On Freedom of Speech

“If the speech be injured, XII. shillings”
The Laws of King Aethelbirht, LII.

People often, in error, think of speech as what is expelled by the speech, which is properly considered an organ, as we see definitively in this statute. This law comes in a collection of laws dealing with numerous matters, ranging from the restitution for stolen church property (twelve-times the value) to the injury to various body parts, such as the teeth and collar-bone. Thus we see that the protection that English law affords to speech is absolute; any injury to the speech is illegal and contrary to our ancient law.

According to Wikipedia, the Anglo-Saxon shilling was a coin worth about 1/20th of a pound of silver. Thus, 12 shillings is about 3/5ths of a pound of silver. Today’s spot price for silver is about $19 CAD, so the fine for any instance of injury to speech should be about $136 CAD.

Further, the University relies on students essentially injuring themselves by way of adhesion contracts that students are forced to sign as a condition of admission. If students were required to break their collarbones as a condition of admission, that would obviously be illegal and unreasonable; that students are required to injure their speech as a condition of admission is similarly unreasonable.

It is true that this law might be altered by subsequent Canadian legislation, and it is: in the Criminal Code where certain forms of hate speech are prohibited. Universities, however, have no ability to require students to accept restrictions on speech not contained in the criminal code and to force students to obey them upon pain of expulsion.

Indeed, all case law purporting to establish restrictions on expression which has not been clearly legislated is obviously and clearly unconstitutional. We must abandon the erroneous belief that we are regulating the emission that the speech expresses; regulations on the speech are equivalent to iron fetters around the neck.

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is enshrined in various documents. Consider this:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, s. 19)

Or this:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.(Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 2)


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