Canadian Freedom of Speech Limitation Found Constitutional

ThoughtCrime: 02/28/96
Published: 1996-02-28

"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death."
George Orwell

In an unprecedented and unexpected decision, Canada's Supreme Court upheld on February 28, 1996, the controversial Hate Law, thus posing a "reasonable" limitation on Free Speech. The case involved Jim Keegstra, a Canadian school teacher, charged in 1984 and prosecuted for the first time in June, 1986, for "… willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group."

According to the Toronto Star, February 29, 1996, "… Keegstra told students in Eckville, Alta., the Holocaust was a fraud and described Jews as treacherous, evil and responsible for depressions, anarchy and war."

James Keegstra faces up to two years in jail after the Supreme Court of Canada ended a 15 year legal battle on Wednesday.

James Keegstra

Keegstra's attorney, Doug Christie, appeared before the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Hate Law. Christie was asked to present his client's case first – an unusual procedure. Normally the State – in Canada called the Crown – presents its case first.

After Christie's presentation, the Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, did not ask the Crown to respond. The Criminal Code states that no one can be convicted of promoting hatred if the hateful statements are true. The Court dismissed Keegstra's argument that the burden of proof should fall on the target of the hateful speech.

They just told him that the appeal was dismissed and thus reaffirmed that the Hate Law is constitutional.


Adapted from: Ottawa Citizen, February 29, 1996, Toronto Star, February 29, 1996, and Zgram, March 1, 1996.


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Author(s): CODOH News
Title: Canadian Freedom of Speech Limitation Found Constitutional, ThoughtCrime: 02/28/96
Sources: "Ottawa Citizen", February 29, 1996, "Toronto Star", February 29, 1996
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Published: 1996-02-28
First posted on CODOH: Feb. 26, 1996, 6 p.m.
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