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Fundamental Freedoms

Freedom of Speech
Douglas Ray, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
The University of Western Ontario

Democracy means freedom for citizens to make their own choices, but not at the expense of others. Freedom of speech is considered one of the most important human rights. It signifies possibility for anybody to say what they wish, to express one's own opinion. Opinions differ as to whether this freedom should be limited,
whether everybody enjoy equal freedom of speech. People may not (when speaking or writing) defame the reputations of others. There may be explicit or secret guidelines so that professionals are careful and consistent in what they communicate. In Canada. several rights are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be justified in a free and democratic society (1982 Constitution, section 1).

Freedom of speech, properly enacted and conducted with care for the rights of all concerned, promotes freedoms to be related in its purpose and format -- like communication in all its forms, but if it is hostile, the written word still makes it dominant: if is hard to suppress the hatred sourced at the spoken or written word, e-mail or the world wide web. The written word usually has a longer lifespan and wider impact than its oral counterpart. Most people agree that freedom of speech should not be limited except if one expresses hatred, aggression or lie. In such cases the court will decide the following situations are examples of the subtle character of the freedom of expression.

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Last Updated: 29-Mar-2004