Monday, April 30, 2012

Canadian Free Speech Advocates Eye Criminal Libel Case

The flag of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and other free speech proponents are poised to see whether a New Brunswick court will follow the lead of courts in other provinces, including Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, by finding Criminal Code Section 301 concerning defamatory libel an unconstitutional infringement on free expression.

According to an article by Postmedia News (, for allegedly referring to a police officer on his blog as a "sexual pervert," 52-year-old gadfly Charles LeBlanc faces a maximum two years in the slammer if charged and convicted. Only a dozen  Section 301 claims have been investigated since 1988, 80 percent of which resulted in no charges being brought, Postmedia News noted.

A century-old, little used law, Section 301 defines defamatory libel as published statements "likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published."  New Brunswick prosecutors have yet to decide whether to proceed against LeBlanc.

LeBlanc was arrested by Fredericton police in January after he complained in his blog about purportedly being touched inappropriately by a police officer during an encounter, which are relatively commonplace for the activist LeBlanc, whose infractions run the gamut from riding a bike without a helmet to causing a disturbance outside a police station.

None of the other provinces overturning Section 301 is binding on New Brunswick, but advocates of free expression and individual rights are hopeful that New Brunswick will follow suit.

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