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R v Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697 (Link)

Facts:

K was a teacher over 10 year period in Alberta. He told his students that the Holocaust was a tool to bring about sympathy for the Jews. He was accused of being anti-Semitic and charged under hate propaganda legislation (section 319(2) of the Criminal Code). He brought a Charter challenge under section 2(b).

Ratio:

The term expression embraces all content of expression irrespective of the particular meaning or message sought to be conveyed and no matter how invidious and obnoxious the message.

Analysis:

Hate Speech causes harm to: (1) Target group; (2) Society at large.

Hate is a marginal form of expression; it does not facilitate debate -- rather, it silences it.

Holding:

Legislation upheld under section 1 of the Charter.

Comments:

Per McLachlin J (dissent): Political process rationale: FOE is instrumental in promoting the free flow of ideas essential to political democracy and the functioning of democratic institutions;
** Essential precondition for the search for truth
** Marketplace of ideas (competing ideas vie for supremacy): No guarantee that the truth will prevail, but without FOE it would be impossible; In addition to truth, it creates a more relevant, vibrant and progressive society;
** Important to self-realization of both the speaker and the listener;
** The stifling of free speech has been used throughout history as a tool of oppression.


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