinion without censorship or the risk of persecution. In recent years, the government has applied what may be considered an unjust restriction upon the freedoms of speech and assembly of the First Nations people protesting the Trans Mountain Pipeline, as the government enacted the illiberal Emergencies Act; the Emergencies Act was the policy created in replacement of the War Measures Act, allowing Parliament to authorize the use of special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies, such measures include but are not limited to the use of military force. Such — are infringements upon the rights and freedoms promised to Canadian citizens, and — unacceptable limitation of their rights guaranteed through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 1,19, and 20, which state all human beings as equals, the rights of speech, expression, and freedom of opinion, and the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, respectively. However, sometimes, restrictions applied upon freedom are necessary and just, as limitations enacted under the Reasonable Limitations Act of Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are placed in the interests of civilian safety, national interest, and national security. As in any aspect of life, balance is key; certain limitations upon the freedom of speech are necessary and just, such as those governing hate speech and speech endangering the lives of citizens, they ground civilians to a humane extent and allow for the — of a functioning, democratic state in which all are free to speak and to be protected of vile speech, through a system of accountability.