Civil society concerned over Court's decision on internet censorship


Legal experts and civil society organisations have warned that a recent ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court may harm free speech rights online, as it potentially “permits worldwide internet censorship”. In the case, Google v. Equustek, the Supreme Court ruled against Google and agreed that a Canadian judge had the power to force the search engine to de-list entire domains and websites from its search, not just in Canada, but from everywhere in the world. In the decision, the Court expressed its opinion, stating: 

"This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods".

However, freedom of expression advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concerned over the ruling, stating that:

"Beyond the flaws of the ruling itself, the court’s decision will likely embolden other countries to try to enforce their own speech-restricting laws on the Internet, to the detriment of all users. As others have pointed out, it’s not difficult to see repressive regimes such as China or Iran use the ruling to order Google to de-index sites they object to, creating a worldwide heckler’s veto".

In a separate incident, a journalist who was arrested earlier this year will have a court date in early August 2017. Dave Ritchie, a Burlington freelance videographer, was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer after being on a crash scene where a 10-year-old was hit and killed by a vehicle. Ritchie claims he was “standing with other members of the public when the officer approached him and told him reporters were scum bags,” according to CBC News.

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression are calling for a public inquiry into the incident and “urge the Hamilton Police Service to consider instituting a force-wide media relations policy and train frontline staff on how to interact constructively with members of the press, and hope such an administrative process will give clarity about the crucial role journalists have in a democratic society”. 

The House of Commons failed to pass Bill S-231, Journalistic Source Protection Act, that would have ensured that journalists and their sources are given the protections needed to do their job. In response to the bill not passing, Executive Director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Tom Henheffer, stated that: "We’re disappointed that Members of Parliament were unable to take this simple step to protect press freedom in Canada".

Peaceful Assembly

In July 2017, several people took part in a protest asking for the removal of a statue of Edward Cornwallis at Halifax’s Cornwallis Park. City officials covered the statute with a black tarp as a “sign of good faith”. Protesters and members of the Mi’kmaq community worked with the city to temporarily cover the monument until a formal decision about the statue could be made. Earlier in the month, the site was the scene of an indigenous protest to bring attention to Canada's treatment of Indigenous people and the environment. At that protest, members of the Proud Boys, a group of off-duty Canadian servicemen, disrupted the event and now face a military investigation. News reports also say a secretive group in Nova Scotia has posted online personal information about people protesting the statue and labeling them as "potentially dangerous".

Edward Cornwallis, founded Halifax for the British in 1749. The same year, he issued the so-called scalping proclamation, offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a native Mi'kmaq person. Many in the Mi'kmaq community have called for the statue’s removal.

Indigenous people marked the 150th Canada Day by hosting ceremonies, events and protests across the country. Protesters started a four day protest by erecting a teepee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, just hours after their initial attempt was thwarted by police, and 10 people were briefly detained before being released by authorities. Videos posted on social media showed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dragging away at least one person as others chanted "shame" and "let our people go!"