Back to Basics: A Critical Look at the Irwin Toy Framework for Freedom of Expression

Research output: Article


The author argues that the analytical framework that the Supreme Court of Canada developed in 1989 in Irwin Toy Ltd v Quebec to resolve freedom of expression cases under s 2(b) of the Charter, and that the Court still uses today, is seriously flawed. He focuses on the two main elements of that framework-the exceedingly broad understanding of freedom of expression on which it is based and the complex set of rules it prescribes for finding an infringement on freedom of expression. His concerns in relation to those elements are that: (1) the meaning the Court has given to freedom of expression for the purposes of s 2(b) lacks a solid justificatory basis, ignores general interpretive principles the Court has adopted in relation to the Charter, encourages pointless and wasteful litigation, and fails to appreciate the symbolic function that an instrument like the Charter performs; and (2) the road-map the Court prescribes for determining whether or not governmental action infringes on freedom of expression is inconsistent with the Court's own prior jurisprudence on this feature of Charter analysis, lacks logical cohere
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-248
JournalReview of Constitutional Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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