Canada | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status


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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Canada's constitution of 1982 provides protection for freedom of expression, including freedom of the press. Defamatory or blasphemous libel remains a criminal offense under the federal criminal code. In 2001, as part of its new antiterror bill, the government adopted the Security of Information Act, which forbids unauthorized possession or communication of sensitive government documents. Among other things, this act prevents current or former employees of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service from divulging to the press information concerning national security. In March 2005, the government proposed an extension of those subject to this law to include the Privy Council Office, the Justice Department, and the Department of National Defense, among others. Those found revealing such information may face up to 14 years in prison. Canada's Access to Information Act was once emblematic of how to uphold press freedom through law. Now it is restricted by so much bureaucracy and antiterror legislation that journalists have accused the government of violating press freedom outright. In January, Stephen Williams became the first Canadian journalist ever to receive a criminal record for his writing. He received three years' probation and community service after pleading guilty to a single charge of breaking a publication ban on two of his books critical of police investigations into the serial killings of young women in the 1990s. In June, the Montreal suburb of Cote-St.-Luc restricted freedom of expression by banning a posthumous exhibition of photographs taken by Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist murdered in an Iranian prison. The ban began as a result of complaints over the pro-Palestinian nature of some of the photographs and continued because the local government considered the images to be too "politically charged" for the community.

Both print and broadcast media, which include the public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, are generally free to express diverse views. Nonetheless, the extent of media concentration and the influence of powerful media conglomerates such as CanWest Global Communications continue to limit media pluralism. Internet freedom came under scrutiny when a Canadian court agreed to hear a libel case brought against the U.S.-based Washington Post by Cheickh Bangoura, a former UN official, for a report published on the internet accusing Bangoura of improprieties while serving with the UN in Kenya.