Freedom of Speech and Other 'Fundamental' Things

In Canada, and in many countries around the world, we have certain fundamental freedoms that allow us to be, say and do certain things. Personally, I have never been prevented from being, saying and doing the things I choose. However, as I read the news, listen to the radio, and scroll through social media, I come across more and more occurrences where these ‘fundamental’ freedoms seem to have been overlooked.

Before getting into the nitty gritty though, let’s review a few things. First of all, the definition of fundamental, by the Online English Oxford Living Dictionary, is as follows:

1 Forming a necessary base or core; of central importance.

1.1 Affecting or relating to the essential nature of something or the crucial point about

an issue.

1.2 So basic as to be hard to alter, resolve, or overcome.

Essentially, unless you break laws that are deemed reasonable in a free, democratic society, we, (Canadian citizens and those living in Canada), as individuals and as communities, are able to:

  1. follow our own beliefs about what is right or wrong, and take part in religious teaching, practice, worship and observance in public and/or in private;

  2. form our own ideas, beliefs and opinions and express ourselves however we want, including sharing those ideas, beliefs and opinions with the larger world;

  3. gather privately or publicly to share those ideas, beliefs and opinions as a collective; and

  4. form groups or communities of people, and meet with others privately or publicly, without the government interfering.

The official excerpts from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are included near the bottom of the article.

As a citizen of Canada who has never been majorly disrespected on account of my ideas, beliefs and/or opinions, I recognize how easy I’ve had it. Nevertheless, reading about the countless people who have been silenced, or have stopped expressing themselves for fear of being silenced, I continue to be reminded of how extremely lucky I am. It is imperative, in a world where even the factual information presented to us could be blatantly skewed, that those of us who have the privilege of freedom speech use it to speak up for those who can’t.

On the other hand, it’s one thing to talk about how we should stand up for other people and share our opinions with the world, and it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it. I find that no matter how much I write about, and try to discuss my opinions, it takes an actual situation where I have to offer vocal support or stand up to another for me to really feel like I have done the right thing. As a result of my privilege, I don’t find myself in this position very often, and in turn, I don’t exercise my ‘speaking up muscle’ very often. Accordingly, I try to consistently stay on top of everything that is happening around the world, as a reminder of how easy I have it. Then, when I am in a place where I could make a difference, I am informed enough, and mentally prepared to speak up.

Generally I blog because I have something to state, not something to ask. However, I’m going to break that trend and ask three questions, in hopes that they will cause you to reflect on your life, and your access to fundamental freedoms:

First of all, what should the reasonable limits to the concept of fundamental freedoms be?

Secondly, how can we use our right to these fundamental freedoms responsibly, while still getting our point across?

And finally, how can we protect our right to fundamental freedoms, and demonstrate that we’re worthy of the power, responsibility and extreme privilege that they hold?

We would love to hear your thoughts on these questions, and any other thoughts that may have arisen while reading this article.

Official excerpts from ‘Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms’, and ‘Fundamental Freedoms’ from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

“Subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that “everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  1. freedom of conscience and religion;

  2. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

  3. freedom of peaceful assembly; and

  4. freedom of association.”

Excerpts with permission from the Reproduction of Federal Law Order.

Definition Source:

“Fundamental.” The English Oxford Living Dictionary. OED Online. m/definition/fundamental. Accessed 17 Sep. 2017.