This statement was originally published on cjfe.org on 20 November 2014.
In response to the increasing chill on free expression in Canada, PEN Canada, BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) have launched Censorship Tracker, a crowd-sourced mapping tool that allows the public to report cases of censorship and incidents where free expression has been limited.
Censorship Tracker aims to be an accessible and reliable resource that Canadians can use to gauge restrictions on free speech in Canada. “Recent incidents where expression has been controlled, prevented, or silenced have made national headlines,” said Tasleem Thawar, Executive Director of PEN Canada, “the silencing of scientists, the auditing of charities for political activity, and the rise in SLAPP suits are just a few examples of what has brought our organizations together to create this tool.”
While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees our right to freedom of expression, these examples suggest that the right is increasingly being challenged. In addition to incidents reported in the media, there are cases that Canadians never hear about that remain lost to the public record. Censorship Tracker aims to fill this gap and create awareness of the details and scope of these incidents.
“The exercise of free expression and the ability to access information are vital to the functioning of any democratic society,” said Carmen Cheung, Senior Counsel at the BCCLA. “We hope this tool will also help give voice to those who have been silenced in other arenas.”
The project invites civil society organizations, activists, journalists, government workers, corporate employees, and any individual or group to report cases where free expression has been limited or restricted. Reports can be anonymous with efforts made by the project administrators to verify submissions. Reports will be published on an interactive map, allowing users to gain a better sense of free expression incidents in Canada, and to track the full spectrum of violations that occur across all provinces and territories.
“We need the public to participate if we are to fully understand the challenges to free expression in Canada,” said Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of CJFE. “Censorship Tracker will be an important tool in our efforts to monitor the state of freedom of expression in Canada and our ongoing work to ensure its protection,” added Cara Zwibel, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the CCLA.
Censorship Tracker is available at: www.censorshiptracker.ca
Submit reports of censorship here.
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. PEN Canada is the Canadian centre of PEN International, a community of writers that operates on five continents with 148 centres in over 100 countries.
BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is one of Canada's oldest civil society organizations. It acts to support and defend civil liberties and human rights throughout British Columbia and Canada. The Association works to promote and protect individual rights and freedoms through test case litigation, interventions at all levels of court, legislative and governmental submissions, casework, and public education and outreach.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) was constituted in 1964 to promote respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties for everyone and to defend, extend, and foster the recognition of those rights and liberties. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit and non-partisan organization. CCLA's major objectives include the promotion and legal protection of individual freedom and dignity against unreasonable invasion by public authority and the protection of procedural fairness. Areas of law include constitutional, criminal, administrative, privacy, and human rights law. Our thematic program areas include Equality, Fundamental Freedoms, National Security and Public Safety.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. CJFE has a history of work on cases pertaining to media law and freedom of expression.