Dalhousie Law Journal


Ontario Court of Appeal, Canadian Criminal Code, spreading false news, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Holocaust denial, Jewish, racial tolerance, social tolerance, jurisprudence


In Regina v. Zundel the Ontario Court of Appeal held that s. 177 of the Canadian Criminal Code, entitled "Spreading false news," did not contravene the guarantee of freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms3 and that even if it did, it constituted a permissible regulation under s. 1 of the Charter. Section 177 of the Code punishes "everyone who wilfully publishes a statement, tale, or news that he knows is false and that causes or is likely to cause injury or mischief to a public interest." The defendant was charged under the section for publishing a tract denying that the Holocaust occured and alleging a Jewish conspiracy to cover-up the true historical facts in order to arouse world sympathy and promote pecuniary self-gain. In finding the impugned section of the Criminal Code constitutional, the Court held that the reference to "a public interest" embraced the public interest in "social and racial tolerance."' Significantly, it further found that the likelihood of harm occuring to that interest as a result of the dissemination of the impugned speech did not have to be established by the State in order to obtain a conviction.