The constitutional changes enacted by the government in 1982 have affected the rights of its individual citizens. The adoption of the Charter, guaranteeing rights and freedoms for every man, woman and child, is causing debate in school law and is forcing the provinces to re-evaluate their educational policy on a wide range of topics. Benchmark cases dealing with both teacher's and student's rights to freedom of expression such as: Regina v. Keegstra, Ross v. New Brunswick School Dist. No. 15, Fromm v. Ontario Peel Board of Education and Kempling v. The British Columbia College of Teachers, have generated the need to address controversy in Canada's classrooms.
A person's freedom to express what they wish is in fact a controversial matter and in the following paper, it is my hope to be able to provide a better understanding of those issues. I will briefly describe the four aforementioned cases in order to set the groundwork for understanding the rights of teachers with respect to freedom of expression both inside and outside of their classrooms. I will also address my views with respect to the answers to the following questions: Do people in some occupations enjoy fewer freedoms or rights simply because of the nature of their employment or professions? Can extending such limitations beyond the place and hours of work ever be justified? In what occupations or professions? Based on what public policy rationalizations?
The first case to address a teacher's freedom of expression was the landmark case of Regina v. Keegstra. Mr. James Keegstra was a high school teacher in the small Alberta town of Eckville. He was an automotive shop and social studies teacher and he also served as mayor of the town for five years. In 1984, this small town teacher was charged with willfully promoting hatred towards Jews by teaching his students that the Holocaust never occurred and that Jews were treacherous, evil and responsible for depressions, anarchy and war (James Keegstra, 2005). He was a well-liked teacher by the students in the high school and many of them signed a petition to have him re-instated. His students were encouraged to accept his views unless they were able to contradict them. It was apparent during the court case that students who accepted his views received higher grades than those who did not. The statements Mr. Keegstra made were in his capacity as a teacher and attacked only one group, Jewish people.
How could Mr. Keegstra actually think that he could defend his actions? He argued that Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code violated his right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada was one that set precedence for future cases of this nature. Primarily that Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code is an infringement to the Charter. In addition, the judges ruled that Hitler had tried to use hate in order to justify his actions against the Jewish people and there was no precedent for hate as a justifiable means to a productive and moral end. Consequently, Mr. Keegstra is no longer a teacher.
The second case addressed is Ross v. New Brunswick School Dist. No. 15. This case was brought to court by Mr. David Attis, a parent of students attending Magnetic Hill School in Moncton, New Brunswick. He was upset when he discovered that his children, of Jewish descent, were attending a school that employed a modified resource teacher who was an anti-semite. How did he know that Mr. Malcolm Ross, said resource teacher, was an anti-semite? Mr. Ross did nothing to promote his views in school. However, he wrote four books on the topic, Web of Deceit, The Real Holocaust, Sceptre of Power, The Battle for Truth: Christianity v. Judeo-Christianity. In the Miramichi Leader, the local newspaper, he published an interview whereby he indicated, "he was planning on continuing to write and preach his anti-semite views (Hare &...
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