A new survey suggests there is a strong relationship between a person's political perspective and their views on free speech in Canada.

Respondents who lean right were more likely to believe there should be no limits on speech, including the right to express hateful and offensive opinions.

The national phone survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan was done between June 1 and June 27. It asked 1,000 people about their political leanings and their views on free speech.

Research director Jason Disano said he wanted to get a sense of where people stand on the matter "given the prominent role that the phrase 'freedom' has been playing in the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership campaign."

He said overall, eight in 10 respondents — or nearly 86 per cent — said they believe they have, or somewhat have, freedom of speech. Most respondents also said they believe governments and corporations like Twitter and Meta — formerly known as Facebook — should intervene to limit the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

"But when you break that down into one’s political leanings, that’s when you really see differences in Canadian views and opinions in the extent to which that freedom of speech should be (limited)," Disano said.

About one in four of the respondents who lean right to very-right believe Canadians have very little or no freedom of speech compared to about three per cent of left-leaning respondents who feel the same way.

"It's not surprising," said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre of Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

"If we look at the narrative over the past few years, there has been an emphasis on cancel culture. Free speech has become a rallying call for the far-right. It’s always been there, but I think it was really amplified by the emergence of the alt-right in particular."

Survey suggests Canadians stance on #FreeSpeech is swayed by their political views. #CDNPoli

Disano said the Prairies had the highest proportion of people who identified as right-leaning at 31.5 per cent, with people in Quebec having the lowest at 18.6 per cent.

In Canada, hate speech is unlawful. But in the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech including the right to express hateful comments and offensive opinions.

The respondents of the survey were asked if they agree with the Canadian or the American approach to limits on speech.

Disano said eight in 10 respondents agreed with Canada's approach.

However, about one in three respondents, or 31 per cent, who said they were right-leaning supported America's no-limit approach, with most respondents — 22.4 per cent — coming from the Prairies and the least coming from Atlantic Canada with 4.5 per cent.

As for those who lean left, 2.5 per cent of respondents said they, too, want no limits on speech.

Perry said "American free speech absolutism" has emerged in Canada and can be linked to social media.

"We’re not just talking about speech that’s offensive or hurts someone's feelings, we’re really talking about dangerous speech and speech that has the potential to do real harm," Perry said.

"It comes back to the internet and having what they think is ease of access to spread whatever hateful, and misguided ideas they want."

The survey was reliable to within plus or minus three per cent, with a 95 per cent confidence level.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2022.

Keep reading

Are we supposed to believe that right-wingers prize free speech and lefties don't?
It's a myth.

In 2009 British MP George Galloway -- a critic of U.S. imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was on a speaking tour on Middle East issues. PM Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked him at the border.

Which political party muzzles federal scientists?
"Ottawa's media rules muzzling federal scientists, say observers", (Margaret Munro, Postmedia News, 2010)

"When science goes silent"
"With the muzzling of scientists, Harper’s obsession with controlling the message verges on the Orwellian" (Macleans, 2013)

"Canada's deadly disdain for science" (Montreal Gazette, 2011)

Ask Dr David Swann about speaking out for Kyoto.
"Kyoto views get medical officer fired – Canada"

Ask Dr. John O'Connor about raising health concerns downstream of oilsands development.
"Doctor cleared over suggested link between cancer, oilsands" (Edmonton Journal, 2009)

Textbook censorship in U.S. schools is mainly a conservative phenomenon.
Harassment and death threats against climate scientists.
Likewise, the intimidation and murder of environmentalists in developing nations.

Mostly right-wing attempts to stifle critics of the Israeli govt have never stopped.
"Silencing pro-Palestinian professors – Israel's academic army" (Mondoweiss 2018)

The free speech the righties are.talking about is the right to say bigoted things...or whatever thought pops into their heads without having to consider the feelings of others. An anti PC backlash if you will. Think of the final flame-out of Don Cherry. He was willing to give up and $800,000 a year job for the "right" to blurt his Neanderthal views without any thought behind it.
The general "Freedom" they're all talking about is the very adolescent freedom from responsibilities. Trump doesn't "take responsibility for anything" and is deeply loved for that.

Basically, right wingers do want to say horrible and hateful things that hate speech laws tend to ban or limit. So those speech laws are a problem for them. Similarly with "cancel culture", which is a separate issue that has nothing to do with legal free speech, but which involves people not being willing to put up with the saying of hateful, evil things--this is a serious problem for right wingers, because they want to say hateful, evil things.
And, left wingers nearly all don't, so these things aren't nearly as much of a problem for them (although I would argue that at its extremes, "cancel culture" is a real thing and somewhat problematic, if not nearly as important as the right wants to claim).

This is because the modern right wing is dominated by evil fascism. So, much of what they want to express is evil hate speech. So yes, the current Canadian law, and indeed mainstream Canadian culture, does indeed discriminate against the hard right. As it should, because suppressing evil fascists is a Good Thing.

So lets take this a step further and ask if there is a demand for greater free speech, does that free speech have to be factual and truthful? or can it be just some person or group running their mouth off about something that is well...made up?

The article seems to link misinformation (whatever that is) with hate speech. They are two different things. Was it framed that way in the questions? It could well give skewed results.

I think it's become clear now that misinformation is far more important than "hate speech." Although motivated by a genuine desire on the part of progressives to protect human rights for all, it has squelched all criticism, even when entirely valid, particularly when it comes to religions, so has ended up very much compromising the truth as well.
The whole charge of "cancel culture" levelled by the right seems to have sprung from this well-meaning stance. It IS virtue signalling, finger-wagging, and holier-than-thou to pretend that "hate" isn't in our repertoire, negative though it is. I'm progressive to the bone, but weary of what feels like the church-lady stance of the left.

It seems "misinformation" has become about censoring. Bad news for the world. I was censored for "partly false" on FB and their reference was actually an opinion piece from USA Today. laughable if it wasn't so sad.

Wait, what?! It's true that mealy-mouthed small-l liberals do a lot of deflection, and a fair amount of piling on to people who deviate from their rather pathetic ideas of what's not OK. But misinformation is mostly around the edges of liberal discourse, and genuine liberal misinformation is often agreed with by the right. So for instance, liberal politicians and conservative politicians all refer to the elected president of Venezuela as a "dictator", even though he was elected in free and fair elections with a better process than the US has, and even though they would have no way of knowing if there had been anything wrong with those elections, because although invited they refused to send election monitors and indeed did their best to stop anyone from doing so, to avoid the evidence they knew perfectly well would show their claims of a bad election were lies. THAT'S misinformation. But it's an edge case--you can't trust anything said in the US or Canadian media about any country that gets in the way of the US geopolitical agenda.

But most mainstream discourse, and most of what we see in the mainstream media, is NOT flat-out lies, and often is fairly informative. The hard right, on the other hand, relies on almost nothing but lies. Much of the time they don't even rise to the level of technically true but deeply misleading, although there is some of that. Between those two things, the sources of right wing opinion are generally all misinformation all the time. THAT'S the misinformation that's far more important than hate speech (although it is often hate speech at the same time).

If we could wave a magic wand and stop well-heeled propagandists from lying to gullible right wing people, this country would have a much healthier political discourse.

On pathetic liberal ideas of what's not OK:
The liberal view seems to be that you can put black or first nations people in ghetto neighbourhoods, give them terrible schooling, pay they can't live on, charge them higher interest rates, put them in jail on vague excuses and so on and on and that's all OK, but call them a bad name and that's horrific. The right wing view is that you should be able to do all that stuff AND call them the names AND have the cops shoot them randomly AND stop them from voting.

Definitions are often helpful. For example, the word "freedom" can most broadly mean "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved" which in turn relates to "absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government" which was what American founders had in mind at the time.
But like the second amendment it has been taken completely out of context by the right-wing rebels-without-a-pause types who prefer the most sweeping, extreme definition: "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint" despite the line from Moby Dick stating the reality, that "we are indebted for the very tongues with which we speak."
The language used by "powers that be" HAS become more phony and steeped over time with media training as a matter of course for various spokespeople baking that IN to most forms of public address, so rogue and particularly entitled guys like Trump who so casually go "off script" represent some kind of brave new world to many, simply because of the entertaining novelty of a frustrated stand-up comic in the highest position of power. Like Zalensky minus the character.
"Freedom" naturally morphing into "freedumb" shows the ultimate power of language though.

Minus the character . . . humanity, intelligence, and proclivity for democracy. For starters.
I think there are shades of diffence in the meanings of freedom, liberty and license. What the Freedumbs crowd seem to believe freedom is, is a license to harm, a license to interfere with the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with them.
And it seems to me that most of the disagreements are rooted in ignorance not only of law, but of any degree of historical fact.
Harper got away with monstrous lies, by making them lies of omission or lies of discounting (e.g., NAFTA being about standardizing the size of jelly beans).
Trudeau, though, has a bigger mouth, lies unreservedly and defends those lies with irrelevancies, then when there are findings by a body whose job it is to make such findings, he "respects" them, but "disagrees." Sorry, Bub. There's no respect there, even for law. (e.g., the small matter of Wilson-Raybould),
We've been as a culture playing with silly diversions that have been taken up and chanted by youth who are still schooled by rote, and if they learn to think (and lots of 'em do) it's either as a result of university education or of learning in the school of hard knocks.
The sad thing is that the viewpoints expressed by the right reflect the "lived experience" of individuals who haven't the knowledge to sort between facts and knee-jerks, so they ascribe reasons for their discomfort to false causes. It's a matter of belief, not fact or science.
The sadder thing is perhaps that the reaction of many so-called progressives to the reactionary behaviours of the far right is to simply defend the trajectory of the status quo.
The "free speech" mantra was pushed, and pushed hard, by "progressives" long before the right-wing got noisy, and largely around some perceived public free-speech right to produce and distribute pornography in which people are harmed. The "arts & culture" tribe got in on the act, claiming that depictions of rape of youngsters was "expression" and "educational" ...
Frankly, what people talk about behind closed doors is none of my business, as long as it doesn't come out into the public sphere.
The minute hate, deceit and discrimination enter the public sphere, it is the business of all of us.
The truth of the matter is that we as a society are bull-sh*tted by those in control, as a matter of course, in their pursuit of self-enrichment, and much as most "progressives" think they know the score when it comes to our "systems" have absolutely zero factual knowledge of what happens, say, to indivduals who become poor, when they attempt to access any of our public systems.

The more society becomes polarized along economic lines, the more it becomes polarized along other lines of ideology. (I trust anyone reading this will understand that poverty is put in place and held in place by governments, the same way as wealth is.)

Just sayin'.

It's not sufficient to simply decry misinformation. It is necessary to counter it, and simply stating the fact isn't enough. The basic story-lines of the misinformation need to be deconstructed, and the reasoning to get to the truth needs to be shown.

It doesn't turn rabid alt-right believers into progressives, but it certainly can change the behaviours of people who promote the misinformation, and who do so because they really believe they are promoting the truth to counter "government lies." Anyone who believes there is no such thing as government lies ... well, that's another conversation.

If governments want to counter misinformation, they should probably stop making disinformation themselves, and hold themselves to a standard that embraces truth, fact and science. Not to mention pulling their noses away from the backsides of the uber-wealthy.

Thank you Geoffrey for the comments below. Harper, without exception was a control freak, non believer in any science that might contradict his political views.

Ditto. Not just for this one, but for the volumes of "disambiguations" provided here over and over again.

Pollievre's agenda to make Canada free, cannot be true. We already are free, free to comment, free to move, free to vote, free to work where and when. Living in ultra right Alberta, as an individual who does not lean right I am not free to make a pro Trudeau comment as I discovered yesterday. The deposit and eco fee on a jug of Milk are taxed GST. The cashier said, that's Trudeau's doing, to which I replied he deserves it, mainly tongue in cheek. Her reaction was instant, vehement and actually scarey. Go, she said, I don't want you here. Tolerance, hah. Smoke and mirrors PP. More gaslighting on the horizon

I live here too and think we have to remind ourselves that Trudeau has become a total whipping boy through the assiduous efforts of the nasty right far more than what his missteps and failings accurately indicate. There is an article by Canadian Press embedded here that I noticed in the Globe yesterday in the Alberta section and was surprised to see because it was positive coverage of Trudeau and how he was welcomed by well-wishers at the Stampede along with the usual knee-jerk hatred based on the relentless algorithms and misinformation.

There's that, too. But it sticks because of what he's actually done or not done.

Nah. Really, Trudeau is not a particularly good prime minister. He wants to be all things to both all people and all well-heeled lobbyists, and ends up doing little that's very useful. He's a milquetoast, wobbly jello of a prime minister.

But the right talks about him like he's some kind of tyrant, which is utterly ridiculous. Trudeau is the ineffectual opposite of a tyrant. And the irony is that the propagandists spreading this idea are the same well-heeled lobbyists, such as the oil people, that Trudeau bends over backwards to please. Why? Because of that residual wish to do at least something to please the people as well. There's a faction of the ultra-rich that absolutely will not tolerate any scraps going to the public good, no matter how minimal, or any action taken on climate change, no matter how useless. They want it all, and Conservatives will give it to them, so they'll pretend Trudeau is a tyrant.

I am sorry that you conflated "free speech" with the right to "broadcast" one's speech.

"Free speech" provides for the right to speak your mind. People screaming about "free speech" on social media are misguided into believing that if we call social media the town square then one should be able to say what you want on social media, but that is not the case. Just like you can be thrown out of a restaurant if the management doesn't like your behaviour so you can be thrown off social media if the management doesn't like your behaviour. There is no right to force a business enterprise to "broadcast" your speech if they don't want to. They are the ones providing your "rights". And yet that is where the battle is being fought by those seeking to be "broadcast". They are trying to conflate a government decreed "right" with their desire to say what they like on social media. Don't let their ignorance guide this discussion.

Mm. Legally, they obviously don't have a point. But for practical purposes, this very small group of huge private companies have become the "town square"--they're functionally the only game in town. If social media represents PRIVATE space from which private interests can legitimately evict one, the problem here is that there IS no PUBLIC space in which free speech can exist.
Control over what discourse we can see by a small number of very wealthy, powerful corporations is a genuine problem. The hard right don't want to look at it that way because they're desperately trying to pretend that the private sector has nothing to do with any of their troubles, so they're busy redefining the problem in completely inaccurate ways. But the problem does exist, and it is serious.