Threats of violence are not protected free speech, Supreme Court of Canada rules

This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously affirmed the convictions of terrorism under Part II.1 of Criminal Code in R. v. Khawaja – 2012 SCC 69.

On the issue of whether the provisions under Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C‑46, s. 83.01(1)(b)(i)(A), in purpose or effect, violate the right to free expression, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 2(b);, the Chief Justice in Khawaja held:

[70] This Court’s jurisprudence supports the proposition that the exclusion of violence from the s. 2(b) guarantee of free expression extends to threats of violence: Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority v. Canadian Federation of Students – British Columbia Component, 2009 SCC 31, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 295, at para. 28; Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2002 SCC 1, [2002] 1 S.C.R. 3, at para. 107; RWDSU v. Dolphin Delivery Ltd., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 573, at p. 588. As this Court held in Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, “violent expression or threats of violence fall outside the scope of the s. 2(b) guarantee” (para. 28 (emphasis added)). It makes little sense to exclude acts of violence from the ambit of s. 2(b), but to confer protection on threats of violence. Neither are worthy of protection. Threats of violence, like violence, undermine the rule of law. As I wrote in dissent in R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697, threats of violence take away free choice and undermine freedom of action. They undermine the very values and social conditions that are necessary for the continued existence of freedom of expression (at pp. 830-831). I therefore reject that the violence exception to s. 2(b) is confined to actual physical violence, without however deciding the precise ambit of the exception. Threats of violence fall outside the s. 2(b) guarantee of free expression.

So, kids, don’t threaten anyone with violence.

See also, Sriskandarajah v. United States of America (Piratheepan Nadarajah v. United States of America), 2012 SCC 70, where the Court  unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Extradition Act, S.C. 1999, c. 18,  finding that it does not violate the right of citizens to remain in Canada under s. 6(1) of the Charter, even when the foreign state’s claim of jurisdiction is weak or when prosecution in Canada is feasible.

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