Civil liberties group challenges ‘draconian’ Liberal election speech law

A Canadian civil liberties group has launched an urgent application against the Trudeau government in the name of free speech, the Sun has learned.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), a non-partisan charity, states in documents prepared for the Ontario Superior Court that the government’s new election laws violates the Charter rights of Canadians who wish to voice their opinions in the current election campaign.

At question is a revised section of the Canada Elections Act, first put forward in 2017 by the Trudeau government, concerning the publication of “false statements.” The CCF argues that Section 91 of the Act, which can see violators face hefty fines and even jail time, has been made too broad and will chill free speech and democratic participation.

The previous version of the section of the law focused on banning those who knowingly make false statements about the personal conduct or character of a candidate for office. Now, the section has been expanded to include a wider array of statements made in good faith about a broader category of individuals.

“Those who make statements honestly and in good faith are exposed to the risk of imprisonment,” reads the CCF’s application. “It is a blunt and unrefined instrument that treats sarcastic quips and deliberate lies as one and the same – both are subject to a blanket ban.”

The new law now bans both false statements claiming “a candidate, a prospective candidate, the leader of a political party or a public figure associated with a political party” have committed an offence or been charged with committing an offence and also bans “a false statement about the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association of a candidate, a prospective candidate, the leader of a political party or a public figure associated with a political party.”

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