Canada | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Under Canada's Constitution Act of 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protection for freedom of expression, including freedom of the press. Defamatory libel and blasphemous libel are criminal offenses according to the federal criminal code. Journalists expressed concern that antiterror legislation was infringing on press freedom. As part of Canada's antiterror bill, the government adopted the Security of Information Act, which forbids unauthorized possession or communication of sensitive government documents. In January, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used the law to raid the home and office of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, who had allegedly leaked classified information relating to Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen. Arar was detained by U.S. authorities in 2002 while transiting to the United States and was deported to Syria, where he claims to have been tortured. In November, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that the raids on O'Neill violated constitutional guarantees of a free press. In December, an Ontario court ordered Hamilton Spectator reporter Ken Peters to pay over US$30,000 for refusing to reveal a source. Even though the source eventually came forward, Peters was still found in contempt of court for refusing to disclose the name of the person present when the source handed him confidential documents related to problems at a Hamilton retirement home.

In June, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a regulatory body, denied a broadcasting application renewal of a Quebec radio station, claiming it was broadcasting racist and sexist hate speech. Following protests from media organizations, the CRTC agreed to allow the radio station to continue broadcasting, pending a court decision. In July, the CRTC approved the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network a license to broadcast in Canada, but only on the condition that the network be censored for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content. The ruling effectively required cable companies to monitor Al-Jazeera programs 24 hours a day. Press freedom groups complained that the network ultimately would be unable to broadcast in Canada. Some civil libertarians have expressed concern over an amendment to the criminal code giving judges wide latitude in determining what constitutes hate speech on the Internet. In 2004, the government conducted investigations of Internet chat rooms and Web sites that allegedly preach hatred against minority groups and advocate violence against political leaders.

Media in Canada are generally free and express diverse views, though they sometimes exercise self-censorship in areas such as violence on television. The public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation runs four radio stations and two national television stations and broadcasts in French and English. There are almost 2,000 licensed radio stations in Canada. There are no laws regulating the distribution of print media. Pluralism in Canada has declined slightly in recent years owing to increasing concentration of media ownership.