Two prominent Canadian constitutional rights groups were excluded from a Justice Department consultation on “legal remedies” for online hate speech. 

In September, Blacklock’s Reporter revealed that Attorney General David Lametti’s department was reaching out to various advocacy organizations to get their legal recommendations.  

Through an Access to Information and Privacy request, True North acquired a list of all of the advocacy groups privately consulted by the government on the matter. The list showed that neither the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), nor the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) were approached for input by the Liberals. 

“Given our long-established role as advocates for free expression in Canada and our frequent participation in these legal questions, it is puzzling why we were left off out of this consultation. You would expect the government to canvass the opinions of organizations with a long established and broad expertise in freedom of expression,” CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn told True North. 

Only one explicitly pro-free speech group, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association was listed as a stakeholder in the government’s online hate consultation. 

A full list of all of the advocacy groups consulted by the Department of Justice has been provided in PDF format below: 

A-2020-00485.pdfdoc by Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

According to JCCF lawyer Lisa Bildy, they were not contacted by the Department of Justice either.  

“Despite our expertise on the subject, we were not consulted on this latest effort by the federal government to formulate legal restrictions on internet speech,” said Bildy pointing to JCCF Litigation Manager, Jay Cameron’s testimony on the topic before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2019. 

“I would hope that the only reason we were not consulted is because the government already has our report at the top of the pile of expert opinions considering the question of whether limits on Canadians’ constitutionally-protected freedom of expression can or should be imposed. If not, and if this list constitutes the extent of their consultation, it would appear that they went looking for the specific answers they wanted, rather than striking a good faith consultation of all perspectives on this important issue.”

The groups consulted by the government include the Anti-Hate Network, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and the Morgane Oger Foundation. 

A variety of gender and cultural based organizations like the Muslim Association of Canada, the Federation of Black Canadians and the Canadian Women’s Foudnation were also listed as stakeholders in the document. 

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