Canada Supreme Court 1992 / Excerpt




In response to two previous convictions holding that Toronto publisher Ernst Zündel had maliciously ". . . spread false news" and thereby ". . . harmed the ethnic and racial harmony of Canada" by challenging the orthodox, widely accepted but never forensically investigated standard version of the Holocaust, Canada's Supreme Court argued in a 4-3 decision, announced on 27 August 1992, that people had a right to their beliefs and to free speech in which to state beliefs that might upset the public.


Thereby, the highest court of Canada threw out, as unconstitutional, section 181 of the Criminal Code of Canada - the ancient "False News law" under which Ernst Zündel had been tried and convicted in 1985 and 1988. By doing so, the Supreme Court of Canda substantially strengthened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Canada's version of the US Bill of Rights.


The Supreme Court of Canada held that:

Section 2(b) of the Charter protects the right of a minority to express its view, however unpopular it may be. All communications which convey or attempt to convey meaning are protected by s. 2(b), unless the physical form by which the communication is made (for example, a violent act) excludes protection. The content of the communication is irrelevant. The purpose of the guarantee is to permit free expression to the end of promoting truth, political or social participation, and self-fulfillment. That purpose extends to the protection of minority beliefs which the majority regards as wrong or false.


Section 181, (the "False News Law") which may subject a person to criminal conviction and potential imprisonment because of words he published, has undeniably the effect of restricting freedom of expression and, therefore, imposes a limit on s. 2(b).


Writing for the majority, Justice Beverley McLachlin stated:


"To permit the imprisonment of people, or even the threat of imprisonment, on the ground that they have made a statement which 12 of their co-citizens deem to be false and mischievous to some undefined public interest, is to stifle a whole range of speech, some of which has long been regarded as legitimate and even beneficial to our society."


In a statement to reporters, Ernst Zündel had this to say:


"Perversely, I secured for my enemies their right to lie about me."