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lundi 23 juillet 2012

Charter Rights and Facebook

par Sarah D. Pinsonnault
De Grandpré Joli-Coeur, s.e.n.c.r.l.

The recent case of R. c. Hunt (2012 QCCQ 4688) could be of interest for those of you who use Facebook (which, dare I say, in this day and age is almost everyone?). In this decision, the petitioner stood trial on the accusation of having posted on Facebook a “threat to cause death or bodily harm to All Women”, thereby committing an offence punishable on summary conviction under section 264.1(1) a) (2) b) of the Criminal Code.

The petitioner’s “threat” allegedly resembled a suicide note and referred to Marc Lepine, the author of the mass shooting of 14 women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. It was discovered by a woman who was surfing the Net and, being preoccupied by its content, decided to call 9-1-1.

In light of the foregoing, the petitioner presented numerous motions which basically all stated that his Charter rights were violated.

Basically, the petitioner put forward the argument that whatever he wrote on Facebook, or elsewhere for that matter, is protected by the fundamental Charter right of freedom of expression, section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter.

The Court dismissed all of the petitioner’s Charter arguments. With respect to the freedom of expression argument, Justice Marleau deemed it “obvious” to fail:

“[21] While it is true that generally speaking, all types of expression of through, belief, opinion and expression are protected by section 2, the petitioner’s is oblivious that by virtue of section 1 of the Charter, this freedom is guaranteed “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

[22] One example of such limits is clearly section 264 of the Criminal Code which is the accusation on which the petitioner has to stand trial. Another example could be “hate propaganda” as outlined in section 318 and subsequent of the Code.

[23] In other words, the legislator has clearly defined acts and behaviour, including written or spoken words, which are prohibited in a free and democratic society, notwithstanding s.2 of the Charter

[…]

[26] Obviously, this first Charter Issue fails.”

Commentary

Granted, the petitioner’s character and arguments were peculiar in this case. Nevertheless, I believe this decision is among the first of many to come that will force judges to call into question how the Charter plays a role in various social media platforms. Indeed, with individuals openly posting personal details of themselves or of others in such a public forum, this will definitely call into play a balancing act between various Charter rights.

The complete text of the decision is available here.

1 commentaire:

  1. Thank you / merci for posting this. I'm wondering if we have any Charter cases that refer to employer's attempts to limit or effect what employees publish as personal opinion on their Facebook pages?

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