Statement from Constitutional lawyer Allison Pejovic on the private Member’s bill targeting speech which is determined to be anti-LGTBQ outside of LGTBQ+ event

The proposed private Member’s bill being put forward in Ontario by MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam would penalize free speech and the right to protest, both of which are protected under Canada’s constitution.  What is notable about this bill is that it is content-specific, targeting specific speech, while other speech and protests which may be offensive to different communities would be allowed.  A Canadian citizen who chooses to express discontent with drag shows for children, for example, within one of these 100-meter buffer zones, could face prosecution under this bill and a $25,000 fine. This proposed bill follows on a similar 100-meter prohibition on certain kinds of protest in Calgary, in response to public protests about drag queen performance for children and the exposure of male genital to girls in female change rooms.  It is deeply concerning that government could wield subjective terminology such as “transphobic, homophobic, or offensive” to target people peacefully and publicly expressing their concerns about sexualization and indiscriminate nudity before children.

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. It is already a crime in Canada to engage in hate speech and criminal harassment, and the bar for those offences is very high. This private Member’s bill is attempting to do the same thing, except it is only targeting a specific kind of speech, and has set the bar much lower, which could theoretically render Canadian citizens in violation of the law for speaking their views about the harms they perceive children are facing at particular events.

April 5, 2023

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