“Mr. Steyn and his allies will no doubt be pleased to know that even the Canadian Human Rights Commission recognizes the decision to set aside the ‘Press Gag’ legislation as the first case to give freedom of speech a ‘measure of constitutional protection’. The ongoing relevance of the case to freedom of speech issues has led the Alberta government to set up a useful website on the case for history teachers, where I found many of the documents that I will be quoting below.
“The first thing that stands out to me in the relevant sections of the Accurate News and Information Act is the extensive outline of how a Social Credit Party official could require a newspaper to print, verbatim, what the government demanded (‘…such statement shall be given the same prominence as to position, type and space as the statement corrected thereby…’). Other provisos of the Act included a requirement that a newspaper name all its anonymous sources upon demand. Punishments included fines and gave the government power to suspend publication of a newspaper, or to ban a particular person from writing for the newspaper.
“Early in 1938, five out of six Supreme Court justices ruled that such powers were ‘ultra vires’ to a provincial government, in addition to being contrary to British traditions of freedom of speech. Wouldn’t it logically follow, in a precedent setting sense, that a body subservient to a provincial government, such as the B.C.Human Rights Council, can’t have the power to compel Maclean’s to publish a ‘corrective’ statement with ‘..the same prominence as to position, type and space as the statement corrected thereby…’?”