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Dialogue on Democracy, by Alan Borovoy

Rotating Compass & Square

Sheldon Chumir Foundation

Alan Borovoy to speak on the infringement of free speech in Canada

January 14, 2008

EDMONTON—Alan Borovoy, Canada's best-known civil libertarian, will be in Edmonton on January 23 to speak on the key issues concerning the infringement of free speech in Canada. His talk, Whatever happened to free speech?, is sponsored by the University of Alberta Centre for Constitutional Studies and the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.

Borovoy will discuss a range of infringements on free speech and suggest that we ought to do more to resist these encroachments. He argues that the libel, anti-hate and anti-porn laws all go too far in Canada. “If we ever lose our freedom in this country … the job will be done to us not by malevolent autocrats seeking to do bad, but by parochial bureaucrats seeking to do good,” he says.

One issue concerns the recent use of human rights legislation to restrict speech which is offensive to one or more groups, for example, gays or Muslims. Borovoy says he believes that human rights commissions were never meant to limit free speech, but rather to protect citizens from discrimination in employment, housing and services. However, the human rights complaints process is now being used to stifle offensive speech.

"Even truthful articles describing some of the awful situations in this world could run afoul of this law, it is so broad and such a potential threat to freedom of speech," he says.

Canada’s anti-terror legislation is another measure that is unnecessarily restrictive of free speech, according to Borovoy. He cites a power given to the RCMP to limit how close political demonstrations can get to intergovernmental conferences as an example. “In Canada we don’t ban demonstrations, we reroute them,” says Borovoy.

As General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association since 1968, Alan Borovoy has spoken out on freedom of speech, police and security issues, the division of church and state, and many other topics. In 2006, he won the International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982. He is a widely published journalist and has written four books, including his landmark When Freedoms Collide, about civil liberties in Canada.

A compelling speaker, Borovoy has made a career of sticking up for the underdog and is not afraid of controversy.

He will be available for interviews following his presentation.

When: Wednesday, January 23, 12:00 – 1:30pm

Where: Aurora Room, Lister Hall, University of Alberta

To schedule an interview, or for more information:

Dan Shapiro


[email protected]


Event Poster (pdf)

Defence of free speech must be absolute: advocate, Interview with Alan Borovoy, published in the Edmonton Journal, January 22, 2008

The Furore Over Those Danish Cartoons Simply Refuses to Die. Indeed, some of it has migrated to Canada By Alan Borovoy, published in the Calgary Herald, March 10, 2006

Human rights commissions still needed, By Janet Keeping, published in the Calgary Herald, January 23, 2008

Hate Speech and Canadian Law (pdf), By Linda McKay-Panos, prepared for the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

Freedom to Offend by Dr. Stephen Ward

Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission Lund v. Boissoin decision, November 30, 2007

The future belongs to Islam By Mark Steyn, published in Maclean's, October 20, 2006

Debate denied over Maclean's Muslim article By Naseem Mithoowani, et al, published in the Calgary Herald, December 29, 2007

In rebuttal: Squashing debate like mosquitoes, By Mark Steyn, published in the Calgary Herald, January 2, 2008

Freedom of speech our most fundamental right By Ezra Levant, published in the Calgary Herald, January 16, 2008

This event is free and open to the public. Light lunch provided. To register, contact:

Amber Holder


[email protected]

Further Reading: