Over half of Canadians say freedom of expression is under threat, new Leger poll shows

Of those intending to vote Conservative in the upcoming federal election, 76 percent expressed concern over the state of free expression in Canada.

Over half of Canadians say freedom of expression is under threat, new Leger poll shows
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A new Leger online survey suggests that a majority of Canadians believe the right to free speech is in danger.

The survey indicates that nearly 60 percent of respondents believe that freedom of expression is under threat, with 34 percent of those saying it is "somewhat threatened" and 23 percent saying it is under serious threat.

Around 36 percent expressed that they believed the right to free speech was not under threat, whereas 7 percent either did not know or chose not to respond.

The highest percentage of people concerned about free speech come from Alberta, with 36 percent saying freedom of speech is "seriously threatened" while an additional 30 percent say it is "somewhat threatened."

In Quebec, 54 percent of respondents felt that freedom of expression was under threat, with 36 percent considering it "somewhat threatened" and 18 percent seeing it as "significantly threatened."

On another note, 76 percent of Canadians stated they currently felt comfortable expressing their opinions. However, this figure dropped to 71 percent when addressing more contentious subjects like abortion, gun control, and immigration.

Leger conducted a survey of 1,610 Canadians from April 26 to 28. Due to the non-random sampling method of online surveys, a margin of error cannot be determined.

Opinions on freedom of expression among respondents starkly align with political affiliations.

Of those intending to vote Conservative in the upcoming federal election, 76 percent expressed concern over the state of free expression in Canada.

Conversely, among probable Liberal voters, 61 percent expressed confidence in the preservation of their freedom of speech, while NDP supporters were nearly evenly divided on the issue.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has accused Trudeau on several occasions of censoring dissenting opinions and argues that Trudeau uses legislation—like the government's online harms bill—to silence those voices.

Bill C-63 aims to regulate exposure to so-called "harmful" content online. However, in doing so, the legislation would attempt to define “hate” in the Criminal Code and could result in convictions of up to life in prison.

Changes to the Human Rights Act would allow for complaints to be filed against individuals accused of posting "hate speech" online and could result in the accused paying the victim up to $20,000.

The poll findings indicate a split among Canadians regarding the extent to which free speech should be restricted.

Approximately 44% of respondents indicated a preference for imposing limitations to curb hate speech and intolerance, aligning with their values.

Conversely, 45 percent advocated for an unrestricted freedom of expression to facilitate open public discourse on all viewpoints.

Another 11 percent either remained undecided or chose not to respond.

When broken down by political affiliation, 60 percent of Conservative backers leaned towards supporting unrestricted free speech, whereas 64 percent of Liberal voters and 66 percent of NDP supporters leaned towards advocating for limitations.

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